Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Seares: Filling empty seats in the SK

IT is not yet certain if youth leaders have shunned the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections on May 14 and to what extent.

Comelec figures as of April 20 tended to refute that: a total of 386,793 filed certificates of candidacy, 76,793 for SK chairpersons and 309,413 for youth council members. The numbers however don’t tell how many seats in how many barangays wouldn’t be filled because of lack of candidates.

The dynasty ban

Interesting points: (1) why youth leaders are staying away and (2) if indeed they are, what to do with the empty seats.

The early theory: the ban on dynasties may have caused the shortage. Under the Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Act of 2015 (Republic Act #10742), which takes effect in the May 14 elections, an SK candidate cannot run if he is related by second degree of blood or marriage to an elected barangay, town, city, province or national official. He must declare in his COC or certificate that he’s not covered by the ban.

Backers, meddlers

Before the new law, politicians who wanted their scions to join politics early were active in the elections. The SK provided training ground, an experiment lab where they expose their young to the political culture. The politicos agenda benefited other youth leaders, mostly poor, who didn’t have the resources to wage a campaign.

The same skepticism met the recent movement of America’s youth to protest against violence from guns and for safety in school campuses. The young couldn’t put up such a massive show of force across the U.S. without older persons providing and pulling the strings. And yet they did, with the accusation of meddling by vested interests not yet settled.

“Litmus test”

The SK polls this May would be a trial of sort, a litmus test, somebody said. Would it effectively ban the political dynasties or clans to have their relatives in the SK? It could. Would it remove politicians’ influence in the elections? Many don’t think so.

The reality is that politicians’ hands couldn’t be totally tied. They may not help elect their kin to SK posts but they can still have surrogates, young people under their thumb, elected.

Coveted seats

The reason: the SK head sits in the barangay, town, city and province legislative body. That’s one more vote, its preciousness proportionate to the need of a political party to control the council or board. In Cebu City, for one, BOPK and Barug Team Rama both covetously work to get barangay federation and SK federation seats in the “sanggunian.”

That would require winning most of the contests for barangay captains and SK chairpersons. Necessarily, strategies used in regular politics come into play, demolishing any pretense at being non-partisan.

Procedure under law

But what would be done for barangays with no elected SK head or council members? They say there’s no provision of the reform law and they propose instead that the local youth development council take the place of the crippled SK.

But check out R.A. 10742’s provision on “succession and filling of vacancies” (section 19). While it is primarily intended for vacancies caused by death, resignation or removal, why not apply it to similar kinds of vacancy, such as when no one or not enough people ran for the offices?

The laws procedure is that the next highest vote-getter assumes the office and then the SK chairperson calls special election to complete the seven-member council. By analogy, if no one or not all the required number of council members were elected and qualified, the Katipunang Kabataan (SK assembly) may pick the needed officers in a special election. That would be in synch with the letter and spirit of the law.

Power, money

Apparently not many youth leaders know the SK reform law. They may not know that the SK chiefs will handle funds themselves, no longer the barangay captains: 10 percent of the barangay budget is a lot of money, especially for youth councils in urban barangays.

Youth training on power, which is how the SK is billed, offers sweeter allure since money is now very much a part of the exercise.


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