Congress OKs postponement of SK polls

MANILA, Philippines (2nd Update) - With less than 5 weeks remaining, both chambers of Congress on Tuesday, September 24, ratified the bicameral report on the postponement of the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) polls. 

The bill only needs the signature of President Benigno Aquino III before it can be implemented.  

Earlier in the day, the Senate and House of Representatives, through a bicameral conference committee, consolidated their versions of the bill seeking to defer the SK elections, scheduled to take place simultaneously with the barangay polls on Monday, October 28, 2013.

The new date for the SK polls will be between October 28, 2014 and February 23, 2015, as determined by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Senators ratified the bicam report at about 4:20 pm Tuesday while House members ratified it at about 6:20 pm on the same day. 

Under the consolidated version of the proposed measure, there will be no holdover for current SK officials.

"We are trying to reform the system. So, why will we holdover the system we are not satisfied with?" asked Sen. Bongbong Marcos, head of the Senate local government committee, in an ambush interview.

There will also be no appointments of temporary SK officials, Marcos said.

In addition, the SK fund, which is 10% of the internal revenue allotment (IRA) fund given to barangays, should still be used by the barangays but only for youth development programs.

"We are not pushing for the abolition of the SK. I think lahat ng members of the bicameral committee ay sumasang-ayon na kailangan talagang may representasyon ang kabataan sa pamahalaan in whatever shape or form. Hindi pa natin malaman dahil iyan pa ang paguusapan in the next year or so," Marcos said.

(We are not pushing for the abolition of the SK. I think all bicameral committee members agree that there should be youth representatives in government in whatever shape or form. We cannot determine it yet, because it would still be discussed in the next year or so.)

The Senate passed on third and final reading on Monday, September 16, their version of the bill. The House of Representatives followed suit a week later.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes has earlier indicated that he will endorse bills seeking to postpone the barangay elections.

But Pres. Aquino III said that the Comelec should give him a “very good reason” to support the idea.

One-year deadline for reforms

According to Sen. Paolo Benigno "Bam" Aquino IV, Senate committee chairman on youth, both houses of Congress would have only one year to finalize much-needed reforms for the SK. 

“The goal is to pass an SK reform bill and have it enacted into law before October 28, 2014,” Aquino said.

Aquino said he filed Senate Bill 1090 or the Liga ng Bayaning Kabataan (LBK) Bill to “overhaul the youth representation system and instill the true spirit of volunteerism on the youth, aside from taking it from clutches of partisan politics."

The bill seeks to replace the current SK structure with a body composed of representatives of youth organizations.

There were over 3 million Filipinos between 15 and 17 years of age who registered for this year's SK elections. - Rappler.com