TOO POLITICIZED SK FEDERATION POLLS

Republic Act (RA) 10742 or the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) Reform Act seeks to empower the youth to participate in governance so that future leaders, not only of the local governments but also of the country, are trained and nurtured to become responsible, accountable and incorruptible leaders, hopefully to put an end to rampant corruption in the bureaucracy. Leaders of the SK in the different barangays were elected by the youth during the May 14, 2018 synchronized barangay and SK elections. Subsequently, elected SK leaders underwent an 11-day mandatory training to acquainted them with the tough job, especially in leading their fellow youth to become models in the community worthy of emulation by generations that come after them.

Ironically, the only a few youngsters turned out to register as SK voters even if the law adjusted the age qualification of an SK as those youth aged 18 to 30. The situation was aggravated during the filing of certificates of candidacy (COCs) for the election of SK chairpersons and members of the Katipunan ng mga Kabataan (KK) when a significant number of barangays did not have a complete slate for KK members, some barangays did not have KK members at all while some barangays did not have chairpersons and KK members at all.

SK chairs from the different barangays elected their representative to the city or municipal councils, as a federation, but the usual problem of alleged interference of some local officials to control the youth became evident as these officials want to advance their political interests for the mid-term election in May 2019.

In Baguio City alone, political interventions were evident as some former and incumbent city officials tried to influence and prevail upon the family members of the elected SK chairpersons to swing their votes for their anointed candidates. It is normal for the SK leaders to form their own groups and campaign for their own platforms of governance, including their programs, projects and activities to improve the sagging image of the SK. However, it was improper for several former and incumbent city officials to show their faces and openly campaign for certain candidates. This defeats the purpose of the SK Reform Act. Worst, there are reports that a couple, one of them is an incumbent city official and his ambitious wife, went around the homes of elected SK chairpersons in some selected city barangays and allegedly distributed at least P20,000 to the families of the said youth leaders to induce their children to vote for their candidate in the SK federation elections. These have tainted the election and proclamation of the new set of city SK leaders right. This does not help at all to clean the image of the youth organization. While politicking by some traditional politicians is not new in any electoral exercise, reforms in the law to properly train youth leaders will not actually change the already tainted image of the SK if unscrupulous politicians teach them trade in corruption as early as now.

We do not hold hope in the SK being a good training ground for future leaders if the environment in which it exists is not conducive to an independent, accountable, and transparent process. This will spell the death of the SK if continues to be the breeding ground of corrupt and incompetent leaders. We never believed the SK Reform Act will help in improving the brand of leaders elected into office as the moneyed and influential politicians will dictate the agenda and as per observations, we had been proven right in the recent SK federation election for Baguio City.

Observers during the elections opined that the election was done orderly and peacefully because all critical issues were actually settled during the 11-day period after the May 14 synchronized polls and the election of the federation officials. However, officials of concerned government agencies must now look into ways and means how to patch the loopholes in the manner of election of SK federation officials because the more ambitious politicians will intervene, the more the image of the supposed hope of the fatherland will deteriorate. No matter what the newly elected SK leaders will pronounce, their words and actions will still be connected to their funders primarily because of the too politicized SK federation elections.

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