Genuine Youth Leadership By Samantha Cinco | February 2016
A great man once said, “ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan”. I know what you may be thinking, sounds like a total cliché right? How many times has this line been said? But you know what, people keep saying it again and again and again because there is some truth to it. The youth can be the hope of this country. BUT this possibility is not absolute. It is subject to a few conditions. The youth can only be the hope of this country is they choose to be, if they choose to do what’s right and if they choose to do what will benefit the rest the people of this country. Aside from that, the youth also need the proper avenue to forward their desired changes. The youth would need proper training for them to be equipped with the tools they need to service this country. There is such an avenue and this avenue is called the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK).
To give a brief overview, the SK found its roots in Kabataan Barangay(KB) which was founded during the time of President Ferdinand Marcos. The first chairperson of KB was Imee Marcos. However, during that time, much controversy enveloped the KB. It was used as a means to enforce authoritarian rule among the youth and was not really able to forward the concerns and needs of the youth. It grew less and less popular as young people preferred to be involved in youth activism to oppose the Marcos dictatorship.
Years later, with the passage of the Local Government Code of 1991, the KB was abolished and the Katipunan ng Kabataan (KK) and the Sangguniang Kabataan were created. This allowed youth members of the barangay aged 15-18 to participate in governance. The KK composed of all registered youth members that met the age requirement and have resided in that certain barangay for at least 6 months. The SK (loosely translated as youth council) were the officials elected from and by the KK which composed of one SK chairperson, 6 SK kagawads (councilors), a secretary and a treasurer (both of whom could be drawn from the pool of SK kagawads). These officials are elected every three years synchronized with the local government elections and are tasked to create the barangay youth development program and undertake projects that aim to help the youth. Common projects involve a sports league, school supply distribution, talent competitions, and others. The SK Chairperson automatically sits as a member of the local barangay council. The SK also receives an allotment of 10% from the barangay budget for its projects and programs.
Further, the every SK is part of a municipal or city SK association/federation which in turn are members of a provincial SK association. The SK chairperson represents their respective barangays to the municipal/city SK association. This association then elects its own leaders and those become the representative of that municipal/city to the provincial SK association. Then, these then make up the national SK association and elects its president who automatically sits in the National Youth Commission.
However, the new format of youth leadership which the SK represented was not something that wasn’t met with scandals and numerous issues as well. The most controversial of these was a case filed in April 2010 before the Office of the Ombudsman against then National SK Federation President Jane Cajes. The case was filed for alleged lack of transparency in financial dealings. Other SK officers demanded for financial reports which Cajes reportedly was unable to present and there was around 20 million pesos of national SK funds which were unaccounted for.
Because of this, there was an ongoing debate among lawmakers and other prominent individuals whether it was time to abolish the SK or to reform it. In 2013, the SK elections were postponed to allow for time for further studies and development. And finally, in January 2016, the new SK Reform Act (RA 10742) was signed into law. Among the most prominent changes was the increase of the SK aged bracket to 18-24 years old. This increase makes SK officials of legal age and, thus, could be made liable for their anomalies during their term. Further, the bill adds an anti-political dynasty rule. SK officials are not allowed to be related up to the second civil degree of co-sanguinity or affinity to any national or local official. Many see this as the beginning of an anti-political dynasty bill that aims to give more opportunities for the “ordinary citizen” to run for office.
The National Youth Commission (NYC) calls the passing of the SK Reform Act as a victory for the Filipino youth. They said that the anti-political dynasty clause is a big win in political reforms and it is starting with the Filipino youth. The NYC said that they will continue to work with their partners to ensure that the necessary structural and capacity building supports are ready for the SK implementation.
So, we have this new reform, will this be able to truly bring out genuine youth leaders in the different barangays? Well, we won’t know for sure until the implementation, but I have to say that I am looking forward to the new reforms. I personally see SK as first and foremost a training ground for the next generation of leaders of this country. Aside from that, I see as the place where the youth are first inspired to take on the responsibility of public service. With the general negative connotation about the public sector and the numerous opportunities associated with the private sector, many young people don’t even consider public service as a viable option.
With SK and the KK, I hope that the youth can truly see the relevance of government in their lives and love the experience enough to want to participate in it in the future. But I know what you may be thinking, wasn’t that the goal of SK or even KB to begin with? But, look where that put us. Well, the problem is just having the avenue for leadership is not enough. There has to be the proper training. In SK, the youth must learn to be responsible and accountable public officials with integrity. In SK, we should teach the youth not to steal from their country and to learn to live truly in the very idea of public service. This training ground was work both ways. It would implant a spirit of honesty in dealings or it could also be the beginning of a life in corruption. That is why proper training is truly the key and that doesn’t depend on that law but on the implementation of the law. But who implements the law now? That’s a problem as well because you have all your different government officials with the assistance of NYC and other partners to implement this new reform. Can we really depend on the different local governments to make sure that SK will truly be the change that we hope for it to be? Well, at the moment, we don’t really know that right? We can just hope for the best.
But is that the only thing that we can do? Of course not. To the youth, this reform is for you. This reform is your chance for your voice to be heard. The SK is really one of a kind and I don’t think the youth really realize its power. It’s an autonomous governing body composed of the youth and under the local government code, it can implement its own policies that they deem is needed for their own community. That is basically the power to use the voice of the youth to make a change in the lives of other members of the youth and even to the rest of the community. It starts small, it starts with the local barangay because it aims to implement the change in the most basic unit of society and hopefully see it crawl to the top. This is the power of the SK and we the youth have to make sure that this power is used for the good. We have to take it upon ourselves to participate in our local communities and express that issues that concern us such as lack of accessible education, prone to drug use, human trafficking, and others. But we have to speak up. We have to really participate because it is truly then that the SK can become the genuine youth leadership that we all aspire it to be.
Sam Cinco is the current SESC Students Rights and Welfare Councilor. She is a member of several organizations in UP like the UP Economics Society, UP Investment Club and Sidhi, among others. Sam also served as the last Sangguniang Kabataan Chairperson of her barangay before SK elections were postponed.
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