SINAG opens floor--again--for more talks on charter

The staff of SINAG-CSSP has decided to move the referendum for approving its proposed charter next year, holding more consultations to accommodate criticisms from students and alumni of the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy (CSSP).

This was decided in a General Assembly (GA) with a 10-5 vote, one abstaining.

CSSP students and alumni slammed Art. 12 Sec. 4, stating that the examinees for selecting the editor-in-chief (EIC) should have at least one year of residency in the publication and Art. 18 Sec. 4, stating that the charter can be approved without a referendum.

Web and Systems Administrator Renze Santos said the extension provides more time for students to examine the charter and for the contested provisions to be resolved.

MAGKAISA! CSSP president Reinna Bermudez said in a text message that they would continue to be involved with the process of revising the charter and the call for popular participation.

“It’s a good thing that the referendum got rescheduled, so SINAG can take more comments, ergo a more student-empowered and better thought-out charter,” Bermudez said.

Former CSSP Student Council (SC) Chair Jay Bagcal said in a text message that the action shows how the publication is committed to its mandate of informing the students.

“If adjustment in the initial timeline set by (the) SINAG staff guarantees optimum involvement of the students, then by all means let us adjust,” said Bagcal.

The original plan

SINAG-CSSP wrote in its September-October issue that the staff has submitted a request to CSSP dean Zosimo Lee to allow the current staff to amend the charter. Upon approval of the request, the charter was drafted from November to December by the Higher Editorial Board (HEB).

The staff approved the draft on Dec.15, 2009 and opened the floor for consultations on Feb. 25. Through text brigades and online publicity via the SINAG-CSSP site and Facebook, the staff called for comments from Feb. 26 to Mar. 3.

The evaluation of the comments and possible redrafting of the charter were scheduled on Mar. 4, with the final presentation of the charter proposal on Mar. 5. A referendum to ratify the charter was set to be held from Mar. 9-12, as per the current charter.

The Commentary

On Feb. 27, Joseph Lumanog, EIC in A.Y. 2005-2006, wrote to Ente, criticizing the one-year residency as “exclusionary and undemocratic.” He added that a referendum is necessary for a publication which sources its legitimacy from the students.

“Perhaps it could be argued that writers who already work in SINAG have a grasp of its work and operations, and would be in a better position to lead. Is this a guarantee that excellence in journalism will promoted? No,” wrote Lumanog, adding that equally promising outsiders might be discouraged.

On Mar. 3, MAGKAISA! CSSP released print-outs of a statement criticizing the draft.

MAGKAISA! CSSP called the one-year residency provision “undemocratic” and “narrowing the pool of competitive applicants to current staffers, deemphasizing merit and excluding equally deserving outsiders.”

Certain provisions, like the selection of rank-and-file staffers, could be codified separately to make them more flexible to changing times.

Lastly, it called for a student referendum to ratify the charter, as stipulated in the old charter, which has not been touched since 1989 when the SINAG trust fund climbed from P3 to P30.

The closed-door meeting

Later on Mar. 3, representatives of SINAG-CSSP and MAGKAISA! CSSP met in a closed-door
meeting to discuss the party’s statement.

MAGKAISA! CSSP president Reinna Bermudez said they were not able to attend the consultation because no one was available at the time. She admitted the party should have informed SINAG-CSSP before issuing a public statement since the staff was calling for comments.

Bermudez said the party will be issuing an apology for the released statement.

Santos said the lack of a referendum in the provision was an “oversight” and promised to change it immediately, but stood by the one-year residency rule.

MAGKAISA! CSSP said they were drafting a counter proposal, which SINAG-CSSP asked to be submitted the next day, Mar. 4, to be accounted for in the making of the final draft.

SINAG-CSSP’s reply

Defending the one-year residency provision, SINAG-CSSP said in its reply issued Mar. 5 that journalistic knowledge and aspects of skill can be gauged through an editorial exam but intention, dedication and rapport can only be tested with time in the publication.

SINAG-CSSP reasoned that journalistic and administrative skills, defined as the ability to practice the knowledge one has, are best tested in actual press work.

The only way to test a person’s ability to work with people is by actually working with them, said SINAG-CSSP.

