MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino is calling for the abolition of the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK), saying it has not proven itself to be effective. The move will also save the government billions of pesos in expenses, officials say, adding that the youth could have a voice through a seat in the barangay council instead.
The SK gets its funds from the barangay. The SK budget, sourced from 10% of the total general income of the barangay, goes to 4 areas: a green brigade, livelihood, capability-building, and its anti-drug abuse campaign.
Speaking on ANC's "The Rundown" on Monday, Davao First District Representative Karlo Nograles said some lawmakers are supporting the president's recommendation to abolish the SK based on three points: those who are 15 to 18 years old may not be mature enough to hold public money; their youth makes them prone to abuse and subject to the undue influence by politicians; and, they should concentrate more on their studies.
Nograles noted that members of the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral reforms are set to take up the issue. He added that some lawmakers made informal surveys on abolishing the SK or postponing barangay elections, and they are divided over the matter.
Nograles said that after three SK elections, no less than former Senator Aquilino Pimentel, the proponent of the SK, proposed its abolition in the 14th Congress because it has failed to produce the intended results.
Citing the reality on the ground, Nograles said some SK officials have become too focused on their SK work that they have forgotten their studies.
"While we encourage the youth to be serious with education, we don't want to silence them but rather find ways they can participate in nation-building, which is why the compromise is to give them a seat in the barangay council for youth representatives so they can participate in governance of barangays and encourage them to earn their degree to be the future leaders we need," Nograles said.
Move to abolish SK hit
But some youth groups have deplored the move to abolish the SK.
"Dismayado kami sa kaniya [Pres. Aquino]. Noong nangangampaniya siya, sabi niya papalakasin niya yung boses ng kabataan, pero ngayon, ano ginagawa niya?" said Mark Louie Aquino of the Kabataan Partylist.
But rather than doing away with the SK, youth groups are calling for reforms. Some of them recently published advertorials pushing for the retention and reform of the SK.
"There may be some loopholes but that doesn't mean we should totally abolish everything. Nanawagan kami sa lahat ng SK members na ipaglaban natin yung ating boses bilang kabataan," Sangguniang Kabataan National President Jane Cajes said in an interview also with ANC's The Rundown.
Acknowledging the current limitations in the SK, Cajes said they hope to raise the current age requirement from 5-18 years old to 18-21 years of age.
"Because of the age constraint, they're not allowed to sign contracts, and the barangay captain and representative sign on their behalf. Nagagamit and SK sa political campaigns and that's very sad," Cajes said.
She also said that one representative in the barangay council may not be enough to ensure the interests of youth with special needs. More representatives may be needed for the purpose of checks and balances, she added.
Twitter followers back reforms
ANC Twitter followers support calls for reforms in the SK.
"Based on my own experience as a chairman, SK, despite the noble principle behind it, in reality, it perpetuates a trapo [traditional politician] culture. A major overhaul, if not abolition, is direly needed," said singer Rico Blanco, a former SK Chairman.
"I think an out and out abolition will send a message that SK was useless when perhaps it's just due for a thoughtful overhaul," added Gang Badoy.
Cajes noted that former Akbayan party-list Representative Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel was a prime mover for the SK, while Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. favors SK reforms. Cajes added they are set to lobby for SK reforms on Wednesday.
The Senate will prioritize the proposal to postpone the Barangay and SK polls scheduled in two months. However, the Aquino administration could block the measure because it wants the elections to push through as scheduled. Senators say the government can save a lot of money if the Barangay and SK polls are synchronized with the 2013 elections.
"Can this country afford this? Are we that rich to have so frequent an election?" said Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.
"Dahil kung tuloy-tuloy kaming magpeprepare tapos mapopostpone, eh di useless yung aming preparations," said Commission on Elections Chairman Jose Melo.
The Comelec wants Congress to decide on the matter as soon as possible. -- With a report from Jeff Canoy, ABS-CBN News