A call for increased youth participation amid the increasing role of the barangay in development was echoed at the Kapihan ng Malalayang Lasalyano: Kwentuhang Barangay and SK Elections hosted by the Committee on National Issues and Concerns at the Teresa Yuchengco Auditorium. The February 22 event was part of the University’s week-long commemoration of the 37th Anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution.
During the discussion, the importance of the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) as an avenue for youth participation in barangays was highlighted as Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) Executive Director Atty. Ona Caritos suggested that SK is a way for fresh faces to be elected to higher government offices due to the anti-dynasty provision stipulated in the SK Reform Act.
However, politicians currently in power appear to have already used the barangay and SK systems in their favor. Caritos observed that elected politicians on the national and local scene have expressed their support for the postponements of the barangay and SK Elections to gain the support of these smaller but still influential politicians, which led to the stagnation of barangay and SK-led programs.
The barangay’s and the SK’s role in development is becoming bigger. Jesse Robredo Institute of Governance Founding Director Francisco Magno noted that the barangay is at the forefront of delivering frontline services such as health and education. This is why the postponement of SK elections has reportedly created adverse impacts on youth programs in some barangays across the country, Caritos mentioned, citing LENTE’s data. Many scholarships handled by SKs and other youth development projects stopped as part of this.
Reports from multiple areas in the country show that SKs have failed to operate due to a lack of quorum, which, based on the SK Reform Act, should constitute at least five of the eight members of the SK council.
Numbers from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) show that there are more or less 30,000 SK seats left vacant due to the postponement, but LENTE contests this data with a study from Ateneo de Zamboanga that revealed that there are seats labeled as vacant by the DILG and the Commissions on Elections that are actually filled.
Magno added that the barangay’s comprehensive development plans are crucial in the cohesion and formation of national and local policies. He suggested that barangays maximize the formation of barangay committees and technical working groups to aid in the successful planning of the community.
The director recommended that barangays and SKs should be more open for better participation from their constituents in ways such as making barangay documents more accessible and implementing a dashboard through social media platforms.
Caritos said the importance of approaching your barangay and SK officials is to get to know them better as they “are the only government [units] we [personally] know in our lifetime.” She also mentioned the citizen’s role in having a transparent barangay and SK.