An attempt to abolish the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) in the 13th Congress was nipped in the bud after the then neophyte senator who planned to file a bill to do away with the local youth legislative council backed off.
The 13th Congress was convened in the years 2004-2007.
The senator said his colleagues were hesitant to abolish the local network of supporters they could rely on during elections, forcing him to drop his plan before his staff could prepare a draft of the measure.
In an interview at the Senate on Monday, the senator, who sought anonymity because he did not want to antagonize anyone, recalled that he cited the same reasons in 2004 that a Commission on Elections official recently gave for the Comelec planning to ask Congress to abolish the SK in the current 16th Congress.
Commissioner Lucenito Tagle has said the SK had become a training ground for corruption with older politicians tutoring the budding youth leaders in the ways of taking government funds.
Tagle also said the SK was a “breeding ground for political dynasties,” where young members of political clans begin an apprenticeship up the youth legislative council ladder in preparation for higher office later.
However, Liberal Party Senators Paulo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV and Teofisto “TG” Guingona III have expressed a preference for reforming the SK instead of abolishing it, saying the youth need a forum to air their views.
“I was doing a head count among the senators, asking their support for the abolition of the SK because, really, as early as then the institution had deteriorated into a training ground for corruption. That was mostly the experience throughout the country,” said the anonymous senator who won a first term in 2004.
He said a common observation then was that barangay (village) officials were introducing SK officers to questionable practices involving finances.
“Many of my fellow senators then were turned off. I figured that if I could not get enough signatures once the bill materialized, I would not be able to get enough signatures anyway, so I dropped the idea,” the senator said.
Bam Aquino told reporters at the Senate on Monday that he planned to file an SK reform bill that would usher in a “renaissance in youth development programs.”
Aquino said he would also want clearer definitions of the functions of the SK and the National Youth Commission (NYC), which he previously chaired.
“The NYC is responsible for policymaking on youth concerns at the national level. However, whether or not NYC policy is to be carried out by the SK is not clear. Meanwhile, the SK national president sits as ex officio member of the NYC board,” Aquino said.
Two congressmen have expressed support for abolishing the SK, with one proposing that Congress not allocate a budget for the youth council in 2014.