On Monday, millions of Filipinos will go to the voting precincts to cast their votes for their Barangay officials. For readers outside the Philippines, the barangay is the most basic (official) political unit in the country. Alongside the barangay elections, young people age 15-18 will also cast their votes for the officers of the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) or Youth Council.
Is the SK worth keeping?
A lot of people, including President Benigno Aquino III have called for the abolition of the SK. Davao Congressman 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.”
Here are several reasons why the SK should be abolished:
The Sangguniang Kabataan has become a training ground for corruption. The children of traditional politicians and dynasties all over the country are fielded as SK candidates. When they win, they simply reinforce political dynasties. Furthermore, they become privy to corruption and unethical practices in the government.
The SK does not meaningfully empower youth in the communities. Apart from the usual Sports program and the barangay markers and arches, most SK chapters in barangays, towns and provinces do not have programs that empower young people. Sure, the SK officials and leaders have seminars and leadership training opportunities, but these opportunities do not trickle down to the grassroots and they could not be felt by young people.
But then, according to the Manila Bulletin, “The Philippines is so far, the only country in the world which has given its youth the opportunity to take a participative role in government through the SK. An offshoot of the Kabataang Barangay of the ‘70s, the SK is a governing body where youth, aged 15 to 18 years old, may register to vote and be voted in the SK.”
Indeed, the SK has GREAT POTENTIALS for the political participation of the youth in the Philippine society. It can also, potentially, be the training ground for future political leaders in the country. However, the SK did not live up to its promise!
If you ask me, I’d say, abolish the SK and empower the youth through other means. Right now, however, I do not have any other alternative to propose. For some people, that might not be acceptable. The only alternative I can think is for non-governmental organizations and religious institutions to empower the Filipino youth through various (wholistic) youth development programs.
Like it or not, the SK is here to stay (at least for another three years if those who want to abolish it have their way)! If you or somebody you know wins in the SK elections, help them! How?
1. Hold them accountable in delivering impeccable public service! The SK is not just a simple organization. The SK Chairperson receives salary. With such salary, the public deserves the best service from them.
2. Guide them to spend public money wisely and ethically. Don’t cheat. Don’t steal money. Stealing ten pesos is already small scale corruption. And if it continues, who’s to stop a young SK official from stealing hundreds of thousands from public funds?
3. Challenge SK officials in your barangay, town, and province to think beyond the usual youth programs. You know them–basketball league during the town fiesta, construction of a “Welcome to Barangay Blah” marker or the usual municipal hall beautification project! There are hundreds of good ideas for youth development programs out there. All it takes is a sincere search for the best programs.
This coming October 25, go out and vote wisely for youth leaders in your communities.
P.S. Just a question for Filipino readers: Have you had any experience in dealing and working with the SK? How was it?