MANILA -- Lawmakers were divided on the proposal of President Benigno Aquino III to abolish the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) and instead have an elected youth representative in the barangay council.

While the pro-SK found an ally in Kabataan party-list Representative Raymond Palatino, Representatives Karlo Nograles (first district, Davao City) and Niel Tupas Jr. (fifth district, Iloilo province) supported Aquino’s proposal.

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"There is wisdom in that. I believe our youth should concentrate more on their studies, and set their priority on finishing their degree, so they can land a good job and later on in leading the nation," Nograles told Sun.Star.

He added that the youth can instead take part in schools or community associations if they want to pursue leadership roles.

Tupas, meanwhile, said that the abolition of the SK would not mean that the youth would lose representation in their respective communities.

"I'm in favor so that we can save cost at the same time the youth will still have a voice in the barangay council through their youth representative," Tupas said in a separate interview.

Palatino, a youth advocate defended the SK, saying that its aim is to encourage the youth to take active part in governance and to serve as an educational experience for them.

He also debunked statements that there are corrupt SK officials, saying that the accusations are unfair to many youth officers who are performing their duties well.

"If corruption is the issue here, then we should abolish barangays and other LGU (local government units) too. SK members can't access funds without approval of local officials. If there are corrupt SK members, blame LGU leaders and even national leaders for being bad role models," he said.

Representative Rachel del Mar (north district, Cebu City), for her part, said that while she believed that the SK should be retained, a few adjustments must be implemented.

"There should be empowerment of the youth to give them opportunities for they are the leaders of tomorrow. I am for the retention but with reforms. They should have financial autonomy but there should be a menu on how they can spend," she said.

Representative Marcelino Teodoro (first district, Marikina City) said the mandate of the SK should be carefully reviewed but not totally abolished.

Since there are instances of corruption as stated by the President, the system needs to be reviewed if not strengthened, Teodoro added.

Poll exec backs SK elimination

Election Commissioner Rene Sarmiento supported the call to abolish the SK, saying: “The proposal of Interior and Local Government Secretary Robredo is good. I am for it.”

He said SK should be scrapped as it is not a good training ground for the young people.

“The young learn early about the bad side of politics like commissions in contracts and projects,” Sarmiento said.

Likewise, he noted that the youth leaders would have a difficulty in combining their studies and their political career. “It’s difficult to combine studies and political career,” Sarmiento said.

Registration ends

Meanwhile, the SK registration ended Sunday with Commission on Elections (Comelec) offices nationwide directed to post today, Monday, a list of voters who applied for registration.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said that it was hard to conclude whether President Aquino's statement on the SK abolition affected the number of registrants for the October polls.

"It's hard to say. Marami pa rin ang nagpaparehistro eh," he told Sun.Star.

Unhampered preparation

Jimenez said the possible scrapping of SK polls will not affect the holding of barangay elections since the two are not dependent on each other.

“We’ll still have it. They are not dependent on each other. It just so happen that it’s synchronized,” he said.

However, Jimenez said personally he does not want the SK to be abolished since it gives the youth the chance to participate in an election.

“I would say let’s go on with it because that will give everyone, especially the youth the chance to vote and participate in the process of governance,” he said.

The poll official added that the decision to proceed or cancel the elections in October lies with the Congress.

“If you want to extend, scrap or reform the SK in any way it’s not us that you should talk to. Talk to Congress. We just do the elections and I think these people know that,” he said.

Jimenez said preparation of the October 25 barangay elections continue.

“We will not do anything differently unless there’s a law,” Jimenez said. (Kathrina Alvarez/FP/Sunnex)