NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 12 May) — The Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) election which is supposed to be held every three years since December 4, 1992, was last held on May 9, 2010. The succeeding elections were postponed several times and were never held on the appointed dates until Monday, 14 May 2018.
Among others, the several postponements were apparently made by lawmakers to develop corrective counter measures to observations that the SK failed as a training ground for future leaders but has become instead a breeding ground for political dynasty and corrupt politicians.
Consider this. The youth in many communities were observed to disappear on the eve of SK elections. The young voters were herded by politicians or their leaders into resorts and other secluded areas, and were fed, wined and given allowances to secure their votes for the candidates of the politicians’ choice, often their kids or close of kin.
Moreover, the SKs developed a poor reputation. A 2007 study by UNICEF and the Department of Interior and Local Government reported that “The SK’s performance for the past ten years has been generally weak. This is especially true in terms of coming up with legislations, promoting the development of young people, submitting reports and holding consultations with their constituents.” It goes without saying that the 10 percent of Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) from barangay funds set aside for SK activities were not meaningfully spent or were used instead by the barangay government for other purposes.
After legislating to postpone the SK elections three or four times, Congress finally passed the Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Law (RA No.14742) on January 15, 2016. The law addresses the issues that had hounded the SK, particularly of its becoming a breeding ground for corrupt political dynasty and the ineptness of the youth council to manage the affairs and concerns for young people. The law changed the age of council members from 15 -17 to 18 -30 years old and forbids individuals from seeking an SK post who are related to any incumbent elected official, either local or national, to within the second degree of consanguinity (blood relations- covering siblings and grandparents-grandchildren). RA 14742 is the first Philippine law with an anti-political dynasty restriction for elected positions, as mandated by the 1987 Constitution.
The SK functions much like the barangay council, albeit focusing on everything that’s related to the barangay’s youth or members of the Katipunan ng mga Kabataan [KK], barangay residents aged 18-30. Under the SK Reform law, elected SK members are required to go through training programs before they can assume office. SK officials are also allowed to sign government contracts, which presupposes this time their capacity to use responsibly funds allotted to them.
How the law improves the performance and the image of SKs is something to watch within three years.
Suffice it to say that the anti-political dynasty restriction in the SK election may only work if COMELEC is serious and truly diligent in examining the bloodline of each candidate on the possibility of being related to any incumbent elected official in the government. But on this Monday elections, is the COMELEC prepared for the demanding task when the filling for candidacy was so close to election day? Failure to do the bloodline examination may force the body to yield to a messy post-election remedy, that is, to petitions for disqualifications from defeated candidates. Expect quo warranto cases to rise later in more informed and capable urban areas.
On the other hand, raising the SK age qualification to 18-24 is premised on the assumption that the individual in this age range, already in the age of majority, is now mature and responsible enough to make public-affecting decisions. Thus elected SK officials can now enter into contract in the exercise of their functions. This new capacity is expected to improve performance and advance the interest of the young people of the community.
While this development is promising, it makes SK officials vulnerable to corrupt practices. Contracting for government projects are a rich avenue of corruption. This exposure will make or unmake SK officials. This hands-on training in management may deliver either a good or a corrupt leader. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental)