Abolish SK? Pols just want to get their IRA – youth rep

MANILA – A youth representative in Congress aired suspicions on Friday, July 5, that older politicians and the poll body are moving to abolish the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) so local officials will have one less sector to share the multi-million-peso internal revenue allotment (IRA) from the national government.

Kabataan Rep Terry Ridon noted that the Local Government Code provides that 10 percent of the IRA share of barangays should go to the SK.

The SK is the 8-member youth council based in barangays. Their members, 15 to 17 years old, elect their officials during barangay elections. This year, the youth and village polls are scheduled for October 28.

Rappler computed that, for 2013, barangays are entitled to a total IRA of P60.47 billion. Of this, P6.05 billion should go to the youth councils in 42,000 barangays nationwide – an average of more than P143,000 per SK.

For many years, the SK National Federation has been lobbying that their 10-percent share be released to them directly by the budget department, since barangay officials and mayors withhold these funds from SKs who don't toe their line.

“If we read between the lines, we can say that the Aquino administration might be supporting the abolition of the SK to give more funds to local officials, a sure-fire way of consolidating local support ahead of the 2016 presidential elections,” Ridon said.

“Without the SK, barangay officials can directly control the whole IRA, thereby giving these corrupt local leaders more funds for themselves,” Ridon added.

Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. earlier said that the poll body is preparing a resolution asking Aquino and Congress to postpone the SK elections in October, and abolish the SK altogether.

It's a call that older politicians and other election players have been making since the Local Government Code established the SK as an obvious replacement for the Marcos-era Kabataang Barangay.

There have been discussions on the abolition of the SK in the 15th Congress but the proposals failed to prosper.

Just this week, newly elected Sen Bam Aquino said he supports an overhaul of the SK but not its abolition. Aquino was chair of the National Youth Commission, under which was placed the SK National Federation.

While Ridon acknowledged that the SK has been turned into “a nursery for corrupt politicians,” he said making this the main argument for the abolition of the youth councils is a narrow-minded view. Election Commissioner Lucenito Tagle had said that the SK should be abolished after it has become a breeding ground for political dynasties and corrupt politicians.

“If Comelec’s most salient argument in calling for SK abolition is corruption, then we ask: Why single out the SK? Why not abolish the Sangguniang Barangay, and every government institution for that matter – including the Comelec?” Ridon asked.

“If the government wants to solve corruption and the proliferation of political dynasties, it should do so not by diminishing the role of the youth in governance but by addressing the rotten political system that has disillusioned many of our young leaders,” Ridon said. – Miriam Grace A. Go/Rappler.com