LP senators Guingona, Aquino buck SK abolition, say youth need to be heard

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Senators Teofisto “TG” Guingona III (left) and Paulo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV: No to SK abolition. INQUIRER FILE PHOTOS

MANILA, Philippines—The youth need a forum to vent their concerns, two Liberal Party senators insist, shooting down suggestions to abolish the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) for turning into a breeding ground of corruption and political dynasties.

Senators Teofisto “TG” Guingona III and Paulo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV would rather that Congress reviewed the SK’s framework and corrected its flaws.

They admitted, however, that having the SK membership limited to 15- to 17-year-olds was fraught with issues.

Guingona said people in this age range were not yet equipped to handle fiscal responsibilities.

Elections Commissioner Lucenito Tagle earlier said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) planned to ask Congress to abolish the SK since it had become a “breeding ground for political dynasties” and corruption.

One representative then called for its abolition and another proposed the SK not be given a budget in 2014.

Created at the height of martial rule in the 1970s, the SK used to be called the “Kabataang Barangay” and had then first daughter Imee Marcos for national chair.

Members did cleaning and other civic activities in their communities. Officers received a regular allowance from the national government.

Today, they are politicized local youth legislative councils based in the barangays (villages).

“An SK member who is only 15 does not yet have the capacity to enter into contracts and would have to encounter issues on fiscal management as part of the job description. Since he is young, he is vulnerable to influence by adults,” said Guingona in a radio interview on Sunday.

“The point here is to raise the issue of whether we give those between 15 and 17 years old the power to disburse public funds,” he said.

The senator also acknowledged that many SK officials were scions of politicians.

“The solution is to reform the institution… I believe it is still necessary for the youth to have an institution where their voices are heard,” he said.

Aquino, meanwhile, said the SK was “not created for success,” adding that a major overhaul would be required to maintain it.

Aquino, whose previous stint in the National Youth Commission allowed him to work closely with SK officials, suggested that Congress study the money trail from the national government to the youth body.

As far as I’m concerned, (the SK) needs a major overhaul, especially on how money flows (paraan ng pagdaloy ng pera) and the manner by which who becomes part of it,” he said.

And although it has said it would recommend the SK’s abolition, the Comelec has issued Resolution No. 9732 deputizing various government and law enforcement agencies to ensure a joint clean, peaceful and credible barangay and SK election on Oct. 28.

In the resolution, the Comelec tasked the Armed Forces of the Philippines with securing the polls against acts of terrorism or coercion and safeguarding election paraphernalia, equipment and supplies.

The military will also provide security to Comelec personnel and other persons performing election-related functions.

In a separate resolution, the poll body deputized the Department of Interior and Local Government, National Police Commission, Philippine National Police and other law enforcement agencies in the electoral exercise.

The resolution directs the agencies to “take effective measures to prevent members of civilian vigilante units and barangay tanod from engaging in partisan political activities or any act of terrorism, intimidation, coercion, harassment or reprisal.”

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