A Position Paper for SK Reform: The Right Road to Meaningful Youth Participation

By: Akbayan Youth and SK Reform and Empowerment Coalition

The Sanguniang Kabataan (SK) according to the UNICEF[1]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 outand engage their fellow youth in affecting positive change in society.” It isan imperative for young people themselves to active “take part in their owndevelopment and the development of their communities.”

SK is a unique to and pride for Filipinos in terms of youthparticipation as “(it) is not simple a space for youth participation ingovernment”; but an institution where “the youth are given the right andobligation to govern[2]”.

Indeed, despite the many challenges, the SK, an embodiment youthparticipation in nation building enshrined in the constitution and supported bymany 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 isnothing but mere tokenism to youth participation; a backward step that PNoygovernment 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 truthtwisted.

True, SK has become a breeding ground for corruption. Butcorruption is not inherent in the institution; it is an influence from a morecorrupted system. One does not fight corruption in an institution by abolishingit, otherwise DPWH or DedEd or the Congress for that matter would have longbeen gone.

True, the SKs are just being used by adult politicians. MostSKs are either a relative of the barangay captain, the mayor, congressmen orgovernor; or their pet. But is it not the general case in Philippine politics?

True, many SKs are not functioning. SK officials do not knowtheir roles and responsibilities. But, it is as true that barangay officials,directly working with the SKs, do not know and limit the SKs’ function tosports, pageants, and clean and green projects.

True, the SK officials are too young and do not have legalauthority. 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 SOPsbefore the their SK budgets are released?

These are all truths and documented in a study commissionedby 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 beremembered 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 theseproblems, various SK reform measures have been put forward and are just needingactions.

  • First, in educating the SK about their roles and responsibility,which is a function of the DILG, the barangay officials should also be informedand 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 greateraccountability should be a task taken more proactively by the local DILGofficer with the support of other local youth organizations.
  • Third, an autonomous fiscal mechanism with accountability measuresshould be put in place to train young people to manage and allocate resourcessubject to government auditing rules.
  • Fourth, a pilot of anti-dynasty provision, which is providedfor in the constitution, should be enforced in SK, where it can serve as anexample to adult politicians.
  • Fifth, the age range can be adjusted to account for theperiod when young people have move freedom in arranging their academic loadwithout 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 13thand 14th Congress that outlines the necessary legislative measures. Butit has never gone pass the committee level. PNoy now has the power to make it apriority bill of his administration.

There is an even better and easier way for the Executivebranch. 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 onthe situation of SKs, the challenges they are facing and the ways to addressthem. The same group has drafted an SK Guidebook that reinforces theonce-in-a-blue-moon ISKOLAR BOS training for SKs and provides practical toolsand solution to real on the ground situations. These two materials are potentfor 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 thechallenges that PNoy and the Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo have to face headon. The SK needs crucial reforms. And on these reforms, we will work ontogether.

The road to SK Reform may be long and narrow, but it is theright road to take to ensure meaningful youth participation.

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[1] Nicholas K. Alipui,Representative, UNICEF Philippines. The Impact of Youth Participation in LocalGovernment Process: the Sanguniang Kabataan Experience. UNICEF, DILG NBOO, NAPCYS, 2007.

[2] Joy Aceron, Sectoral Representative(OIC),National Anti-Poverty Commission Youth and Students Sector. The Impact of YouthParticipation in Local Government Process: the Sanguniang Kabataan Experience.UNICEF, DILG NBOO, NAPC YS, 2007.

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