The bicameral conference committee approved on Tuesday afternoon a measure seeking to reform the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) amid criticisms that it has become a training ground for future traditional politicians.
“The new rules will shut out political dynasties and traditional politicians from overextending into the SK system, and co-opting its mandate as tool for youth representation by turning it into a mere rubber stamp,” Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez, one of the principal authors and member of the Bicam panel, said.
After reconciling the conflicting provisions of the House and Senate versions of the SK reform bill, the bicam panel voted for an SK overhaul that will change the rules governing the SK processes and eligibility of leaders by insulating it from too much politics and placing greater emphasis on developing the SK leaders’ skills and capacity.
The proposed measure will be sent back to both chambers of Congress for ratification before it is forwarded to the President for signature.
The House is expected to ratify the bill this week.
Among the key provisions of the bill include a higher age limit, financial independence, mandatory training and skills development of SK leaders and banning of political dynasties.
In an effort to promote a higher level of accountability among the elected and appointed SK officials, the proposed reform measure sought to increase the age bracket for youths eligible to assume a post, from the 15-17 years old age bracket to 18-24 years old.
“By raising the age limit, we are also raising the level of accountability among elected SK officials, particularly as they are given greater autonomy to undertake SK decisions while ensuring that they are old enough to face charges of any potential wrongdoing,” Gutierrez said.
The proposed measure will also render SK financial independence, thus, giving the SK officials greater freedom in its operations, disbursements and encashment of their fund, income and expenditures.
To ensure there is adequate safeguards on the use, and against potential abuse of fiscal autonomy, the bill also provided for a mandatory training and seminar on leadership, program development and youth advocacy.
“By building the capacity of SK leaders to effectively identify and address the needs of the youth sector within their constituencies, we could prevent the waste of the people’s money to less than optimal, even unnecessary, projects, that does little in contributing to the development and empowerment of the youth sector,” Gutierrez said.
The consolidated bill has also adopted an anti-dynasty provision requiring that an SK official ‘must not be related within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity to any incumbent elected national official or to any incumbent elected national official or to any incumbent elected regional, provincial, city, municipal or barangay official, in the locality where he or she seeks to be elected.’
“With these crucial reforms underway, we look forward to finally seeing the SK system living up to its potential of becoming an effective vehicle for advancing youth interests and a training ground for capable and effective leaders of the future,” Gutierrez concluded.