The Right Road to Meaningful Youth Participation
A Position Paper for SK Reform
By: Marlon Cornelio, SK REFORM COALITION Convenor
The Sanguniang Kabataan (SK) according to the UNICEF is “the quintessential example of child (and youth) participation in governance.” It is a “landmark institution” as it is “a venue for young people to reach out and engage their fellow youth in affecting positive change in society.” It is an imperative for young people themselves to active “take part in their own development and the development of their communities.”
SK is a unique to and pride for Filipinos in terms of youth participation as “(it) is not simple a space for youth participation in government”; but an institution where “the youth are given the right and obligation to govern”.
Indeed, despite the many challenges, the SK, an embodiment youth participation in nation building enshrined in the constitution and supported by many laws, is an institution worth continuously developing.
Thus, the SK Reform Coalition sees the recent proposals from the government to abolish the SK institution and replace it a youth representative to the Barangay (Village) Council wanting of these understanding. Electing a youth representative to the barangay council is nothing but mere tokenism to youth participation; a backward step that PNoy government should not take.
While we understand that the government proposes this to save on election costs; we view this necessary cost as an investment. Cutting investment on young people and demeaning an institution supposed to train young people on governance is severing the lifeline of our country’s ready and capable leaders.
The proposed SK abolition is a road to perdition.
The debate between SK abolition and reform has long been foreclosed. SK abolition, and/or subsequent replacement of another mechanism,
do not solve any problem faced by the institution. SK abolition is truth twisted.
True, SK has become a breeding ground for corruption. But corruption is not inherent in the institution; it is an influence from a more corrupted system. One does not fight corruption in an institution by abolishing it, otherwise DPWH or DedEd or the Congress for that matter would have long been gone.
True, the SKs are just being used by adult politicians. Most SKs are either a relative of the barangay captain, the mayor, congressmen or governor; or their pet. But is it not the general case in Philippine politics?
True, many SKs are not functioning. SK officials do not know their roles and responsibilities. But, it is as true that barangay officials, directly working with the SKs, do not know and limit the SKs’ function to sports, pageants, and clean and green projects.
True, the SK officials are too young and do not have legal authority. SKs even do not hold their own budget allocation, the barangay does. Is it not the barangay officials who ask the SKs to sign documents for SOPs before the their SK budgets are released?
These are all truths and documented in a study commissioned by DILG, UNICEF and NAPC YS. Both sides of the abolition and reform debate subscribe to these.
Another truth that the study found out and should always be remembered is that:
True, there are many SK good practices all over the country. SKs work best with the support from adults, especially from barangay leaders. It is this one truth that the study stresses.
While SK abolition advocates fall short in addressing these problems, various SK reform measures have been put forward and are just needing actions.
First, in educating the SK about their roles and responsibility, which is a function of the DILG, the barangay officials should also be informed and capacitated in dealing and supporting their SKs.
Second, the strengthening of the Katipunan ng Kabataan (KK) or the village youth assembly to ensure participatory planning and greater accountability should be a task taken more proactively by the local DILG officer with the support of other local youth organizations.
Third, an autonomous fiscal mechanism with accountability measures should be put in place to train young people to manage and allocate resources subject to government auditing rules.
Fourth, a pilot of anti-dynasty provision, which is provided for in the constitution, should be enforced in SK, where it can serve as an example to adult politicians.
Fifth, the age range can be adjusted to account for the period when young people have move freedom in arranging their academic load without limiting participation of children- age 15-17.
There are legislative measures in Congress, like the SK Reform and Empowerment Bill of Akbayan which was filled in both 13th and 14th Congress that outlines the necessary legislative measures. But it has never gone pass the committee level. PNoy now has the power to make it a priority bill of his administration.
There is an even better and easier way for the Executive branch. The DILG and NYC have mandate and responsibility over the SK. The DILG, NYC, NAPC YS along with UNICEF and then Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC), in partnership with the SK Reform Coalition, came up with the study on the situation of SKs, the challenges they are facing and the ways to address them. The same group has drafted an SK Guidebook that reinforces the once-in-a-blue-moon ISKOLAR BOS training for SKs and provides practical tools and solution to real on the ground situations. These two materials are potent for use by both the government agencies concerned and the SK themselves. It is already there, the government agencies can make it more accessible, so more people can make use of it.
The SK is faced with many challenges. These are the challenges that PNoy and the Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo have to face head on. The SK needs crucial reforms. And on these reforms, we will work on together.
The road to SK Reform may be long and narrow, but it is the right road to take to ensure meaningful youth participation.
 Nicholas K. Alipui, Representative, UNICEF Philippines. The Impact of Youth Participation in Local Government Process: the Sanguniang Kabataan Experience. UNICEF, DILG NBOO, NAPC YS, 2007.
 Joy Aceron, Sectoral Representative(OIC), National Anti-Poverty Commission Youth and Students Sector. The Impact of Youth Participation in Local Government Process: the Sanguniang Kabataan Experience. UNICEF, DILG NBOO, NAPC YS, 2007.