SK abolition pressed

5 July 2013

Manila, Philippines --- The call to abolish the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) continues to draw support.

Rep. Edgar Erice (Liberal Party, Caloocan City) was the latest to join the snowballing support to do away with the SK, which has been tagged by some quarters as a breeding ground for corruption and political dynasty.

Describing the country's national youth government as "School ng Korupsyon," Erice filed House Bill 1122 seeking the amendment of Republic Act 7160 (Local Government Code) to abolish SK, his brainchild during his first term as congressman in 11th Congress. He also called for the cancellation of the SK elections in October.

The Erice bill also seeks the creation of the Barangay Youth Council to be headed by the youngest elected member of a Sangguniang Barangay. Four committee chairmen will be appointed but shall receive no compensation.

Erice backed the Commission on Elections' (Comelec) move to shelve preparations for the SK elections in October but stressed that Congress must take swift decision on pending bills seeking the abolition of the barangay-based youth organization.

The former Caloocan City vice mayor said calls for the abolition of SK should now be heeded by Congress, noting that the organization no longer serves noble purpose by which it was created.

"Through the years, it has been observed that the ugly side of Philippine politics has served to distract the Sangguniang Kabataan from its primordial mission. It has become the logical first target of any local politician who is seeking higher position," he said.

As a result, SK officers have been exposed to corrupt practices of "their unscrupulous elders in the government service," transforming it into a "School ng Korupsyon."

"The SK has, sadly speaking, become both a tool and a vehicle for the proliferation of corruption. Add to this fact that SK officers have to deal with the conflicting demands of completing an education, fulfilling family obligations, and performing official government functions," Erice explained.

Citing a Commission on Elections statement on SK elections, Erice noted low turnout of voters for SK elections.

He stressed: "This undeniably manifests the waning interest of the youth in SK elections."

Nevertheless, Erice assured the youth that their voices will continue to be heard in local decision-making through the BYC.

The BYC, he explained, will take the place of the SK. It will be headed by the youngest elected barangay councilman and composed of committees for sports, environment, education and culture, and the arts.

Nearly a dozen bills seeking the abolition of SK were filed during the 15th Congress.

Authors of the measures, among them Reps. Reynaldo Umali (LP, Mindoro Oriental) and Magi Gunigundo (Lakas-CMD, Valenzuela City), vowed to refile the bills.

But Kabataan Party-list Rep. Terry Ridon raised suspicion over a "more sinister motive" behind the Comelec's renewed appeal to abolish SK.

The youth-centered sectoral group took exception to Comelec's supposed singling out of the SK as an alleged "breeding ground" for political dynasties and corrupt politicians, and thus needs to be abolished.

"If Comelec's most salient argument in calling for SK abolition is corruption, then we ask: why single out the SK? Why not abolish the Sangguniang Barangay, and every government institution for that matter - including Comelec," Ridon suggested, sarcastically. (With a report from Ellson A. Quismorio)