Sponsorship Speech: Postponement of the Sangguniang Kabataan Elections on October 28, 20013

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, today, I have the honor to report to this august chamber Senate Bill 1186, which seeks to postpone the Sangguniang Kabataan Elections on October 28, 2013. The Committee has found that this postponement is necessary to give Congress reasonable time to craft legislation that would institute the necessary reforms of the present structure of the Sangguniang Kabataan.

There is no issue that the continued participation of the youth in nation-building should always be ensured and protected. Let me take this opportunity to re-state my own position that I am not in favor of the abolition of the SK. But I am in support of its restructuring.

The mandate of Article II, Section 13 of the 1987 Constitution is also very clear: “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.”

History will tell us that the vital participation of the youth in community affairs, policy making, as well as in public governance traces its roots to the time of President Ferdinand E. Marcos, when, in April 15, 1975, he issued Presidential Decree 684, which established the first youth council through the Kabataang Barangay. This barangay youth organization became an effective vehicle for the youth in articulating their views and opinions on important local and national issues.

Then, Republic Act 7160 of the Local Government Code of 1991 was passed leading to the reorganization of the Kabataang Barangay, and which eventually was replaced by the Sangguniang Kabataan.

Thus, in 1992, the country witnessed the first Sangguniang Kabataan elections. Through the years, however, as the nation closely scrutinized the involvement of the youth in community affairs, many had observed that the Sangguniang Kabataan was not as effective as envisioned in advancing the democratic ideals of service-oriented youth leadership. Also, some of the Sangguniang Kabataan leaders and members have in fact been observed to become highly politicized, and worse, have been seen to engage in dishonest and corrupt practices in the handling of public funds, particularly those allotted to the different projects and programs intended for the welfare of the youth.

Even the author of the Local Government Code of 1991 Senator Nene Pimentel had expressed misgivings as to how the system of the Sangguniang Kabataan had developed throughout the years.

Sadly, this regrettable scenario led to the negative image of our Filipino youth leaders. The role in public service to which our young leaders are being groomed to assume, has sometimes been distorted and replaced with selfish, and crooked perceptions of public office among the young leaders of the country.

It is the unanimous opinion of the committee that this youth organization must be reformed and restructured in order to serve the goal for which it was established. That is, to represent in government the needs and concerns of our rapidly growing youth sector, and to be the breeding ground for upright, decent, trustworthy and diligent young leaders of the country.

We in Congress cannot ignore the resounding call from all sectors of the society for the comprehensive restructuring of the Sangguniang Kabataan.

The National Youth Commission believes that there is a need to reinvent the mandate of the Sangguniang Kabataan, and come up with its reformed structure, with emphasis on the SK’s role in effective representation, full accountability and transparency in its undertakings.

The League of Cities, on the other hand, believes that it is necessary to transform and improve the Sangguniang Kabataan in order to curb corruption among the youth.

Even the Sangguniang Kabataan National Federation admits that our SK system has developed many flaws through the years of its existence. In fact, it is acknowledged that “notwithstanding the hard work and relentless efforts of the previous and present leadership of the Sangguniang Kabataan, criticism against the Sangguniang Kabataan continues to crop up every not and then. Among these are: 1. That the members of SK are ineffective, not mature enough, or are unprepared to take on leadership roles; 2. That the activities of the Sangguniang Kabataan are limited to “pa-liga” or sports related projects only; 3. That many of the Sangguniang Kabataan have become “absentee officials”; 4. That the members of the Sangguniang Kabataan only engage in local politics and do not serve the interests of the Filipino youth, nor do they address the needs of the younger population; 5. That the Sangguniang Kabataan serves as a breeding ground for errant, corrupt, and “traditional politicians” or “trapo” youth leaders.

The Department of Interior and Local Government has likewise manifested during the committee hearing that as a result of the various consultations with local government units, there is a need to postpone the scheduled Sangguniang Kabataan elections to pave the way to its restructuring and reforms.

It is noteworthy to state that the call for the postponement of the SK elections is unanimously supported by the different stakeholders mentioned earlier.

Your Committee on Local Government, after seriously considering the many appeals for reforms of the Sangguniang Kabataan, hereby strongly recommends the postponement of the Sangguniang Kabataan elections scheduled on 28th of October this year.

My colleagues in this august body, the proximity of the scheduled elections requires us to act promptly on this legislative proposal for the immediate guidance and implementation of all stakeholders, especially the Commission on Elections, which is now in an advanced stage of its preparations for the October 28 elections.

During the committee hearing, there was a consensus among the members of the committee that the SK elections would be postponed for a period of not exceeding one year. During this time, the SK reform bill will be crafted and deliberated upon by Congress. However, this representation realized that this desired earlier setting of their elections than the synchronized barangay and SK elections of 2016 as proposed in the bill is better left to be embodies in the reform and restructuring legislation, which will be the output of the various stakeholders in the study of issues of youth representation and governance.

Rest assured however, that as Chairman of the Committee on Local Government, this representation will exert utmost efforts in the thorough deliberations, and eventual passage of the SK Reform Bill, so that immediately thereafter, the Sangguniang Kabataan elections can be held and conducted at the soonest possible time.

Your committee believes in the power of the youth in bringing forth responsive governance for the welfare of our people. We in Congress are duty bound to guide them in their journey through public service through an amendatory law that will institute an accountable and responsible youth organization that will be crafted in the coming months.
My colleagues, in view of the imperative need to give Congress ample time to intently deliberate on the issues at hand and come up with a substantial and significant legislation that will institute meaningful, systematic and feasible reforms to the Sangguniang Kabataan, this representation therefore respectfully appeals to this august chamber to join me in approving Committee Report No. 1, which proposes the postponement of the scheduled Sangguniang Kabataan elections this 28th of October 2013.
Thank you.

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