“Youth is the most precious thing in life; it is too bad it has to be wasted on young folks," as an old saying goes.
In recent years, the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) has come under fire from sectors who have come to believe that it has become a breeding ground for corruption and partisan politics.
In particular, some have bemoaned the lack of innovative programs brought by SKs around the country, where all they could think of doing is hosting sports fests or beauty pageants ad nauseam.
I’d like to point out something here: the main purpose of the Sangguniang Kabataan is to give the youth not only a chance to actively participate in local governance but also the opportunity to craft programs and policies that will benefit them in the long run.
Unfortunately, the history of the SK – and its predecessor, the Kabataang Barangay of former President Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. – has been, for the most part, checkered. Not only did these SKs became an extension of the “trapo” political system, they also failed to actually mobilize the youth to become active participants in community-building.
In 2007, before the reforms enacted by Republic Act 10742 (Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Act of 2015), a study crafted by UNICEF and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) showed that "The SK's performance for the past ten years has been generally weak. This is especially true in terms of coming up with legislation, promoting the development of young people, submitting reports and holding consultations with their constituents."
The 2022 national elections have disproven the widely-held belief that many of our youth have become disinterested with our social and political problems and have lapsed into passiveness and cynicism about their country’s future.
And even as civic organizations have played a vital role in mobilizing our youth, the Sangguniang Kabataan is still the ideal platform for them to enable the changes they want to see in their community.
But how do we extract the SK from traditional politics and enable them to become effective motivators of our youth? Here are some unsolicited suggestions from yours truly:
1. We should mandate that SK candidates will not be affiliated with barangay candidates, to ensure the non-partisan nature of their roles. The problem with SK candidates attaching themselves to the barangay candidates is that SK officials become beholden to barangay officials for their funding or support, like how barangays have unfortunately become beholden to the local government unit. Let SK candidates conduct separate campaigns and platforms, independent of barangay candidates.
2. SK officials should “think outside the box” in securing funding for their programs. It shouldn’t be always beauty pageants or sports fests: why not involve the private sector (especially in barangays where large commercial complexes are the backbone of the local economy)? Why not start livelihood programs that will not only enable them to generate funding but teach the barangay’s youth to become independent and innovative? Why not unleash the creative talent of the youth through concerts or art shows or other cultural events?
3. Local officials should ensure the autonomy of SK Federations, especially due to the fact that SK Federation President is usually considered a de facto member of the city or municipal council. Sure, LGUs should guide SKs to ensure that youth officials perform their duties well, but “guiding” is all they should do. LGUs should not interfere in the SKs and the SK Federation’s affairs, unless specifically asked to do so.
But above all, I believe that SK candidates themselves should demonstrate to their peers that they will not yield to the pressure of traditional politics and ensure that they could accomplish their mission as the youth’s representatives.
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