Congress urged to fast-track SK reform bills

MANILA, Philippines – The National Youth Commission (NYC) is urging Congress to speed up the passage of reform bills for the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK).

In a statement on Saturday, August 9, the NYC said that it is time to pass SK reform measures "to make it an effective institution and make young people partners for development."

While acknowledging the limitations and issues surrounding the current SK system, the NYC pushes to keep legislation on SK reform moving.

"Every single day that goes by without genuine youth participation in local governance is an opportunity lost for a whole generation," said Commissioner Kit Cruz, the NYC’s Participation Committee chair.

The October 2013 SK elections were postponed following the enactment of Republic Act 10632. The law rescheduled the youth polls between October 2014 and February 2015 to give way to the passage of SK reform legislation. There was no holdover for outgoing SK officials nor appointments of temporary SK officials.

There have been numerous bills filed in both houses of Congress to reform parts of the SK or completely replace the youth representation system.

Senator Bam Aquino authored Senate Bill 1090, establishing the Liga ng Bayaning Kabataang (LBK). It aims to increase the age bracket of youth officials to 18-24 years old, from 15-17 years old. The new body will be composed of representatives of accredited youth organizations.

Senator JV Ejercito filed a Sangguniang Kabataan Empowerment bill, while Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr, in Senate Bill 663, proposed to extend the term of barangay and SK officials to 5 years from the current 3 years.

At the Lower House, Caloocan City Representative Edgar Erice, among others, filed House Bill 1122, which seeks to replace the SK with a Barangay Youth Council. He was also among the proponents of the SK elections postponement law.

For its part, the NYC pushes for SK fiscal autonomy, the amendment of the age of youth officials, and mandatory leadership and entrepreneurial trainings.

Meanwhile, the NYC opposed moves to postpone the scheduled SK elections or abolish the SK completely, saying that these "virtually disenfranchises the youth sector and strips them of the opportunity to meaningfully participate in local governance."

Comission on Elections Chairman Sixto Brillantes, for instance, has moved to postpone the SK polls anew to October 2016 – in sync with the next barangay or village elections – given the poll body's preparations for the 2016 national elections as well as its involvement in the ongoing voter's registration.

"To us, the main event is the national and local elections on May 9, 2016. I think the concentration should be there," Brillantes said. – Rappler.com

Michael Bueza

Michael Bueza is a researcher and data curator under Rappler's Research Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.

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