Greater accountability, SK autonomy in reform bill
MANILA, Philippines – A bill seeking to reform the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) – which proposes older officials and greater autonomy for the youth council – is set to be finalized by the end of September and is hoped to be passed in time for the SK elections in February 2015.
A lawmaker and youth leaders pressed Congress to urgently pass the proposed reforms on Thursday, September 11.
In pushing for the measure, Akbayan party-list Representative Ibarra Gutierrez explained that setting the age bracket to 18-24 years old – from 15-17 years old – would ensure a higher level of accountability among SK officials since they would be old enough to face charges for any wrongdoing.
Youth leaders added that when the SK bill becomes law, youth officials would also be given greater autonomy.
"Rarely discussed is how some barangay captains had limited the projects that could be undertaken by SK officials. The barangay captain would say to them, 'It's not your job,'" said Marlon Cornelio, the youth and student sector representative in the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC).
At the same time, however, SK officials would be provided with a "menu" of projects that would likely foster youth development and participation. This is to avoid "irrelevant" activities pursued by SK officials in the past, like sports tournaments and beautification projects.
In addition, the proposed bill seeks to pull SK away from the clutches of "partisan politics" and political dynasties.
The passage of the SK reform and empowerment bill "would really change the way politics is being done in this country," said National Youth Commission (NYC) Chairperson Gio Tingson.
"While the Anti-Political Dynasty Bill is pending in Congress, let us start fixing the issue within the ranks of the SK," added Tingson.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec), through Resolution No. 9899, scheduled the next SK polls on February 21, 2015. The poll body also set the voter's registration for Filipinos aged 15 to 17 from September 20 to 29, 2014.
The SK elections were originally slated on October 28, 2013, simultaneous with that year's barangay polls. But on October 3, 2013, President Benigno Aquino III signed Republic Act 10632, postponing the SK polls to give way to the passage of SK reform legislation.
There was no holdover for outgoing SK officials nor appointment of temporary officials. Therefore, there has been no youth representation in barangays since November 30, 2013, when the terms of youth officials ended.
No more delays
Delaying the passage of SK reforms in Congress would be "an opportunity wasted," said Gutierrez. "Efforts to reform the SK, including the postponement of SK polls, would be for naught," he added.
"Napapalapit na naman tayo sa isang sitwasyon na baka 'yung dati pa ring patakaran ang masunod sa February 2015 elections (We are again nearing a situation where the old SK system would still be in force during the February 2015 elections)," Gutierrez said in a press conference at the House of Representatives.
He said, however, that the "good news" is that "all SK reform bills filed in Congress have been consolidated into one bill by the technical working group."
"We are just waiting for the final draft of the consolidated bill. Hopefully, it would be finished by the end of September," reported Gutierrez.
From there, the consolidated SK reform and empowerment bill would be endorsed and approved in the House plenary, then merged with the counterpart bill in the Senate, until it reaches the President's desk for his signature.
Gutierrez acknowledged that Congress is currently busy with national budget deliberations, but said this should not be a hindrance to the passage of the SK reform bill.
"Even while the budget deliberations are ongoing, if the House leadership is willing to include the SK reform bill in Congress' agenda, it could actually be done. I don't think it would be an issue," the lawmaker said.
For his part, NYC Chairperson Tingson said that the SK system would only be fixed if the youth themselves would participate.
"Let's see the clamor of those who would register from September 20 to 29. There, we will really see how many young Filipinos want reforms at the SK level," he added.
"Kung ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan, ang SK ang pag-asa ng pamahalaan," he said. (If the youth is the hope of the nation, the SK is the government's hope.) – Rappler.com