Mary Sunshine Reyes, the outgoing vice chairperson of the UP Diliman (UPD) University Student Council (USC), is set to lead the council amid an all-time-low 8.29-percent voter turnout during the 2023 USC special elections that concluded today.
Reyes, an independent candidate, garnered 1,349 votes against 623 votes for abstention. Her campaign focused on democratic and student spaces. Sean Latorre, who also ran independently, will occupy the vice chairperson post with 1,335 votes against 637 abstain votes.
Their victories also mean that the standard bearer positions in the USC will now be filled after four months of a power vacuum in the council. In May, the two top posts were left in limbo as abstention dominated the polls, even with only UP Alyansa ng mga Mag-aaral para sa Panlipunang Katwiran at Kaunlaran (UP Alyansa) fielding candidates.
Three of the four vacant councilor positions are now also filled. Independent candidates Chloe Antonio (1,110 votes), Alexandra Laquian (1,073 votes), and Kristian Mendoza (995 votes) will join the eight current councilors in the USC.
But today’s results are also one of the lowest in recent years.
Reyes’s votes are far lower than UP Alyansa’s chairperson bet Jaira del Mundo who received 3,756 votes. Del Mundo was not made chairperson in May because she was outvoted by 5,745 abstentions, with the University Student Electoral Board (USEB) saying that it was not representative of the student body.
Reyes now holds the record of being the lowest vote-getter among the elected chairpersons, at least since the adoption of the current UPD Electoral Code in 2009.
Latorre also received 2,535 fewer votes than UP Alyansa’s vice chairperson bet Therese Mangussad’s 3,870 votes.
The USEB, during the regular elections, also decided to proclaim only eight councilors after abstention ranked ninth in the polls. Antonio, Laquian, and Mendoza all received lower votes than the 2,496 abstain votes.
This polls’ single-digit turnout was a result of an off-season election, conducted during the last few days before the semester’s reading break. The special elections, too, were relatively muted, in comparison with May’s polls which saw an upending of UPD’s fragile party system, party defections, and revelations of mishandled sexual abuse cases among STAND UP’s ranks.
STAND UP did not field candidates this election as they were still in the process of rectifying their party. Both Reyes and Latorre were former members of the political party.
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and USEB Chairperson Jerwin Agapaoa said the special election was a “big challenge” as there were no precedents.
In June, the incomplete USC submitted a position paper calling for special elections to “respect the validity of the abstain votes that limited the proclaimed officers.”
The USEB will accept protests regarding the results until October 20, while the turnover and oathtaking of the next USC will be on October 23. ●
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