CA to hold public hearings on sectoral representation

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THE SANGGUNIAN Central Assembly (CA) passed a resolution on January 25 on conducting public hearings regarding sectoral representation in aid of legislation.

Resolution No. 1 s. of 2016-2017, also known as “A Resolution to Conduct Public Hearings for Sectoral Representation in Aid of Legislation,” was authored by Committee on Socio-Political Engagement (CSPE) Chairperson Benjamin Alvero III and School of Social Sciences Representative Christian Dy.

Alvero and Dy also headed CA public hearings held on February 1 and 8.

Sectoral Representatives are mentioned multiple times throughout the 2016 Undergraduate Constitution and as stated in Article V, Section 4.4, Sectoral Representatives “must adhere with the renewal process subject to the guidelines prescribed by the Ateneo Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and the Electoral Code.”

In an interview with The GUIDON, COMELEC Outgoing Chief Commissioner Patrice Gabito said that COMELEC is responsible for drafting the aforementioned Electoral Code and mandating guidelines for sectoral representation.

Gabito also stated that the Ateneo Student Judicial Court (SJC) had approved of majority of the Electoral Code, except the portion regarding sectoral representation, which was returned to COMELEC for comments.

Upon reviewing the document, it was decided that it would be better for there to be a public hearing held by the CA to discuss the provisions to be included in the guidelines. COMELEC, political parties, and interested individuals and sectors were invited to voice out their concerns during the hearing.

COMELEC Chief Commissioner Dom Rañises stated that they initially planned to hold their own assemblies this semester to tackle sectoral representation, but decided to not push through with their plans and instead let the CA conduct their hearings, “[in] the interest of convenience.”

“In logistical terms, if you were to hold a separate public consultation, then they would have to go twice, and sort of talk about the same issues,” Rañises said.

Public hearings

Alvero stated that while there are already sectors who are seeking representation in the Ateneo, the purpose of the CA public hearings is to ask​ ​about​ ​the sectors’ issues​ ​and​ ​concerns​ ​while​ ​the​ “formal​ ​avenues​ ​for representation are still unavailable.”

“It is to identify the pressing issues among the sectors in Ateneo and eventually, reach​ ​points​ ​of​ ​commonality​ ​in​ ​terms​ ​of​ ​how​ ​are​ ​we​ ​going​ ​to​ [define] ​a​ ​sector,” he said.

Alvero also stated that by conducting the public hearings and recognizing the concerns of the sectors, common themes or characteristics may arise. These commonalities will allow the CA and COMELEC to come about a general definition for sectors.

He added that the purpose of the public hearings is not only to hear out the issues and concerns of the sectors, but also to help identify the definition of a sector and how to go about recognizing and organizing multiple sectors.

“Primarily, the hearings seek to engage sectors while formal sectoral representation is not yet granted,” he reiterated.

Through the public hearings, CSPE will file a comprehensive report and present their recommendations to COMELEC with regards to the drafting of guidelines.

Promoting diversity

Gabito mentioned sectoral representation “promotes diversity in the Sanggunian” as Sectoral Representatives will automatically be given a seat in the CA, holding the same powers as the School Representatives.

Article VII, Section 1.1 of the 2016 Constitution states that the CA is composed of the Sanggunian Vice President, School Representatives, Sectoral Representatives, the Council of Organizations of the Ateneo Representative, the Ateneo Resident Students Association Representative, and appointed Committee Heads from the Course Representative.

Gabito also added that the definition of a sector should not be too restricting to the point that it will be difficult for sectors to fit the qualifications of a sector, but should also be precise enough for representation “to be done in a proper way.”

Alvero stressed the concept of “genuine democratic governance,” which he defined as “when students take it upon themselves to organize themselves, to determine their issues and concerns, and to act upon their perceived interests.”

In line with this, he called sectoral representation a way of genuine democratic governance, as sectors are groups that go “beyond the structure of the Sanggunian” and represent interests and concerns of students that go beyond the formal positions present in the Sanggunian.

Constitutional Commission

In addition to Resolution No. 1 s. of 2016-2017, Sanggunian Vice President Koko Quilatan also passed Resolution No. 2 s. of 2016-2017 on the creation of the Constitutional Commission.

As written by Dy in the resolution, the Constitutional Commission will “review the Constitution for possible amendments every year” and will propose revisions relevant to clarifications on “supposed contradictions in the Constitution.”

In an interview with The GUIDON, Quilatan mentioned that the Sanggunian “encountered numerous difficulties” regarding certain provisions in the new Constitution, which he felt hindered them from “effectively carrying out [their] jobs.”

Quilatan also stated the constitutional hindrances had to be fixed in order for the Sanggunian to properly perform its functions “without being fettered by unnecessarily complicated bureaucratic procedures just because of certain provisions in the Constitution.”

“I think that a better Constitution will benefit Ateneans because it will provide them with a Sanggunian that can work better, faster, and more effectively to address their needs and forward agenda,” he added.

Section 1 of Resolution No. 2 s. states the Constitutional Commission Chairperson and Members will be appointed by the Sanggunian President and will be confirmed by the CA.

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