Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

I was interviewed by Manila Bulletin a few months ago about the Sangguniang Kabataan….

1. I learned that you are siding with the Sangguniang Kabataan Federation in this issue and is against its abolition. Please explain your position/stand on this issue and why you are supporting them.

The support is incidental. Our group recognizes the weaknesses of the SK system which is the reason why we filed House Bill 1963.

But the proposed abolition is somewhat an exaggeration. After 30 years of political innovation, is abolishing the SK the only option that the government can think of?

The reasons put forward by the SK abolitionists are legitimate but not substantial enough to convince me that it is the best solution to address the problems besetting the youth institution.

2. DILG Sec. Robredo and former Sen. Pimentel, among others are accusing the SK of being a breeding ground for corruption and for failing to be functional and effective in the delivery of public service while PPCRV chair Henrietta de Villa says it only encourages political dynasties. Do you think that to a certain extent these allegations are true? Why or why not?

These accusations are not without basis. Indeed, there is corruption in the bureaucracy from the national to the local levels. Unfortunately, even some SK leaders are involved. Political dynasties are also extending their nefarious sphere of influence down to the SK level. (Trapo for adults and Bimbo for young politicians – Batang Itinulak ng Magulang sa Pulitika). The idealism of the youth is wasted when SK leaders mutate into young trapo monsters.

These negative features of the SK reflect the bankrupt character of Philippine politics. We have been bad role models for SK leaders. Instead of teaching them the principles of good governance, we have only exposed them to the worst features of politics. The weaknesses of SK point to the failure of the government to empower young people since the institution which is supposed to harness the leadership potential of the youth had been corrupted over the decades. It is shameful that dynasties are even using the SK to strengthen their monopolistic control of local political power.

If the SK is ineffective, it means we didn’t guide them correctly. We didn’t introduce creative types of projects and other services which the SK can implement in the grassroots.

If corruption is present in the SK level, other LGUs are implicated as well. SK officials can’t access local funds without the approval of barangay officials. Why single out the SK as a breeding ground for corruption?

If corruption, ineffectiveness, and promotion of political dynasties are cited as the reasons to abolish the SK, there are equally deserving government agencies, both local and national, which should be abolished as well.

3. Is the alternative option of having a youth representative in the barangay council a feasible idea? Are you and your group willing to settle for this option? Why or why not?

It is a non-solution. It doesn’t solve anything. The single youth representative, who is now not accountable to a youth council, can be more easily seduced by corruption practices because he/she is now alone; and most likely he/she could still belong to a dynasty.

Since the youth representative will be voted at large by barangay residents, we will force that kid to adopt the campaign tactics of adults in order to garner enough votes to win in the election.

Having a youth council is better than electing a single representative because programs, decisions, and ideas are collectively decided in a council.

At present, the SK is composed of a chairperson and 7 kagawads. The kagawads do not receive any payment from the government yet they are mandated by law to serve the community for three years. We have more than 300,000 volunteers through the SK system. The government wants to eliminate this unique institution which encourages youth participation and volunteerism in community affairs.

4. What do you think is the real problem in the SK system? What should the government do to solve it?
5. How can SK officials help in nation building?

The problem is the system itself. We cannot successfully reform the SK if the political system remains corrupt and elitist. The youth draws inspiration from the actions and behavior of adults. Whether it’s SK or single youth representative, it will continue to be ineffective as long as the current disappointing system is in place.

Maybe we should transform SK into an activist institution. Encourage SK leaders to be anti-corruption advocates. Inspire them to expose the wrongdoings in government agencies.

6. In the past, what do you think are the significant contributions of SK to most communities?

Providing opportunities for young people, in-school and out-of-school youth, to participate in the governance process. It gave young people the chance to articulate their ideas and sentiments in barangay councils and LGU councils. It allowed youth leaders to form a municipal, city and provincial networks.

7. What is your group doing to prevent it from being enacted?

Will push for reforms. Will convince lawmakers to rethink the abolition proposal and encourage them to draft a measure that will strengthen or reform the SK. I am even open to the idea of forming a new youth formation in barangays. A new youth body with a different orientation. A stronger and more responsive body that will harness youth idealism

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