Business World – Congress ratifies bill postponing SK polls

By C.E.N. Pillas | Business World

business_worldTHE BICAMERAL conference committee yesterday has ratified the proposed measure postponing the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections, originally scheduled to be concurrent with barangay elections next month.

Members from the Senate and the House of Representatives agreed to reschedule the SK elections between Oct. 28, 2014 and Feb. 23, 2015 in order to introduce reforms in the system.

The exact date will be determined by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the ratified bill said.

The SK elections was originally scheduled on Oct. 28. The polls was originally intended to be postponed until 2016.

The Senate agreed to the proposal of the House of Representatives to delete the holdover provision after the polls are deferred, opting to leave the positions in the youth council vacant after the expiration of the terms of incumbent officials on Nov. 30, 2013.

“We are trying to reform the system. Why would we hold over a system we are not satisfied with?,” Senator Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. told reporters.

Representatives of both chambers also agreed that until a new set of officials have been duly elected and qualified, the Sangguniang Barangay (Barangay Council) shall use the 10% fund allocated for the SK in the barangay budget for youth development programs.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives said they are committed to ratify the bicameral conference committee report on the SK polls postponement bill before Congress goes on break on Thursday.

Senator Francis Joseph G. Escudero, meanwhile, voted against the ratification of the bicameral committee report saying doing this is essentially abolishing the SK for one whole year, while Senator Alan Peter S. Cayetano abstained.

The creation of the SK is in response to the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child to create an avenue wherein youth can engage and represent their sector.

The SK is a youth council intended for teenagers from 15 to 17 years old who have resided in their barangay for at least six months and registered.

It is considered the local youth legislature in the village and therefore leads the local youth program and projects of the government.

SK is an off-shoot of the KB or the Kabataang Barangay (Village Youth) which was abolished when the Local Government Code of 1991 was enacted.

The SK chairman leads the Sangguniang Kabataan council.

The SK councilors approve resolutions and appropriates the money allotted to the council, a share in the revenue of the barangay.

Except in 1992 and 1996 elections, SK elections have been synchronized with the barangay election starting in 2002, and in 2007.

The term limit for SK officials is usually three years but since the first election, there have been extension of terms ranging from one to two years more in office.

The country’s 42,027 barangays will go to the polls next month to elect one barangay captain and seven barangay councilors.

On Monday, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading the bill to postpone the SK elections, voting 185-12.

The members of the House of Representatives who voted against the SK elections postponement, were Rep. Catherine Barcelona-Reyes (First District, Camarines Norte), Ma. Jocelyn Bernos (Abra), Fernando Hicap (Anakpawis party-list), Evelio Leonardia (Bacolod City), Terry Ridon (Kabataan party-list), Antonio Tinio (ACT Teachers party-list), Luzviminda Ilagan (Gabriela party-list), Emmi De Jesus (Gabriela party-list), Arnel Ty (LPGMA party-list), Silvestre Bello (1-BAP party-list), Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna party-list) and Neri Colmenares (Bayan Muna party-list).

Last week, the Senate passed its own version of the SK bill.

The Comelec earlier asked for the abolition of the SK because it had allegedly become “the breeding ground for political dynasties.”

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting also lamented that political dynasties had turned the youth councils into the training ground for their children.

Comelec Chairman Sixto S. Brillantes, Jr. earlier urged President Benigno S. C. Aquino III to certify as urgent the bill seeking to postpone the SK polls, to allow the election body to focus its preparations on the barangay elections next month.

The Comelec disclosed that for the barangay polls there are a total of 54,051,626 registered voters.

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