Amidst Mounting Calls for Abolition, SK Should Start Working Good!
A Position Paper on SK Abolition
By MARLON CORNELIO, Chair, Youth Governance and Participation Committee, Youth and Students Sector of National Anti Poverty Commission (NAPC YS)
There have been persistent calls for the abolition of Sangguniang Kabataan (SK). Most Recently, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, the author of Local Government Code that reinvented SK from KB ( or Kabataang Barangay in Marcos’ term), has been in the fore by filling SB 2155 seeking the abolition of SK. In the 13th Congress, on the other hand, Sen. Pimentel filled SB 1126 which called for SK reform.
What are the arguments for SK abolition? One, SK is considered as a breeding ground for corrupt leaders. Two, SK officials are non-performing or have insignificant contribution to the community; most of their projects are building waiting sheds and signages, sports fests or paliga. Three, SK officials cannot perform their function as they have to attend school (or SK officials have to cut schooling just to perform their functions). And four, they are just too young, easily corrupted and irresponsible.
Who are the proponents of SK Abolition? The Federation of Student Governments has released a manifesto calling for the abolition of SKs. The federation claims that SK officers discard school in exchange for salaries and perks offered by weekly city, municipal and provincial council sessions (Cabreza, 2007). Mayors too, according to Mayor Ramon Guico, League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) president, are for abolition but “do not openly speak [about the issue] because of political reasons” (Sotelo-Fuertes, 2007). Sen. Pimentel has filled his SK abolition bill in the Senate. Several SK Abolition bills have also been filled in the House of Representatives.
Alternatives to SK.
Given these arguments are sufficient to abolish SK, what are the alternatives? There are proposals for total abolition of SK. These proposals argue that school council/government is a sufficient venue for the youth to participate in governance and train in becoming the future leaders of the land. On the other hand, other proposals still see the significance of youth participation in elections and “actual” governance. Thus, if SK is to be abolished there should be a replacement. Pimentel’s SB 2155 proposes for the election of youth councilors instead of the other proposals for mayors/governors to appoint them. This according to Pimentel would not give opportunity for politicking. Youth representative/councilor will be directly elected by their peers at the same time as the city mayors and councilors are elected.
The other side: SK reform.
Advocates of SK Reform do not dispute the observations posted by those calling for abolition. They too see that SKs are not performing; SK has become the breeding ground for new trapos; SK officials are in a dilemma between going to school or cutting schooling to perform their function. The difference lies in how to address these problems. They see these as very serious issues/concerns but not to the point that it merits SK abolition.
What are their rebuttals?
That the SK is a breeding ground for corruption means that the SK officials are not inherently corrupt. It points out to the fact that the environment to which the SK now is situated is the one causing the breeding of new trapos. The answer therefore is not to abolish SK but to clean up its environment. SK is ideally a venue for on-the-job training for good governance and principled leadership for the Filipino youth at the grassroots level. For instance, Akbayan! has introduced an anti-dynasty provision in its SK reform bill which most congressmen agree to.
That the SKs are non-performing or have insignificant program/projects can be attributed to the lack of support and guidance they get from their elders. SK was not put up for the youth officials to live on their own. The SKs do not know their roles and responsibilities and neither do most of local government officials that limit SKs to beautification and sports projects. There are model SKs to talk of, all over the country, both in rural and urban areas. What is common in these model SKs is the presence of guidance and support from the local government and non-governmental organizations.
SKs are definitely in a dilemma of choosing between attending school or council sessions. This problem sprouted out after Congress passed Republic Act 9164 in 2002, which reduced the age range of KK and SK eligible youth to 15 to below 18 from 21. This amendment was made in the bicameral committee without prejudice to the age where which the youth are still in secondary schools. If the age bracket were higher, the elected SKs would have been in college and with more control over their schedule and academic load.
Finally, those who belittle the young will have to read up more on the role of youth in our history and nation building. They will have to be refreshed on the International Rights of Children.
What should we do now?
There are many proposals to address the problems that the SKs are facing. In the 13th Congress, there where more than 5 bills both in the House of Representatives and Senate. These legislative remedies however proved to be arduous. Because the battle for reform versus abolition was mainly in Congress, SK reform advocates failed to recognize that there are reforms which will dramatically change the bad face of SK on the ground that can be done. As the problems all point out, and as was found out in the national SK Study funded by UNICEF and spearheaded by DILG NBOO and NAPC Youth and Students Sector, the SKs need support and guidance for them to succeed. They need proper orientation on their functions and how to go about with them. They need trainings and capability/capacity building programs down at the grassroots level.
Unfortunately, these needs have never been met. Thus, the reasons for the calls for abolition remain and just gained momentum. Even Senator Pimentel, once an SK reform advocate, now calls for abolition. The fight for long-lasting and institutionalized reform in Congress should continue but it should be coupled with actions on the ground.
The SKs can not wait for the legislative reforms. The SKs can not much more wait for it to be abolished and replaced. The newly elected SKs will be serving for 3 years. This opportunity should not go to waste. With this in view, NAPC Youth and Students Sector, along with its member youth organizations in the grassroots, is piloting a capacity and capability training, and at the same time working with partners in developing an SK Guidebook.
The only way for the SKs to stop the mounting calls for abolition, is for them to start working and working good, removing reasons for abolition one by one. And the SKs need support and guidance from their communities in doing so.
Cabreza, Vincent. “Student governments urge abolition of ‘non-performing’ SK.”
The Philippine Daily Inquirer. September 5, 2007. Available Online:
Hontiveros-Baraquel, Ana Theresia. “House Bill 0956: An Act to Reform and
Strengthen the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK), Amending for that Purpose
Republic Act No. 7160, Otherwise Known as the Local Government Code
of the Philippines and for other Purposes.” The 14th Congress, House of
Representatives, Republic of the Philippines. 2008.
Pimentel, Aquilino. “Senate Bill No. 1126: An Act to Strengthen Sangguniang
Kabataan by Amending Republic Act No. 7160 Known as the Local
Government Code of 1991 and for other Purposes.” The 13th Congress,
Senate, Republic of the Philippines. 2007.
______________. Press Release: Abolition of Sangguniang Kabataan Sought.
April 13, 2008. Available Online: http://www.nenepimentel.org
Sotelo- Fuertes, Yolanda. “Mayors back call for SK abolition.“ The Philippine
Daily Inquirer. September 7, 2007. Available Online:
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), et. al. The Impact of Youth
Participation in the Local Government Process. Philippines, 2007.