MANILA, Philippines—Moves to abolish the Sangguniang Kabataan is gaining traction in Congress.
Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice has refiled his bill seeking the abolition of the youth council while Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo proposed to give a zero budget for the village legislature, whose members are from 15 to 17 years old.
Erice, who called the SK a “school of corruption,” has proposed the organization be replaced with a Barangay Youth Council whose head will be the youngest elected councilor in the same barangay or village.
“The original objective of the creation of the Sangguniang Kabataan as a training ground for the country’s future leaders is a noble one. However, through the years, it has been observed that the ugly side of Philippine politics has served to distract it from its primordial mission. It has become the logical first target of any local politician who is seeking a higher position,” said Erice, whose House Bill 1122 seeking the aboliton of the SK reached the committee level in the 15th Congress.
Erice used to be a head of the SK’s predecessor, the Kabataang Barangay from 1975 to 1981, in his city and he recalled that they received mo allocations during his stint in contrast to the millions of pesos allocated per barangay.
“It’s purely volunteerism where the youth leaders then were focused on programs that directly benefited them, much different from the current set-up. That is why, it must be abolished now,” said Erice.
Erice said the proposed BYC woud report directly to the Sangguniang Barangay and it would oversee four committees– sports, education, culture and arts, and environment.
Erice said that several other lawmakers who have filed bills seeking the SK abolition in the last Congress would also re-file their versions in this Congress. He said they were looking to approve the bills abolishing the SK before it holds its elections in October. Erice noted that even the Commission on Elections has declared its intention to seek Congress’ help in enacting a law on the SK abolition. Comelec Commissioner Lucenito Tagle, has called the SK a “breeding ground for political dynasties” and corrupt politicians.
Henrietta de Villa, chair of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, said that the 42,000 seats for SK chair and 300,000 seats for SK Council were being used as an “entry point” for political dynasties.
“This is what political dynasties do now. They introduce their children in the SK and use it as basis in going after higher positions when they are of age. That is not supposed to be. SK should be a practicing ground for authentic political leaders to emerge,” De Villa said.
For his part, Castelo acknowledged the rampant corruption in the SK but resisted against moves to shutter it. Castelo said that he would file a bill seeking to scarp the budget allocated for SK in order to stop the corruption among its members.
“The SK’s political corruption emanates from its leaders access to public funds and that a budget-less SK would be the appropriate antidote for such political corruption. It can be saved if only reforms are instituted,” said Castelo said in a statement.
“We do not burn the whole house because of a few termites. Without funding for the SK, the young leaders’ elders, comprising politicians, barangay leaders, and their parents, who act in behalf of these SK leaders, would be discouraged to interfere in the SK,” Castelo said.