Senate panel okays SK polls postponement
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Senate committee on local government has approved a measure to postpone anew the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK or youth council) elections, its chairman said on Friday, January 23.
Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr said in a news briefing that his committee is set to adopt and sponsor House Bill 5209, which seeks to postpone the SK polls to October 2016, pending the passage of reforms in the SK system.
"We're done with the hearing. We'll start writing the committee report already; that's the procedure. So, if we can finish it, I will be speaking to the Senate President and see when we can schedule [at the plenary]," said Marcos.
The senator then reiterated that the postponement of the SK polls was merely a "side issue," saying that both houses of Congress are "anticipating many big changes in the youth representation system" through a consolidated SK reform bill. (READ: Senators open to postponing SK polls pending reforms bill)
Until the official postponement of the polls, however, Marcos said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) would have to continue preparing for the SK polls on February 21, despite the poll body's concerns that the SK polls are already hampering their preparations for the 2016 national elections.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr also noted that it has spent P6.3 million so far, out of its P1.1-billion projected expenses, in preparing for the youth elections.
With the early passage of the postponement bill, Brillantes said that Comelec would be able to stop election-related purchases and incur savings.
"Hangga't mas maaga na masabihan sila na may postponement, mas malaki ang magiging savings nila dahil hindi sila gagastos (The sooner the Comelec is informed of the postponement, the more they will save because they would not spend anymore). Taking that into account, we will try our best to finish it as soon as possible," Marcos said.
Before the press briefing, resource persons from the Comelec, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the National Youth Commission, the League of Provinces of the Philippines, and the League of Municipalities of the Philippines attended the Senate committee hearing.
They supported moves to postpone the SK polls pending the passage of an SK reform law.
For his part, Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, also an SK reform proponent, called on young Filipinos to participate in discussions related to the youth council.
In a statement, Aquino said there is a consensus that SK should be rebooted. He then encouraged everyone to use the time before the next SK polls "to pass these needed reforms, convince more young people to participate and run, so that the SK can finally live up to its intended potential."
In December 2014, the House of Representatives passed House Bill 5209, setting the next SK polls for the last Monday of October 2016, in sync with the next barangay (village) elections.
The SK elections had been originally scheduled on October 28, 2013, but was postponed following the enactment of Republic Act 10632 to give Congress time to legislate SK reforms.
Among the proposed changes are the adjustment of the age bracket of youth officials to 18-24 years old, from 15-17 years old; provisions for fiscal autonomy and a mandatory training program; the enforcement of anti-dynasty provisions; and, the creation of the Local Youth Development Council (LYDC), composed of youth leaders from various sectors.
The Comelec then reset the SK polls for February 21, 2015, in accordance with the said law.
In anticipation of the decision by Congress, the Comelec has rescheduled the start of the SK election period, and the gun ban, to February 6. – Rappler.com