Albert Francis E. Domingo, MD

my flight of ideas

When Parliament becomes Pavement

Posted on | November 24, 2005 | No Comments

So that the students may have a full grasp of the recent events at the General Assembly of Student Councils (GASC) held last October 22-23, 2005 at the UP Visayas Cebu College at Cebu City and November 12-14, 2005 at the UP Diliman School of Economics and the Freedom from Debt Coalition Office at Quezon City, this statement has been prepared consistent with USC Manila Resolution No. 0506-007.

Debating versus Filibustering

When the General Assembly of Student Councils (GASC) resumed session on November 12, 2005, Student Regent Ken Ramos announced to the body the agenda for the meeting. He reiterated a draft agenda he presented back in Cebu that scheduled the debate for amendments to be in the order that they would affect the Codified Rules for Student Regent Selection (CRSRS). He also set time limits on each amendment. Initially some delegates moved to change this agenda, to prioritize some proposals perceived to be more substantial over those that only sought to correct spelling and grammar. This was vehemently opposed, so to facilitate discussion – the motion to change the agenda was withdrawn and the Order of Business as determined by the Student Regent adopted.

Chaos erupted the moment some members who were clearly arguing in circles insisted that debate be extended beyond the time limits originally adopted by the assembly. They were, in effect, moving for an extension of debate beyond the original time limits adopted earlier in the session by the assembly, a motion that requires two-thirds vote similar to one that seeks to limit debate [1]. Furthermore, the delegates who supposedly had new arguments were just filibustering – rehashing their points in different ways. All of them violated the GASC House Rules by speaking more than ten (10) minutes without the consent of the body [2].

Yes, debate is welcomed – but there is a clear distinction between debating and filibustering just to delay the transaction of business. Parliamentary rules are there to protect not only the minority from being gagged by an oppressive majority but also the majority from being unduly delayed by a filibustering minority. This is clear, as in addition to the GASC House Rules restricting members’ speeches to ten minutes, parliamentary rules state that no member of an assembly is entitled to speak on a concern more than twice on the same day [3].

The filibustering members all spoke more than twice on the issues and more than ten minutes each time they rose to speak.

Presiding versus Dictating

On the matter of the UP Diliman School of Economics Student Council (UPDSESC) delegate rising to call the roll on her motion, it was in order: parliamentary rules also have remedies for Presiding Officers who take the law into their own hands and who refuse to follow the rules. This was already explained by the UPDSESC statement when it cited the appropriate parliamentary rule that allowed a proponent him/herself to call for a vote, in case the Chair refuses to him/herself put the properly-made motion to a vote [4]. Even if the Chair, who in that case was the Student Regent, had not relinquished his position as Presiding Officer, his misconduct or dereliction of duty in office allowed for what UPDSESC did. The Presiding Officer went to the extent of ignoring the appeal on his ruling, hence the remedy.

Who can Adjourn

Session was never adjourned, because no majority vote showed consent to the Student Regent-Presiding Officer’s unilateral ruling of adjournment as is required by the House Rules [5]. No other rules or regulations aside from the GASC House Rules and the universal parliamentary rules as written in Robert’s Rules of Order were adopted by the GASC in session, and nowhere in the two may it be found that the Chair can unilaterally adjourn for reasons of security and disorder. He simply had no prerogative, and forced himself upon the will of the assembly.

There was no immediate need to adjourn. The Chair himself is empowered to order unruly observers out of the session hall [6], or if the unruly persons are members of the assembly, to call them to order and reprimand them if needed [7]. These steps, however, were not taken by the Student Regent. In the first place, at the exact moment he declared adjournment, there was no more disorder or chaos to speak of (as audio and video recordings will show). All the delegates cooled off somewhat and were silently seated in their chairs, as were the observers.

The Chair is not a god

Contrary to propaganda that wrongly accuses the majority – 31 out of 51 UP Student Councils from the UP Diliman, Los Baños, Manila, and Mindanao campuses – of disrespecting the Student Regent, efforts were made to uphold his office and to have him preside.

The Student Regent, even upon the insistence of members that he resume presiding, refused to do his job in accordance with the House Rules. The same House Rules allow for the chair (meaning the office or position) to be relinquished to another person [8]. There is no Vice-Student Regent who would have taken his place in such an instance, and the secretariat also abandoned its duty and joined the unruly protest actions on the floor with the Student Regent. In such cases, an assembly can be called to order by any of its members, and immediately the assembly should elect a temporary Chair to preside during that session as provided for in parliamentary procedure [9]. The GASC as an assembly then transferred the venue of the session due to KASAMA sa UP’s incessant rallies that were in fact full of threats and invectives that were disrupting the proceedings.

It is common sense to follow only legal orders made by any superior; illegal orders are to be ignored. No Chairperson can act like a god who rules with absolute power that should be followed even if his/her actions are already violating the rules.

Hence, the Student Regent’s adjournment without majority consent, being illegal, was not binding. Furthermore, his refusal to do his duty of presiding even in the presence of a quorum and the session being not adjourned was also abandonment; hence by his actions the GASC had no choice but to appoint an acting Presiding Officer – there was no “take-over”. Finally, participation in the resumption of session at Teacher’s Village is not illegitimate but instead was the right thing to do as can be demonstrated by the arguments above; any deliberate refusal to attend it meant an abandonment of a student council’s duty to represent its constituent students at the GASC.

Propaganda War

Caution is advised to all students regarding the current propaganda war being waged by several sides to the GASC issue. With the intention of recognizing a UP student’s inherent critical awareness and discernment, students are encouraged to develop a balanced view on the issue by learning how to see beyond the personal attacks and accusations designed only to enrage, but never to enlighten. Being learners in a University environment, this is the perfect opportunity for all of us to stand by reason and logic and not by anger and emotion.

27th UP Manila University Student Council

Note: RONR – Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised. ISBN 0-7382-0307-6

1. RONR (10th ed.), p. 185, l. 13-16.
2. GASC House Rules, Section III – Decorum, Rule 25.
3. RONR (10th ed.), p. 376, l. 20-24.
4. RONR (10th ed.), p. 642, l. 11-19.
5. GASC House Rules, Section I – Session, Rule 9.
6. RONR (10th ed.), p. 625, l. 19-26 and p. 628, l. 23-33.
7. RONR (10th ed.), p. 626, l. 20-33.
8. GASC House Rules, Section I – Session, Rule 7.
9. RONR (10th ed.), p. 437, l. 13-20.

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