ON THE SANGGUNIANG KABATAAN: ABOLITION OR REFORM? Jeffrey C.

Crisostomo | 12 July 2010 HISTORICAL BACKGROUND On April 15, 1975, then President Ferdinand Marcos issued Presidential Decree 684 which enabled the creation of the Kabataang Barangay (KB). Upon the toppling of the dictatorship and the rise of President Corazon Aquino to power, the entire system of government was overhauled through the 1987 Constitution. With this, changes in institutions in local governance were implemented. Thus, the KB became the precursor of the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK), which was established by virtue of Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991 authored by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel. In the Corazon Aquino Administration, among the policies of the state as mandated by the 1987 Constitution is the empowerment of the youth: The State recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and shall promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being. It shall inculcate in the youth patriotism and nationalism, and encourage their involvement in public and civic affairs. (Article II, Section 13, 1987 Constitution) PRESENT CONTEXT As such, the SK, as a legislative body for and composed of the youth, is indeed essential in providing projects and programs for the rights and welfare of the sector. However, there have been various calls that seek to either reform or abolish the SK. It is in this light that several organizations proposed to undertake a study on the SK in order to provide comprehensive information essential in resolving prevalent issues. In 2007, the University of the Philippines Center for Integrative and Development Studies (UP CIDS) initiated a study entitled The Impact of Youth Participation in the Local Government Process: The Sangguniang Kabataan Experience (2007). This research was commissioned by the United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in partnership with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) – National Barangay Operations Office. The UP CIDS study was able to pinpoint the following problems in the SK: 1. In its primary task of being a legislative youth body, the performance of the SK is weak, which can be seen in the small number of legislation passed and the lack of consultations with constituents. 2. There is dissonance between the needs of the youth in a community and the actual projects implemented by the SK. 3. The public has a lack of knowledge about the actual roles of SK officers which results to further disparities between the needs of the youth and the actual response of the SK.

4. Apart from the low level of participation among the youth in governance, there is a low level of awareness and appreciation about the importance of such involvement among young people. 5. The SK may bring about negative behavior from its officers, such as corruption and nepotism. 6. The most prevalent negative impact of the SK reported by its officers is that it consumes too much time thereby preventing them from focusing on family and school. On September 5, 2007, a manifesto was issued by the Federation of Student Governments for the abolition of the SK which was deemed as “non-performing” at the National Leadership Training for Student Government Officers in Baguio City (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 2007). The manifesto states that the SK “initiated our young early into the ways of traditional politics because of the dirty tricks, vote-buying, kidnap-for-votes or kidnap-notvote tactics and mudslinging employed by their relatives and parents, who are themselves politicians, and their political patrons.” Furthermore, the group mentions that the SK has become a breeding ground for traditional politicians. However, the position of stated in the manifesto only focuses on youth empowerment via student leadership without necessarily taking into consideration the need for involving out-of-school and community-based young people. LEGISLATIVE MEASURES In lieu of the problems being faced by the SK, various measures have been filed in the Senate and the House of Representatives aiming to reform or abolish the SK. However, in the Fourteenth Congress, no bill has been close to being enacted into law. In the pursuit of abolishing the SK, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel filed SB 2155, which instead sought to place a youth representative in the Sangguniang Barangay. On the other hand, efforts in the Senate to reform the SK were seen in SB 1478 and SB 927 of Senators Francis Escudero and Loren Legarda, respectively. These measures aim to reform the SK through amendments in the Local Government Code of 1991. However, all these measures ended up at the committee level until the end of the Fourteenth Congress. The same can be said with the fate of the bills in the House of Representatives. Be it for reform or abolition of the SK, all bills have been shelved at the committee level by the end of the Fourteenth Congress. Measures that sought to abolish the SK were authored by Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo (Valenzuela, 2nd District) [HB 1243], Rep. Lorna Silverio (Bulacan, 3rd District) [HB 2063], Rep. Bernardo Piñol, Jr. (North Cotabato, 2nd District) [HB 2422], Rep. Jose Solis (Sorsogon, 2nd District) [HB 2999], Rep. Edelmiro Amante (Agusan del Norte, 2nd District) [HB 3192], Rep. Mark Douglas Cagas (Davao del Sur, 1st District) [HB 3350], and Rep. Ronald Singson (Ilocos Sur, 1st District) [HB 5856]. Similarly, as in the Senate version of Sen. Pimentel, most of these House Bills propose to have a youth representative in the Sangguniang Barangay instead of having the SK.

