MANILA, Philippines – The opposition accused the President's Liberal Party (LP) of exploiting the vacancies in village youth councils across the country "to gain political muscle" for the 2016 presidential election.
Due to a law postponing the elections of new Sangguniang Kabataan (SK or youth councils) officials up to February 2015, all the seats will be vacated in 42,028 barangays. Each village-based SK is composed of a chairman and 7 councilors.
Since there will be no holdover officials, the LP is reportedly attempting to get government to appoint transition officials instead through the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the agency headed by LP's presumed standard bearer for 2016, Secretary Manuel Roxas II.
"The LP is personally handpicking 350,000 barangay youth leaders who would campaign for Roxas’ presidential bid as early as 2014," said United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) secretary-general and Navotas Representative Toby Tiangco in a statement on Tuesday, June 24.
Citing reports from Kabataan Representative Terry Ridon, Tiangco said the LP and the DILG are hoping "to gain political muscle in the barangay level" by circumventing Republic Act 10632 – the law postponing the 2013 SK polls – through the law’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR).
Tiangco also expressed fear that with the SK suspended, the LP, through the barangay councils, "can tap the funds that are intended for the SK."
DILG's Roxas is also LP's president-on-leave. President Benigno Aquino III is the party chairman.
Task force and youth funds
Republic Act 10632 postponed the SK polls, originally scheduled on October 28, 2013, alongside that year's barangay elections, to give way to legislation of reforms in the SK system.
There was neither a holdover for the outgoing SK officials nor appointments of temporary SK officials.
The new date for the SK polls may be set by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) between October 28, 2014, and February 23, 2015. (READ: Comelec preparing for SK polls; reform bills pending in Congress)
In early 2014, the DILG and Comelec released and approved the IRR of Republic Act 10632. The IRR was drafted in consultation with the National Youth Commission (NYC) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), among other agencies.
Section 2 Rule 6 of the IRR mandates the creation of a Task Force on Youth Development in each of the 42,028 barangays (villages) nationwide.
The task force shall be composed of the barangay council's youth and sports development committee chairperson and 8 members – aged 15 to 17 years old – who are nominated by the Katipunan ng Kabataan (Youth Federation) and other youth organizations operating within the barangay.
The 8 members shall be designated through a resolution of the barangay council.
Tiangco said that with the DILG "calling the shots," the youth task forces "would essentially toe the line of the LP, its programs and activities are expected to change in content, intention and direction as 2016 draws closer."
The LP's supposed scheme, noted Tiangco, is "so much a lot like the Hitlerjugend (or the 'Hitler Youth') in the 1930s, when the Nazi Party in Germany established a youth organization with the intention of using its young members to advance the party’s political and military agenda."
He added that with the creation of these task forces, the LP "has in its hands more than P6 billion in public funds from the internal revenue allotment (IRA)." The Local Government Code sets aside as SK fund 10% of the barangay's general fund, which comes from the IRA.
But with the suspension of the SK system, the SK Fund was allocated for use by the barangays for youth development programs or projects, according to the IRR of RA 10632.
"What LP is doing is no different from what Lakas-Kampi did during the time of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, when government resources and public money were used to advance her presidential bid in 2004," Tiangco said.
"Ngayon, medyo may pagkagarapal dahil kasama sa budget ng DILG ang 'piggy bank' ng LP para sa 2016 campaign ni Mar [Roxas],” he added. (This time, it's more brazen because the "piggy bank" of LP is included in the DILG budget for the 2016 campaign of Mar Roxas.) – Rappler.com