The failure of the 2014 SAMAHAN Constitution Plebiscite has nothing to do with its content, nor the apathy of the studentry; not even those who are strongly against it. It is not about the method of elections, its location, or the lack of preparation for the said ratification. In fact, it has something to do with Ateneo as a whole.
Ateneo gives way too much freedom and liberties for its students, which we enjoy very well. But that freedom means being a part of a collective SAMAHAN is only one out of a hundred choices or options for an Atenean to take part in his stay in the academe. This freedom makes students ungovernable, and it plagues even the other Ateneo schools. The trend of a failure of elections is present in most Ateneo schools today, with ADMU-Sanggunian and XU-CSG proclaiming low voting turnouts. I have nothing against the exercise of freedom, but those are its repercussions. This student apathy is a by-product of freedom, and it is a personal choice.
The failure of the plebiscite is already a warning for the future of SAMAHAN. If this were applied in the U.P. system of schools, the results would be far better. But this is Ateneo, where the political culture lies idle and centralized; where we enjoy too many privileges unlike our struggling brothers and sisters from the state colleges and universities. This too much liberty is in itself a positive thing, because it shows a strong school administration-students relationship. We should have taken advantage of this as the privileged few who were fortunate to be enrolled in this University. In some schools in the country, students are actively fighting for their rights to be recognized as such, to have representation in the decision-making bodies of their own colleges and universities. But this is Ateneo, where in almost all University Committees, we have a student representative. We should have taken advantage of all these things. The said Constitution should have empowered us more than before, the last step in an equal leverage or footing to that of the School Administration. It could have given SAMAHAN its legitimacy.
Yes, the said call for a change in a form of student government came not from the ordinary students, but from the concerned student leaders. We were merely taking the initiative to involve these students who are themselves disengaged in participating for SAMAHAN. In short, we only tried to return the decision-making process to the students, because that is your inherent right as members of this collective Atenean community. We failed ourselves today, and that of the future students of Ateneo.
In your stay in the academe as ordinary students, you might only be associated to SAMAHAN during elections, school activities, College Fiesta or College Days. Not participating in SAMAHAN will never hinder your chances of graduating, nor will it limit you as a student. That is the truth. That is the reason why this plebiscite failed miserably. But you will graduate anyway.
*Cel Lord P. Delabahan is a fourth year AB Political Science student and the chairperson of the 2013-2014 SAMAHAN Constitutional Commission.