Brillantes: Let's postpone SK polls to October 2016
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – If it were up to Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes, he would postpone the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK or youth council) elections to October 2016 – in sync with the next barangay polls – given Comelec's ongoing preparations for the May 2016 national elections.
However, the National Youth Commission (NYC) disagrees, saying that the absence of SK officials in government since November 2013 is already a "disservice" to the youth.
In a media briefing on Monday, July 28, Brillantes said in his personal opinion, he would like to postpone again the SK polls, mandated by law to take place between October 2014 and February 2015. The scheduled elections last October 2013 was suspended for a year to give way to the passage of SK reform legislation.
Brillantes said that Comelec has a lot on its hands now, with the poll body already "in high gear" in its preparations for the 2016 presidential elections.
He also mentioned the ongoing voter's registration, where they aim to reach 3 million new voters, as well as 9.6 million voters who are at risk of being disallowed to vote due to missing or incomplete biometrics data.
Brillantes added, "[The Bangsamoro plebiscite] is coming in. Several plebiscites are coming in. [A referendum for proposed] amendments in the Constitution is probably there."
Conducting the SK elections between now and the 2016 polls would force Comelec to suspend the voter's registration, said Brillantes, as it could not take place during any election period. Also, according to him, the SK polls would cost around P2 billion.
"To us, the main event is the national and local elections on May 9, 2016. I think the concentration should be there," he said.
With that said, Brillantes pushes to "temporarily do away" with the SK for one full 3-year term, and to synchronize the SK polls with the October 2016 barangay elections instead. He plans to discuss this with the proponents of SK reform bills in Congress.
"The main argument here is that since October last year, wala nang SK. Tumatakbo naman ang ating mga barangay. May narinig ka bang problema dahil walang SK?" Brillantes asked. (Despite SK's absence since October last year, our barangays continue to run. Have you heard problems because there was no SK?)
Absence of SK officials a 'disservice'
The NYC said that the Comelec chairman's proposal is "out of the question," adding that youth participation in government "should never be viewed as a disruption."
In a statement on Friday, July 25, NYC said that the SK is the youth's legal avenue "to participate in political matters, harness their full potential as public servants and ultimately, be able to contribute in nation-building."
Therefore, further postponement of the SK polls would be "atrocious," said NYC Commissioner-at-Large Jose Rafael Cruz. "The absence of SK officials since November 30, 2013, is already a disservice to Filipino youth."
The NYC believes that it's the Comelec's commitment to implement the SK elections under Republic Act 10632, or the law that postponed the youth polls for one year. There was no holdover for outgoing SK officials nor appointments of temporary SK officials.
The NYC stands firm in its objectives to make sure that the youth polls would push through, said the statement. It also pushes for reforms in the SK system.
"Even if there are disagreements on the exact measures and proposals for reform" – such as the adjustment of the age bracket for eligible SK voters – "what we can all agree on is that there is a need to fix the current system," said Cruz. "We can't go back to the status quo."
"SK deserves the chance to prove its fight against corruption and to pave the way for a better future," added NYC's commissioner representing Mindanao, Assistant Secretary Earl Saavedra.
Reforms immediately needed
For his part, Senator Paolo Benigno "Bam" Aquino warned that if reform bills would not be passed immediately, the SK would "return to the clutches of partisan politics."
"If not passed on time, all the reforms that we are working on will go down the drain," said Aquino, chairman of the Senate committee on youth, in a statement on Tuesday, July 29. He urged Congress to buckle down and work for the passage of the bills.
He also called on the youth to actively lobby for these reforms.
Aquino authored Senate Bill 1090, establishing the Liga ng Bayaning Kabataang (LBK) to overhaul the system of youth representation in government.
SB 1090 increases the age bracket of SK officials to 18-24 years old, from 15-17 years old. It also replaces the current SK with a body composed of representatives of accredited youth organizations.
Senators JV Ejercito and Ferdinand Marcos Jr have also filed SK-related bills. Ejercito filed a Sangguniang Kabataan Empowerment bill, while Marcos, in Senate Bill 663, proposed to extend the term of barangay and SK officials to 5 years from the current 3 years. – Rappler.com