I did a silly thing at the Barangay elections. I voted for candidates, kids actually, for the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) with no idea what they are supposed to do.
So I researched.
The SK is the only organization in the world where a youth group is democratically elected and nationally funded.
Under the Local Government Code of 1991 each of our 42,000 barangays is to have a youth council called the SK. Representatives must be between 15 and 21 years of age at the time of their election. They are to hold office for three years although since 1991 only four SK elections have been held so it is somewhat loose.
Barangay SK members elect their provincial officials who in turn vote in their national representatives. The latter elect a national leader. This is the closest we have to a parliamentary system. The current head is Jane Cajes, twenty something, who is notable for being reasonably attractive but mainly for being accused of corruption at the Ombudsman. Dishonesty is obviously not just the domain of elders.
If you think the SK is kids’ play, know their share of the national budget is almost five billion pesos, not peanuts. This excludes contributions from the PCSO and the like. Think Boy Scouts run by youngsters with lots of money and no accountability.
This money is supposed to be spent on stuff that makes for responsible citizenry like value formation and sports. In fact most of it went to parties, beauty contests and to line somebody’s pocket.
The national head is neither financially nor politically accountable to any body or person in high office. Sounds like good training for future corrupt leadership. Even President Noy does not get off as easy.
The President wants to abolish the SK.
This may be a bit harsh. The SK has a role to play. It only needs some tweaking.
Here are some suggestions:
One, the age limitation should be changed to 18-25 from the current 15-21.
Two, the purse strings should not be with the youngsters. SK members should present projects they deem worthwhile to a public/private inter-agency group; which will vet the projects for funding. We want the young to work for what they believe in, not be handed a check and told to play.
Deserving projects should be in education, livelihood, shelter, health, sports, culture and the environment.
Three, SK representatives must engage in community service. Deserving members will be asked to join an Executive Development Program for potential entry into Government. The idea is to develop not only political leaders but also future civil servants.
Under a Big Brother Program, the private sector will be encouraged to provide project funding, apprenticeships and hire from this pool of SK youth. This will encourage the latter to excel in what they do.
Four, all SK members will undergo formal training in leadership and management with emphasis on value formation and nationalism.
Lastly, a Council of Elders should be appointed by SK members to mentor the organization.
The youth is the future of this nation, its largest constituency as well as its most idealistic. There is a case for an organization like the SK that will politicize this idealism, form values in the young while nursing future leaders.
As currently structured, the SK tempts our youth with power and money, the evil side of politics. Rather we should encourage them to see politics as a vehicle for change, as a means for public service.
Long term, the SK could reset the stage for Philippine politics. This is the math: If 42,000 SK members could each recruit another 20 supporters among their peers we would have a base of 882,000 voters. Multiply say by 5 for family members, etc. and you get 4.4 million potential voters. This is 13% of the 35 million that voted last May 10. The difference between P-Noy and Estrada was less than 8%.
An organized youth voter base is potentially the swing in a Presidential/Vice Presidential race and a slam dunk for the senatorials. The group could help stem the increasing influence of family dynasties and break the bond that politically ties the Filipino to his economic masters.
In India the Gandhi Youth Party has a membership of over 4 million youngsters. This assures the party a lock on some key constituencies.
If properly directed the SK could over time be the largest, most cohesive, most patriotic and most enthusiastic platform for political transformation in this country.
That is saying a lot but for its potential it is worth doing something about it.