USEC chairperson resigns

Originally published from HF Vol. 36 Issue 3

University Student Election Commission (USEC) Chairperson Yosu Retuta resigned from his post in November 2021, leaving the position vacant for nearly 6 months until May 2022. 

This means the commission has no official chair from November to early May, not until the appointment of new USEC Chairperson Aira Mortel in late May. 

In an interview with The HERALDO FILIPINO, Retuta cited academic constraints and personal concerns as primary reasons behind his resignation, noting that the responsibility of being a chairperson or even a commissioner is time consuming and a crucial job. “It is already enough for me after 2-and-a-half-years being part of the commission and honestly I don’t see myself as an effective leader anymore,” Retuta said.

At the beginning of the academic year (AY) 2021-2022, Retuta emphasized that he had already informed his fellow commissioners, the University Student Government (USG) President and Vice President, the Office of Student Services (OSS) Dean Domingo Reblora Jr., and Student Development and Activities Office (SDAO) Director Eric Vargas of his plan to resign from his post to focus more on his studies.

Based on the resignation letter that HF retrieved, Retuta filed his resignation on November 16 and is expected to take effect on November 30. However his resignation letter was only signed by Vargas, and did not include the signature of the OSS Dean at the time.

“I did not receive my resignation letter signed by the OSS Dean, only an acknowledgment and question who will take my post is what I received,” he disclosed in an interview. 

When asked about who declared the failure of primary elections if his resignation took effect on November 30, Retuta clarified the resolution to announce the election failure was already submitted to the SDAO Director before he resigned from his post. However, he later found out that the resolution will still be needing the approval of their new adviser, Frederick Godinez, who has yet to confirm his position as the new USEC adviser at the time.

It was only on March 15 when the resolution declaring the failure of primary elections was published in USEC’s Facebook page. In HF’s interview with Retuta in January, he said the resolution was not immediately signed as there was still no official USEC adviser back then.

When asked why his resignation remained hidden from the student body for several months, Retuta admitted he didn’t know that an announcement should have been made, and apologized for not informing the student body about the vacancy of his position.

Honestly, I did not know that it should be posted since most of the previous commissioners who had resign AWOL-ed when I was a 1st year student, they did not inform(sic) the student body and the remaining commissioners at that time did not announce it in the Facebook page or even in our bulletin board,”  Retuta explained.

In a separate interview, USEC Adviser Frederick Godinez clarified that ‘there was no intention to hide any information’ about the issue, despite Retuta’s unannounced resignation from the poll body. “At that moment, our concern really is how to build a new team of commissioners to serve USEC so that we can function and be able to have an elections,” Godinez told The HERALDO FILIPINO.


Newly appointed USEC Chairperson

After resigning in November, Retuta’s position as the Chairperson was not filled until the end of May 2022 which resulted in the organization remaining stagnant from November until late of May.

In an interview with The HERALDO FILIPINO, newly appointed USEC Chairperson Aira Mortel shared that she was first appointed as the College of Liberal Arts and Communication (CLAC) Commissioner on May 17. Godinez then set a meeting on May 19 to meet the appointed officers and opened the floor to nominate the commission’s next Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson. Mortel won through a raise of hands on May 21.

This is different from what the Article III Section 10 of the Student Omnibus Election Code says, as it states that “in case of a temporary or permanent vacancy of the position of the Chairperson, the Deputy Chairperson shall assume the office immediately.”  However, there was no appointed deputy chairperson in the commission at the time, as per the ex-USEC chair.

According to Mortel, even she was not aware that Retuta had resigned from his position, as she was not an officer in the first semester of the AY. Only Commissioners Aubrey Averion and Arra Anis were aware of his resignation, according to the new USEC Chair.

Entering as a newbie in USEC, Mortel admits that Retuta’s resignation drastically affected their operations in the organization. “Si kuya Yosu very knowledgeable siya sa ins and outs ng USEC and of course, the student body, so parang nawalan kami ng magguide sa amin,” she stated in an interview. 

Mortel also adds that the resignation made USEC ‘stagnant’ due to the lack of manpower in the organization.

Parang na-stagnant kasi yung USEC, so di ako masyadong aware sa mga processes or mga nangyayari noon,” Mortel noted.

When asked how she is adapting to her new role in the commission, Mortel shared that she treats the USEC chairmanship like a ‘big project’ and draws  support from  her fellow officers and their adviser.


Declaration of special elections

With no sitting USEC Chairperson for six months, USEC has only announced their plan to conduct a special election for academic year (AY) 2021-2022 during the first week of June, just few days after the new USEC appointments were named.

In the same interview, Mortel expounds the nature of the special election which is also the same as the general elections conducted in AY 2020-2021.

In any case that there are more than two (2) electoral candidates, the organization plans to hold a modified primary election where the student body will decide by voting on who the top 2 candidates will be to qualify for the general elections. 

However, in the case that there are only one (1) or two (2) candidates running, the process will proceed like the previously held General elections last year.

In an announcement released on June 8, USEC set June 27 to 28 as the election dates for the upcoming “special elections” for the AY 2021-2022. 

The filing of candidacy for the electoral positions were opened from June 14 to 15, while the campaign period started on June 17 until June 25, which gives candidates only a week to campaign and present their platforms to the student body. The new officers will then be proclaimed on July 1, the same day as the USG President Niña Ligan and Vice President Reine Cruz steps down from office.

To ensure a transparent and smooth process of the incoming special elections, USEC has taken the steps to secure documents and approvals from different offices, asked the Center Innovative Learning Programs (CILP) for assistance in mounting the virtual polls, and promised to l release  election updates to avoid another integrity and transparency issue for the upcoming elections. 

In 2021, the USG High Court probed USEC for  unconstitutionality, lack of transparency, and breach of integrity on the conduct of the General Elections, following the issues of unconstitutionality of the 2021 General Elections which violated the Article IV Section 6 of the USG Constitution requiring the primary election be held before the general election.

However, the probe was only resolved through an “Alternative Dispute Resolution’ in September 3, 2021 that requires the presence of a neutral third party to assist in resolving the dispute between the two (2) parties, as stated in the Rule XII Section 1 of the Rules of Court This, however, is still not yet published in the High Court’s Facebook page as of press time. 

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