WORM’S EYEVIEW: In fairness to the SK

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/09 August) — With the Commission on Elections and the trapos ganging up on the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) crowd, it looks like the youngsters are in for a drubbing, followed by loss of a franchise they failed to manage respectably.

What hasn’t been said about this issue is the amount of money the trapos get to keep or spend by sidelining the youth—ten percent of their current budgets, or over P5 billion pesos.

But let’s face it: the failure of the SK cannot be blamed solely on the teen-age youth. The adult politicos, the parents, the schools, even the churches, are as much to blame for the SK’s poor performance and corruption. Where were they the whole time the SK supposedly went wayward? The SK officials were their wards—their sons and daughters, their students and church devotees, their political recruits and surrogates.

If juvenile delinquency can be ascribed to failure in the home, parents should be held responsible for the wrong or corrupt politics of their children. If under-achievers or inept graduates can be explained by bad education, schools must account for the poor quality of learning, lack of professionalism, and corrupt ethical standards of their graduates who enter the public service.

Parents are teachers and molders of character. They are role models to their children. Children emulate them and are guided by their advice and example. If parents and adults neglect their civic duties, their children will tend to be neglectful, apathetic citizens. If they belittle their role in governance and not bother to participate as they should, they will produce children with little or no sense of social responsibility—cynical, laggard, anti-social slackers.

Schools that claim to produce leaders can be faulted for incompetence and corruption in their graduates. The department of education should close down substandard schools. Something is very wrong if they turn out loyal alumni but disloyal or corrupt citizens. They mis-educate instead of educate. They foster wrong values and attitudes and incubate irresponsibility in a democracy.

Survey and Investigate!

Take a good look at the SK officials today. To what extent do their ideas and practices mirror their parents’ or their school ideals? Is it right that they turn politics in the barangay into a family enterprise?

It is time to survey the landscape of politics as reflected in the practices obtaining in the community today. The survey should start with flagrant cases in which the father or mother is barangay chairman, the son or daughter is SK chairman, and other siblings and relatives are kagawads. How have their entry into politics enhanced the common good? Or has it mainly been to amass power, increase family wealth, entrench the political dynasty, or gain access and firmer control of the social-political goods and benefits offered by politics?

It is understandable that poorly-motivated youth leaders distort and corrupt the public service. What is not understandable is why their parents, their mentors, their parish priests, pastors, and spiritual advisers, or even their friends and relatives, leave them to trash social values and political ideals. Neither is it understandable that the most promising of them do not apply their finest learning, experience, or idealism to the social challenges in the community.

Does anyone at home or in school so much as point out the error of their ways or, in the case of the putatively corrupt, reproach them for bad behavior? What do parents have to say about youngsters turning public service into a self-service industry? What about adult politicos that do the same, influencing their young counterparts towards similar or worse behavior?

It would be interesting to know whether or how many parents, spiritual advisers and mentors have bothered to observe the activities of their wards in the SK, offering advice (on good governance, for example, or how to manage a community project) in the process.

It really ought to be studied whether there has been in the SK’s performance any finding of youth-inspiring leadership or imaginative and enterprising initiative in the field of public service and the reform movement. These are things we used to expect from what is supposedly the most idealistic sector of our society.

The problem of irresponsibility or corruption in the SK is not going to go away by simply abolishing it. In fact, it will get worse if the family and the school system continue to fail in fostering civic responsibility or good citizenship among their wards. It is a challenge as well to civil society.

One wonders whether anyone at the outset had bothered to figure out that the correct approach to the institutionalization of the SK would have been to provide mechanisms for mentoring, guiding, and developing the youngsters into visionary leaders of their neighborhoods, such that good leaders in the barangays today become exemplary leaders of our nation tomorrow!

It is not too late to work out the reformation of the Sangguniang Kabataan. But the entire society must be brought into the task. (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 [email protected])