Mr. Chairman, mga kasama, magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat.
Article II, Section 13 of the 1987 Constitution recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and encourages their participation in public and civic affairs. This is the essence of the Sangguniang Kabataan – to provide the youth with the progressive platform to introduce them to governance.
However, we have seen that the SK has also been infected by the very corrupt practices that have plagued the other institutions of our government. Instead of the youth working for the youth, projects and programs have been reduced to mere sports fests and beauty contests. Instead of the youth leading the youth, the SK leaders have been serving as extensions of public officials who wish to expand their sphere of influence. The SK has been merely another avenue of fraud and dishonesty, and many had called for its abolition.
Ngunit, Mr. Chair, ang korupsyon sa Sangguniang Kabataan ay nagsisimula hindi sa mga kabataan. The issue of corruption in the system and incompetency of the SK is not because of age; rather, the problem lies in the SK’s institutional flaws – the lack of transparency in the system and the lack of accountability among the leaders.
To abolish the Sangguniang Kabataan has never been the answer. Naniniwala ang Akbayan na ang pagbuwag sa Sangguniang Kabataan ay hindi sagot sa pagkitil ng korupsyon. The Sangguniang Kabataan is the platform for the young people to participate in governance. To abolish the Sangguniang Kabataan is to remove that platform. To abolish the Sangguniang Kabataan is to alienate our youth and stifle their voices, voices that are essential in their role as decision-makers, nation-builders, and protectors of democracy.
Sa matuwid na daan, dapat walang naiiwan. Sa matuwid na daan, ang kabataan ay ang pangunahing instrumento ng pagbabago. Akbayan has consistently called not only for the reform in the Sangguniang Kabataan, but also for its empowerment. Strengthening the foundations of this institution would make it less vulnerable to corruption. Providing for more progressive mechanisms is to ensure the transparency of the system, and empowering the youth is to ensure that they themselves, especially the SK leaders, are accountable for their actions.
Ang Sangguniang Kabataan ay isang demokratikong proseso. Ang isang binago at pinalakas na Sangguniang Kabataan ay ang instrumentong hinihingi ng demokrasya para sa makabuluhang paglahok ng ating kabataan. This is why Akbayan, in partnership with our advocates, filed House Bill 468, or the SK Reform and Empowerment Bill.
This bill is the product of a process of consultations which is youth-led and youth-oriented. Sa madaling salita, mismong ang mga kabataan ang nagtutulak na baguhin, hindi buwagin, ang Sangguniang Kabataan. Allow me to present the provisions and reforms that House Bill 468 is pushing for.
The essential part of reforming and empowering the SK is to strengthen the Katipunan ng Kabataan (KK) or the Youth General Assembly, which traditionally has a limiting role of electing SK officials. Under House Bill 468, the Katipunan ng Kabataan will now become the highest policy-making body. The Katipunan ng Kabataan has been given the mandate to approve SK projects and programs. They have the power to reprimand, censure or remove SK officials. They will provide clearer mechanisms for regular meetings, such as allowing proportional representation in huge barangays.
The bill likewise provides for the creation of the Katipunang Pangkaunlaran ng Kabataan or the Barangay Youth Development Council, which is composed of different youth organizations in the barangay. It is mandated to develop an annual youth development plan for the barangay that will be the basis of the projects and programs that the SK will implement.
To provide a more progressive role of the youth in the barangay, the bill also redefines the mandate of the Sangguniang Kabataan. The SK is now tasked to initiate and implement programs that promote meaningful youthful participation, accessible education, youth employment, active citizenship, sexual and reproductive health, sports and sustainable development.
The bill provides for an anti-political dynasty clause, thus ensuring equal and fair access to youth participation in accordance with Article II, Section 26 of the Philippine Constitution. The bill also expands participation to young Filipinos who are from 15 to 25 years of age.
To ensure transparency and accountability in the system, The SK is mandated to be convened in a more systematic and regular manner for the approval of projects, and is also required to report to the Katipunan ng Kabataan.
To prevent and alleviate corruption, the bill mandates that the SK Chairperson cannot be below the 18 years of age. The rationale is that in our experience, SK chairpersons who are under the age of majority are often influenced by corrupt public officials since they cannot enter into contracts by themselves.
The bill also mandates that the Sangguniang Kabataan will handle all funds by themselves provided that they regularly report to the Katipunan ng Kabataan, therefore giving them fiscal autonomy and preventing corruption by means of barangay officials negotiating for kickbacks. This also provides for the system of transparency and accountability that we are pushing as part of our reforms in the SK.
House Bill 468, as filed by Akbayan and sponsored by our partner advocates, provides for the reforms needed by the Sangguniang Kabataan in the belief that in a democratic government, everyone, especially the youth, must participate in the decision-making and policy-implementing processes of our government. Naniniwala ang Akbayan na sa matuwid na daan, ang pagbabago at pagpapalakas ng ating Sangguniang Kabataan ang sagot upang mapanatili ang isang progresibong plataporma ng pamamahala na magbibigay ng boses at pagkakataon sa ating kabataan upang sila ay lumahok sa mga desisyon at pamamalakad na sila rin ang makikinabang sa hinaharap.
Sa ating patuloy na pagtahak sa tuwid na daan, ang pagkitil sa korupsyon ay dapat magsimula sa unang sangay ng ating pamahalaan – ang barangay. At nararapat lamang na ang manguna sa ating pagtahak sa tuwid na daan, bilang pag-asa ng ating bayan, ay ang mga kabataan.
Magandang hapon, at maraming salamat po.