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SK polls’ postponement a cinch after House vote

/ 05:48 AM September 24, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—The postponement of the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections next month is close to becoming reality after the House of Representatives approved on third reading its bill deferring the polls to 2016.

The House vote was 185-12 to postpone the SK elections.

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The Senate earlier passed its version of the bill, and with Monday’s House approval, the measure is set to go to a bicameral conference committee.

The only difference between the two bills is that the Senate version has a holdover provision allowing incumbent SK officials to remain at their posts until after their successors are elected.

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The House bill states that no sitting SK official would remain in office after the expiration of their terms in October.

The postponement of the polls is intended to allow the authorities to consider proposals to abolish the SK system.

The House earlier identified seven issues hounding the system.

One is the SK system exposes its members to a “highly political exercise where patronage and kinship influence youth governance.”

Another is that its rules and programs are not clear. Its officials also do not have the legal capacity to enter into contracts because of their age, since many officials are minors.

The weak internal control mechanisms put at risk the utilization of the SK funds from barangay (village) allocations. There are also weak accountability mechanisms, particularly for managing finances and performance.

Frequent absences have also been noted by SK officials from sessions and officials activities because of their schooling.

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Lastly, there was an absence of audits of the different SK federations.

Should the lawmakers decide not to postpone the SK elections at the 11th hour, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said it can handle preparations for the polling at a “relaxed pace.”

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez on Sunday said that pertinent documents, such as the statement of votes and election returns for the youth council elections, had already been printed and the printing of ballots for more than three million youth voters would only take three days.

“The printer’s capacity is two million ballots per day. So even if we print at a relaxed pace, the (SK) ballots can be done in just two to three days,” Jimenez told reporters.

The Comelec has registered a total of 3.2 million voters who are expected to troop to 45,775 polling precincts should the SK elections push through on Oct. 28.

“[But] as we can see, there is already a consensus that the SK should be postponed… We expect the bill to be passed by the end of September,” said Jimenez.

In pushing for the bill, its authors said it was important for Congress to approve the measure to prevent young men and women, aged 16 to 17 years old, from entering the “school of corruption.”

“We just hope they will be able to harmonize it as soon as possible,” said Jimenez, referring to the versions of the measure passed in Congress and the Senate.

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TAGS: Congress, House bill, Philippines, postponement, Sangguniang Kabataan (SK), Senate, SK elections, Youth
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