The Philippine Star - SK polls postponed; Congress says no holdovers

25 September 2013

By Christina Mendez | The Philippine Star

Featured-Image-Philippine-StarMANILA, Philippines - The Senate and the House of Representatives ratified yesterday the bicameral conference committee report for the measure amending Republic Act 9340, which effectively postpones the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections scheduled on Oct. 28.

With one abstention and a no vote, the Senate approved the measure, whose salient points include a provision that the next SK elections will be held between Oct. 28, 2014 and Feb. 23, 2015 and there will be no holdover for the incumbent SK officials until the next election is set by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Section 2 of the measure also provides that SK positions shall remain vacant and no appointment be made to their vacated positions until the new set of officials have been duly elected and/or qualified.

“We must specify so that holdover will not take effect. Otherwise the President will be constrained to appoint. We do not want to maintain the old system,” said Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., chairman of the congressional panel and head of the Senate committee on local governments.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the postponement of the SK elections is part of the reform thrusts of the Aquino administration.

Rep. Winston Castelo of Quezon City, a member of the bicameral panel, said lawmakers are to file a measure seeking to reform the SK.

“The barangay is going to use the SK fund for youth development programs in the interim,” Castelo said.

Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice, one of the principal authors of the bill, described the postponement as a positive step towards the reforms needed in the barangay-based youth organization.

“This only shows that our lawmakers are determined to change the present system of youth participation in governance while a consensus has not yet been made on whether to reform the SK or to totally abolish it,” Erice said.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. welcomed the move, saying it would ease their burden on the preparations for the 2016 presidential elections.

The poll body was wary that the SK has only been a breeding ground for political dynasty and exposing the youth to corruption and the practice of traditional politicians to mishandle government funds.

During the plenary debates, Sen. Francis Escudero set on record his position that the no-holdover capacity would technically abolish the SK since there will be no youth officials to speak off until the next elections.

Escudero had batted for reforms, instead of the abolition of the SK.

During the bicameral hearing to reconcile the two versions of the measures at the Senate, the members discussed extensively Section 4 that deals with the use of 10 percent of the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) allocation meant for SK activities. – With Sheila Crisostomo, Paolo Romero