SINAG-CSSP said it does not discriminate against anyone, but points out that it must ensure the EIC’s true intentions to prevent attempts to control the publication for “the interests of a few”. SINAG-CSSP cited in its reply a case of one of its past EICs abusing the position.

“In the past a newsbrief containing the details of a fraternity’s hazing scandal was censored by the Editor-in-Chief. In the first draft of the article, the name of the person and the fraternity purportedly involved in the case were mentioned. However, by the time the issue was published, the newsbrief entry was reduced to “A member of a fraternity was involved in a hazing accident.” It so happened that the Editor-in-Chief at that time was a member of a sorority affiliated with the group mentioned in the article.”

Lastly, SINAG-CSSP argued that the residency provision ensured that the next EIC will be fully informed of his or her duties for the continuity of work in the publication, which could be impeded by an “ill-informed” EIC.

“EPIC FAIL”and counter proposal

On Mar. 5, snapshots of the unamended version of the charter circulated in accounts of MAGKAISA! CSSP members branded the one-year residency and referendum provisions as “FAIL” and “EPIC FAIL” provisions, respectively.

SINAG-CSSP staffers immediately tagged as many students as possible in photos of the amended referendum provision, but reiterated that the staff will not take down the one-year residency rule.

On Mar. 7, MAGKAISA! CSSP posted its counter proposal on Facebook.

MAGKAISA! CSSP said the one-year provision might cause bias even if the original intention was to prevent it.

Instead of the contested provision, the party moves for an interview component testing dedication, intention and rapport and an “editorial judgment and moral dilemma” portion similar to the one used in the editorial exams of Tinig ng Plaridel, the official publication of the College
of Mass Communication.

MAGKAISA! CSSP said an “outsider” may have journalistic experience from other extra-curricular activities, adding that “fresh perspectives” would benefit the publication.

Allowing non-SINAG members to take the exam also encourages “healthy competition” and avoids the current staff from making way for an “heir apparent,” someone who the rest of the staff perceives as the next EIC.

MAGKAISA! CSSP said the publication could turn into an “insular publication” under the proposed charter, which could prove difficult to change. It is possible that a partisan applicant could rise within the ranks to the EIC position and control the composition of the staff.

By not allowing outsiders to become EIC, old perspectives that could be passed on from each editorial board to the staff could be challenged by new perspectives, which would encourage growth in the publication.

The party also opposed the formation of an adhoc committee, composed of five SINAG staffers, for the selection of the EIC. According to 12 Sec. 7, an adhoc committee will take part in choosing the next EIC.

MAGKAISA! CSSP said the Commission on Appointments provided for in Art 13 is sufficient, considering that the adhoc committee may be predisposed to favor SINAG staffers if the residency rule is not applied.

The party also called for shortening the charter and retaining only the provisions that “declarations of basic principles and necessary safeguards against abuse.”

The party also urges SINAG to put other regulations in a “Staff Manual” within the draft that the staff could change to adopt to particular situations.

Meanwhile, the party called for a provision designating a specific staffer or group of staffers to evaluate the written exam and specifying if the interviews are to be conducted by a panel or by an individual. In Art. 2 Sec. 3, an entrance exam and an interview compose the admission process for SINAG staff.

The next step

On Mar. 7, MAGKAISA! CSSP released a statement commending SINAG-CSSP for including the referendum in its charter, but still calls for the repeal of the one-year residency provision, a streamlined charter laying out the publication’s principles and safeguards and a more secured admissions process.

“Only by remaining active within the debate can we achieve this noble goal,” said MAGKAISA! CSSP.

SINAG-CSSP has not yet released a response to the counter proposal, but decided to extend the
revision process to make more room for debate.

Now that the referendum has been moved, SINAG-CSSP has decided to intensify the information dissemination campaign until the semester ends. Two rounds of consultation
will be held next term.

Current SINAG EIC Jei Ente said, “Our extending the consultation process does not mean that our stand on the much contested provision on the one-year residency has changed. But we are open to other counter proposals and comments.”

Lumanog commended SINAG for extending the charter revision process, adding that the original schedule was “very tight and not realistic.”

“It’s heartening to see your openness and willingness to collaborate,” said Lumanog in a text message. “I thought you were all stubborn and will ram these amendments down the throats of CSSP students. THANK YOU FOR PROVING ME WRONG.”

Article by: Alexandra Francisco