It’s Okay, SK?

from NAMFREL Election Monitor Vol.3, No.2
by Veejay Calutan, BA Journalism, UP Diliman
NAMFREL Volunteer
Article 15 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, entitled, “Freedom of Association”, provides for the establishment of what we know today as Sangguniang Kabataan. The convention purposely strived for the right of the youth to organize and to be represented.

Sangguniang Kabataan traces back its history when then-president Ferdinand Marcos issued Presidential Decree 684 which provided for the creation of Kabataang Barangay, its predecessor. This Kabataang Barangay (KB) mandated the youth to participate in all government activities be it local or national for their development as future leaders of the country. The first national chairman of the KB was Imee Marcos, the daughter of Ferdinand Marcos.
Throughout the years, there were actually many significant changes that happened to the Kabataang Barangay. In 1986, there was a plan to abolish the KB and replace it instead with National Youth Commission (NYC). The Aquino government formed instead the Presidential Council for Youth Affairs (PCYA) but its mandate was limited compared to what other lawmakers envisioned for the NYC. The name Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) was formally established after youth representatives from Congress and PCYA worked together from 1988-1990. 

Today, the SK still exists. The youth continues to be at the forefront of government activities that directly and indirectly benefit the people in their sector. The idea of establishing the SK was noble. It could be the training ground for the youth to hone their skills in different aspects. The former KB had a Youth Development Training Program that provided the youth better training other than in school. The SK greatly encourages the youth to participate in the government by informing them to register as voters. They also do some community affairs services which also serve as publicity for them. And most especially, they encourage their sector to participate in joining sports activities/tournaments or “liga”.
The projects of SK are evidently for the benefit of the youth. However, these projects need to be funded. But where do SK officials get their funds for the projects? There are only two answers. First, the SK officials’ efforts to solicit in the community with little probability to get the actual funds for the project. Second is the SK officials’ request for funds from a higher level, the Barangay. This now becomes problematic for the SK.

While most of us focus on the transparency and accountability of public officials, we usually forget to include those in lower positions. Some experts say that the SK becomes the training ground for corruption. This happens when the SK requests for funds from the Barangay, and the Barangay in turn request from the City council level an amount higher than what the SK has originally requested. But if the Barangay gives the actual amount to the SK, the SK may spend less or not at all. We can give them the benefit of the doubt. 

The SK also becomes a breeding ground for political dynasties. This happens when Barangay or city/municipal officials endorse their sons or daughters for posts. Such was the case when Ferdinand Marcos made his daughter Imee head the Kabataang Barangay when it was established.

These two major problems are among the reasons why some of the youth want to abolish the SK. “It serves as training ground for corruption and political dynasty”, said Dannielle Trinidad, a student-leader and UP Public Administration major. “The SK is a breeding ground for corruption. No impact in society”, said Ervin Aroc, a Communication Arts major.

The keyword is corruption. Many of the youth are now more aware of government issues especially corruption, and are advocating for transparency and accountability. And I, being in the youth sector, also want the Sangguniang Kabataan abolished. In our barangay, there has been no significant projects for youth development. It is only during basketball tournaments when teenagers are in their jerseys and shorts do the SK become visible. The SK has also become a popularity contest just like during high school student council elections. The one who has a name will win. The one with good looks, who dress fashionably during campaigns and speak like government officials will surely win. Poor are those candidates who will not win even though they have good leadership skills.

Understandably, current and former SK officials do not want the SK to be abolished. They all say that SK is a training ground for future leaders.