In an unprecedented move, students from the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman have voted ‘abstain’ for the positions of Chairperson and Vice Chairperson in this year’s University Student Council (USC) elections.

As a result, the top positions of the UP Diliman USC now remain vacant.

Jaira Marie Del Mundo and Theresse Jan Mangussad, the lone candidates for the positions and the standard bearers of UP Alyansa ng mga Mag-aaral para sa Panlipunang Katwiran at Kaunlaran, were both outvoted by the abstentions. Del Mundo secured only 3,756 votes, while Mangussad received a mere 3,870 votes, both falling short by several hundred votes compared to the ‘abstain’ votes.

“In the interim, the two highest voted Councilors may function as Acting Chair and Vice Chair to preside over the discussions, with the guidance of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs as constitutionally mandated ex-officio adviser of the USC,” the University Student Electoral Board (USEB) said in a statement Wednesday.

Independent Councilor candidates Beatriz Pineda (4,554 votes) and Katrina Maria Batac (4,216 votes) obtained the highest number of votes in the elections.

They were followed by independent candidates Alvin James Magno (3,988 votes), Joseph Sean Limbaga (3,805 votes), Charles Justin Shi (3,709 votes), Erwin Ace Medina (3,613 votes), Craig Juliene Navalta (3,439 votes), and Marc Ian Mercene (3,371 votes).

Similar to the Chair and Vice Chair positions, four Councilor posts will remain vacant as the recorded abstentions (2,496 votes) outnumbered the votes received by other candidates.

Citing the Revised UP Diliman Student Election Code of 2010, the USEB said it can only proclaim candidates “clearly elected at-large.”

“The majority of abstention votes in the above cited positions shows that there is no sufficient basis to declare the candidates superseded by abstentions as valid, elected representatives of the student body,” it said.

“As of yet, there are no clear-cut provisions in available codes or equivalent precedents to determine the manner in which the resultant vacancies shall be filled,” it added.

The USEB has decided to leave the decision of filling the USC vacancies to the duly elected Councilors and College Representatives, in accordance with relevant rules and subject to USEB’s approval “to honor the spirit of autonomous and democratic student representation in the University.”

On the eve of the election, the Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP announced its withdrawal from this year’s elections to focus on resolving alleged mishandling of sexual harassment cases within the organization.

“Admission and criticism are initial steps as we proceed with long-term reparations towards eventually reinvigorating the alliance to become, once again, a significant force at the forefront of forwarding mass campaigns and people’s struggles,” stated the red party.

Post-election protests will be received by the University Student Electoral Tribunal until June 2.

The USEB reported a 36.70% voter turnout for this election cycle, slightly higher than last year’s 35.32% turnout.

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