The fate of the Sangguniang Kabataan rests on the decision – and debates – to be conducted by the 16th Congress.
With the commencement of the 16th Congress, congressmen and senators alike have taken sides on the issue regarding the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK). As the Barangay and SK Elections are set this coming October 28, policymakers are once again divided on whether the youth council should be retained or abolished entirely.
As a group of youth officials aged 15-17 elected every three years during Barangay Elections, the SK creates and carries out programs for the members that belong to the aforementioned age bracket. An eight-member group, it is composed of a chairman and seven members or kagawad.
The idea of providing youth representation first materialized in 1975 when then President Ferdinand Marcos established the Kabataang Barangay (KB) through Presidential Decree (PD) 684. Then first daughter Imee Marcos was consequently appointed as National Chair.
The KB was created to allow the youth to have community involvement, and serve as a means to carry out various projects that cater to them. The KB, however, met criticisms for its inability to gain the youth’s responsiveness due to their participation in student activist groups.
Later, it was abolished under Former President Corazon Aquino who instead established the Presidential Council for Youth Affairs (PCYA) as an alternative. The PCYA, however, served only as a coordinator for youth groups and did not serve as a means of developing future leaders.
It was not until 1991 when Republic Act 7160, also known as the Local Autonomy Law or the Local Government Code of 1991, was passed that the SK and the Katipunan ng Kabataan (KK) present today were established formally just as the KB met its official abolition. Subsequently, the first SK elections were held in December 4, 1992.
Amendments were made to the Local Government Code regarding the provisions for SK in 2002 with Republic Act No. 9164 which lowered the age qualifications from at most 21 years old to no older than 18, with the minimum age retained at 15 prior to the day of the elections. The law also reset the date of elections to the last Monday of October instead of the original provision of conducting it on the second Monday of May, a time when students would perhaps be freer to vote given that the month of May falls under the summer period of local schools.
The SK was created in accordance to the Convention on the Rights of the Child set forth by the United Nations. As stipulated in Article 12, the state “shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the rights to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child”, as well as an avenue to air these views by providing for them representation through an administrative body.
Senator Teofisto Guingona III seeks reform over abolition and believes that the SK framework should be re-evaluated by Congress. In a July 8 article from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, he cites that the age bracket is a source of dispute since children at that age are not yet prepared to manage responsibilities involving large sums of money.
Senator Paulo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV agrees with Guingona in seeking only for SK reform and defending the youth’s need in having a means to express their concerns. Being previously involved with the National Youth Commission, Aquino has had experience working with SK officials, and suggests that the flow of funds to the youth council be looked into by Congress.
Meanwhile, Quezon City Representative Winston Castelo disapproves of the abolition of the SK. According to a July 9 article in the Philippine Star, he purported that the removal of the budget for the SK is a better solution since the absence of money would remove the temptation of misusing the funds.
Senator Jose Victor “JV” Ejercito also called for SK reform instead of outright abolishment, exhorting that the latter action is illogical. Ejercito believes that the SK should be reformed to be made more apt to the youth today.
“School of corruption”
Caloocan Representative Edgar Erice, known for branding the SK a “school of corruption”, has filed a bill which seeks to abolish the youth organization. Erice argues that it no longer serves its purpose, and suggests that it be replaced with a Barangay Youth Council, which would instead be headed by the youngest elected councilor that hails from the same barangay.
According to a report from Rappler.com, the total internal revenue allotment (IRA) given to barangays for this year is P60.47 billion, and of this, P6.05 billion are allotted for the youth councils in the 42,000 barangays nationwide, which translates to roughly P143,000 for each SK.
Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte has also called for the abolition of the SK, but adds that youth representation should be retained. According to Belmonte, there are other local organizations which the youth can take part in such as the Barangay Development Council and the City Development Council, without the need of allotting to them large funds.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has also expressed their interests in abolishing the SK. COMELEC Chair Sixto Brilliantes Jr. stresses that the issue should be resolved as the Commission would begin preparations for the elections on October, advising the President to expedite legislation on the youth organization.
Commissioner Lucenito Tagle calls for the immediate action of Congress to abolish the SK stating that the youth council has transformed itself into a “breeding ground for political dynasties”.
Multiple bills for the abolition and reform of the SK have been lobbied in Congress, but most have failed to reach legislation. In 2004, former Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr., the proponent of the Local Government Code, filed a bill asking for SK reforms that included a revision of the appropriation of funds.
In 2007, Senator Francis Escudero also filed a bill on reforms regarding the fiscal autonomy to be provided to the SK as well as the redefining of qualifications that instead covers those aged between 18 and 21.
During the 14th Congress, Pimentel again filed a bill but instead sought the abolition of the SK, arguing that it “has not lived up to the people’s expectations”.
In 2010, former DILG Secretary Jessie Robredo called for the abolition of the SK, citing that the council has failed in effectively carrying out its services as stated in the Local Government Code. He proposed that Section 423 to 439 of the Local Government Code, which covers the provisions for SK, be revoked, stressing that the removal of SK will consequently remove corruption culture among the youth.
Roy Loyola Jr. (III, AE-LGL), SK Chairman of Barangay 4 of Carmona, Cavite, believes that there are both positive and negative effects to the abolition of SK. “On one end, it means that funding received by the SK could be allocated to other national and local endeavors such as projects and the like. While at the same time, there are youth officials and their families that benefit from the salaries and benefits they receive as members of the government,” he explains.
He furthers, however, that there is a need for the SK to be abolish, stressing that the youth officials should place their education first over service. He also adds that the youth has not yet reached a certain maturity for them to fulfill their duties.
“Not to downplay the youth in any way, I feel that they are too young to handle this big a responsibility. This could make them prone to many factors such as abuse and corruption, among other things,” he concludes.