WORM’S EYE EYEVIEW: Should the SK be abolished?

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/09 July) — The Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) is under fire. It is being targeted for extinction by people who profess to be disappointed with it. It is corrupt, they say, and they are frustrated with its dismal performance. Therefore it should be abolished. It’s what they say and it sounds logical.

But what if the same measure of disappointment and frustration is applied to Congress—both Houses. And what if the congressmen and senators are found to be even more disappointing and dismal, individually and collectively? Can we also abolish them?

Given the accumulated stink emanating from both houses over just the past few years, it doesn’t seem right that the older folks pick on the youngsters. These are the same youth they corrupt with patronage allowances, lakbay-aral grants, and pork barrel funds.

Corruption is not an issue one can blithely tie to the SK’s tail. It is a derived issue. It’s derived from wrong mentoring by elders, done from ignorance resulting from poor training and education, caused by collateral damage from the big-time corruption of adult officials. And there is SK corruption because the officials and adult citizens in their midstf—offices and homes—do not monitor or supervise SK activities as provided by law.

It’s not fair to ascribe SK corruption to the youth alone. Many people are accountable for their conduct—parents, elders, superiors. And there’s the generally corrupt system. It’s unfair to isolate corrupt practices generated by the system and blame it solely on the youth.

SK abolitionists view the problem from a very narrow prism—their own observation and conclusion. They don’t look at the people that do the corrupting—illegally organizing youth candidates for their slate in violation of the Election Code’s Section 38, funding their activities, providing money for vote-buying, teaching them the tricks of the trade.

Also, no attempt has been made to pin down the “how” and the “why” and the “what” of SK corruption. No survey or study has been conducted. For all we know, the abolitionists themselves may be responsible for some or all of the corruption.

But they don’t bother to dig into the root or the details of the problem. They simply file a bill, hold press conference, and denounce the youth. They actually think this solves the problem. They presume it’s enough to rely on their perception and self-righteous conclusions to establish the basis for scuttling the SK.

But there has been no airing or public discussion of the issue on a sufficient scale. Educators, parent-teachers’ associations, and church groups were not consulted. Not even the sector that’s more knowledgeable: the better-than-average campus youth.

To be sure, campus youth have been habitually absent in barangay affairs. But it’s important to know why or for what reason they shirk involvement in their community. To just cancel them out of the equation will remove the cream of our society from contention. It will make them part of the problem instead of generators of the solution.

Make no mistake about it: this is a momentous issue. It affects a critical mass of our population, the generation that will soon take over. They must be consulted. They are entitled to a hearing. And they deserve serious consideration.

The Liberal Party’s representative in Caloocan City, Edgar Erice, is on record as saying that “SK” means “School ng Korupsyon.” If he thinks he’s being cute or clever by playing facetiously on the “SK” acronym, he should be ashamed of himself. Has he consulted extensively with the citizenry of his district?

His sweeping judgment reflects very badly on Filipino youth in general. But no chance has been afforded the youth to speak out or to challenge the accusation. Even the youth-sector Party-List representative in Congress has not been heard from. Is it possible they think the SK’s retention is indefensible? Neither has the National Youth Commission weighed in with any recommendation.

Thus Filipino Youth as a whole is without effective representation, without a credible voice defending it or explaining its side. So it is open season to slander them, to pass summary judgment on them, and to disenfranchise them.

Have the abolitionists produced a reasoned, fact-based paper or pamphlet in support of the proposition? Or are we being asked to take their word at face value? Are the youth being taken for granted?

To enact such a bill without extensive deliberations is to do so from rash judgment. It would be to pronounce a summary sentence on the fate of the youth without requisite discussion, without study or research into its merits.

This issue needs to be better aired and discussed—in a special Barangay Assembly, if possible, so that it will be the community to decide and not presumptuous congressmen and senators with no real contact with the constituents or, worse, decided by unelected Comelec Commissioners whose adherence to due process remains a festering issue after last May’s elections.

Let’s look deeper into this issue next. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Manny Valdehuesa is the president and national convenor of Gising Barangay Movement Inc. He can be reached at valdehuesa@gmail.com.)