Why the Sangguniang Kabataan needs an overhaul

Ideally, the Sangguniang Kabataan is the venue for young Filipinos to be trained as leaders, but along the way, there seems to be a multitude of issues surrounding the institution

I almost ran for a Sangguniang Kabataan position when I was 17, until I heard what the position entails: rumors about politicking, corruption, and repetitive projects and programs.

In conferences on youth empowerment and leadership, I always get to meet new faces and stories of inspiration. I have made friends with young people who have found their life passion – clean energy use, social enterprises, and heritage conservation. There are so many young Filipinos who possess the energy, grit, and skill to become future leaders of this nation. One cannot contain the aspirations of the juvenile into just ideas and plans; they need an outlet so that they can put these skills to good use and they can be trained early as responsible leaders in their own rights.  

Ideally, the Sangguniang Kabataan (Youth Council) is the venue for young Filipinos to be trained as leaders, but along the way, there seems to be a multitude of issues surrounding the institution. 

Sangguniang Kabataan as an institution

The Local Government Code of the Philippines (RA 7160) was passed in 1991 and it institutionalized the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) – a body that aims to provide an avenue for the youth to be trained as leaders. 

Under RA 7160, the main functions of the SK are to promulgate resolutions necessary to carry out the objectives of the youth in the barangay; to initiate programs designed to enhance the social, political, economic, cultural, spiritual a physical development of the members; and to conduct fund-raising activities.

In the past years, SK faced a lot of issues as an institution. A 2007 study by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the UNICEF entitled, “The Impact of Youth Participation in the Local Government Process: The Sangguniang Kabataan Experience,” stated: “The SK’s performance for the past ten years has been generally weak. This is especially true in terms of coming up with legislations, promoting the development of young people, submitting reports and holding consultations with their constituents.” 

Aside from the lack of concrete legislative and youth development programs, I have heard of certain issues raised against the SK like corruption, nepotism, and recurring programs focusing on sports festivals and pageantry only. 

These issues were the main reasons why Congress enacted RA 10632, causing the suspension of the SK election in October 2013 and postponing it to around October 2014 to February 2015. The 16th Congress began deliberation on the bills that would amend the Local Government Code, specifically the Sangguniang Kabataan provisions. Some are in favor of amendments while  want to abolish the youth representation. 

One thing is for sure: a law should be passed in time to determine the future of the Sangguniang Kabataan. 

What can be done? 

The provisions in the Local Government Code explaining the functions and the duties of the SK and its officials are quite clear and, if properly followed and implemented, can be beneficial to the SK officials and their communities. 

Some SK reforms being considered include:

  • Increasing the age of SK officials and members from 15-18 to 15-24 years old
  • Providing training on local government and financial administration
  • Broadening community involvement not just in sports and youth development but also in education, employment, entrepreneurship and health
  • Participation as stakeholders in the Local Development Councils
  • Giving incentives (college scholarship and health insurance), and not salaries, to SK officials

Involving youth leaders in discussions on financial matters should also be taken seriously. The youth seems to have not proper guidance and technical know-how on handling the financial side of public service. Honestly, the SK budget is big enough to fund a lot of projects and programs. An audit and report of budget execution can also be an SK reform. As early as now, young Filipinos should put premium to accountability and transparency so that they can bring it to whatever careers they may pursue in the future.

Is there a future for SK? 

There should be. As a member of the youth sector, the Sangguniang Kabataan is the best venue to put the Filipino youths’ potential, skills, and talents to good use. An overhaul is probably the best thing to do. Give them independence in financial management but provide them with proper guidance and training; inculcate in them the value and culture of accountability and transparency; define their roles in community development, and show them what projects can and cannot be done.

Sadly, there seems to be no loud public clamor, especially from the youth sector, for SK reforms. I must commend several organizations, like the National Youth Commission, and public officials like Senator Bam Aquino and Representative Kaka Bag-ao, who continue to support such reforms. (READ: Bam Aquino: Major overhaul, not abolition, of SK)

But there should be a support system for the bill to pass both Houses, and once enacted into law, to be implemented properly. This support should come from the direct beneficiary – the Filipino youth. We should step up our game and tell our legislators what we want our youth representation to be.

If the name “Sangguniang Kabataan” itself scares people – that these youth officials might do the same old things, leading to the same old issues – we can give it a new name: Barangay Youth Council or Liga ng Bayaning Kabataan (as Bam Aquino suggests). But we should never underestimate the voices of the young, because in them, our future lies. – Rappler.com

Charles Ladia, 22, is a public servant and an advocate of youth empowerment. He is the logistics coordinator of Polaris Philippines, a youth organization that provides mentorship programs on leadership, career advancement, personal branding and social good for high school students. He is taking up Master of Public Management, Major in Public Policy and Program Administration, at the University of the Philippines Open University.