Those that called for the reform of the SK were measures by Rep. Risa Hontiveros (Akbayan PL) [HB 959], Rep. Judy Syjuco (Iloilo, 2nd District) [HB 1538], Rep. Raul del Mar (Cebu City, 1st District) [HB 2500], Rep. Salvador Escudero (Sorsogon, 1st District) [HB 2862], Rep. Eduardo Joson (Nueva Ecija, 1st District) [HB 6211], and Rep. Raymund Palatino (Kabataan PL) [HB 6870]. CONCLUSION The Sangguniang Kabataan National Federation, in their position paper entitled Reform, Not Abolition (2007), argues that the bills that aim for the abolition of the SK and the provision of one youth representative in the Sangguniang Barangay defeats the purpose of empowerment. They claim that having only one representative may hinder the maximum participation of the youth. Furthermore, accountability will not be kept in check with only one individual as opposed to an 8-member SK. The Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Coalition, a group of student and community-based youth seeking to catalyze changes in the current SK system, lobbied for the passage of Rep. Hontiveros’ HB 959, which is the reference bill in consolidating all SK reform measures in the House of Representatives. The salient provisions of HB 959 are the following: 1. Heighten the accountability of SK officers under the Katipunan ng Kabataan by granting oversight powers in local planning and management of funds; 2. Create a Katipunang Pangkaunlaran ng mga Kabataan to foster skills-training and capacity-building among SK officers in order to enhance their potentials; and 3. Prevent the perpetuation of political dynasties within the SK. Measures that intend to abolish the SK primarily consider the prioritization of academic education among the youth. This is a valid concern, although the bills do not take notice of the fact that the SK caters to youth in general, including young people who are not enrolled in an academic institution. However, the purpose of these measures is not simply to abolish the SK, but to provide an alternative in the form of a youth representative in the Sangguniang Barangay. With all arguments taken into consideration, the UP CIDS study asserts that, while the SK may have its flaws, it is still a unique system for the involvement of the youth in governance and community service in partnership with various government and private organizations. Abolishing it would destroy a concrete venue for the youth to be part of nation-building and social progress. Amending the existing laws and structures would ultimately advance the interests of the youth in being part of civic and political affairs.

REFERENCES Cabreza, Vincent. Student governments urge abolition of ‘non-performing’ SK. The Philippine Daily Inquirer. September 5, 2007. Cornelio, Marlon. Amidst Mounting Calls for Abolition, SK Should Start Working Good! (position paper). Philippines. 2008. Hontiveros-Baraquel, Ana Theresia. House Bill 959: An Act to Reform and Strengthen the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK), Amending for that Purpose Republic Act No. 7160, Otherwise Known as the Local Government Code of the Philippines and for other Purposes. The 14th Congress, House of Representatives, Republic of the Philippines. 2008. Pimentel, Aquilino. Senate Bill No. 2155: An Act Abolishing the Sangguniang Kabataan, Amending for this Purpose Certain Provisions of Republic Act 7160, Otherwise Known as the Local Government Code of 1991. The 14th Congress, Senate, Republic of the Philippines. 2008. Sangguniang Kabataan National Federation. Reform, Not Abolish (position paper). Philippines. 2007 United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), University of the Philippines Center for Integrative and Development Studies (UP CIDS), et al. The Impact of Youth Participation in the Local Government Process: The Sangguniang Kabataan Experience. Philippines. 2007. 14th Congress of the House of Representatives Legislative Information System. http://congress.gov.ph. Philippines. Date accessed: July 11, 2010. 14th Congress of the Senate of the Philippines Legislative Information System. http://senate.gov.ph. Philippines. Date accessed: July 11, 2010.

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