By Francis Ryan Pabiania | March 4, 2021
Silliman University Student Government (SUSG) Committee on Elections (COMELEC) is in the process of enhancing its current system through online platforms for the first ‘virtual halalan’ on April 28 this year.
“We don’t think we will ever be ready to say that this will be a perfect virtual halalan,” said COMELEC Liaison Officer Aubrey Ayson.
The revision on Election Implementing Rules and Regulations (EIRR) of the 2021 Omnibus Election Code allowed the elections to be conducted online, and they hoped to increase the voter turnout while ensuring the integrity of the virtual ballots.
“Most of the revision is centered on the fact that submissions of any file and the conduct of the election cannot be done in person, which is what last year’s EIRR mandated. What we hope to achieve are streamlined online communication systems that will make things easier for all the people concerned with the Virtual Halalan,” they added.
However, their team expects problems that might occur during the entire election period. “We are working hard and coordinating with a lot of people to find solutions. We will continue to have the courage to take on all the problems and finish what we started.”
Moreover, the actual voting procedure will be conducted on the Silliman Online University Learning website (SOUL) and other scheduled events on Zoom.
Compared to previous elections, there will be no physical precincts with the checking of IDs, talking to the Board of Election Inspectors, writing names nor inking of nails. They said that this year will follow exactly the same procedures in ‘answering quizzes or questionnaires in SOUL.’
“Provided that there is a stable internet connection, voting will be easy. Even if the internet provider fails the student, answers will be saved and the student can return to the questionnaire as long as it is within the predetermined time for voting,” Ayson said.
She added that COMELEC is yet to release the 2021 Election Calendar and they will post further information and video ‘to walk everyone through’ the voting process.
As of the time, COMELEC is working with the Dean of Students Dr. Edna Gladys Calingacion, Student Organizations and Activities Division Head Abe Cadeliña, and SOUL Director Dr. Dave Marcial. They added that they have given a Support Office in SOUL. “COMELEC members are familiarizing ourselves with the different functions SOUL can offer,” they said.
Records from the 2020 SUSG Elections showed that a total of 3, 402 students voted out of more than 8,000 student population. Around 5,500 student abstention was recorded.
Officially enrolled students for the second semester are the qualified voters that will have access to a virtual ballot for voting.
“Similar to what any of our predecessors might have felt, we cannot expect, but we do hope for a higher voter turnout this year,” Ayson said.
As the SUSG continues to combat student apathy more so during this pandemic, “It is our hope that through constant updates and initiatives by the incumbent officers, including the COMELEC, more students will voluntarily involve themselves in the community. This way, the efforts of the COMELEC in putting up the Virtual Halalan, which will be accessible to enrolled students anywhere, will be reflected in the voters’ turnout,” she added.
According to her, the COMELEC took opportunities with the SOUL platform which ‘puts to rest the years of talk’ of conducting the election online. And they still hope that this move will engage more students or increase the voter turnout also in the succeeding years.
“We would like to thank you (student/s) for your constant engagement with the Student Government, whether you are actively involved or keeping yourself updated with posts online. For our peers who have yet to enter the pool, we encourage you to take the first step in truly being a community member by exercising your right of suffrage on the 28th of April. We look forward to not only seeing our community grow but seeing our community grow together the Sillimanian way,” she ended.