SENATE President Juan Ponce Enrile wants to synchronize the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections with the local and national polls in 2013 instead of its October 25 schedule this year.

"I am for the synchronization dahil masyadong magastos 'yang frequent elections. We'll economize much and maybe what we can save can be earmarked for education and health," the Senate President said.

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Enrile said the poll body would also save up on the rent of precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines and ballot paper if the barangay and SK polls will be set in May 2013.

He added that the functions of the barangay council only overlap the duties of some organizations in villages.

"Kailangan mo ba 'yung ganoong kalaki to run a barangay? Ako, lima, malaki na 'yon. Kagaya niyan, may mga barangay na subdivision. They run the subdivision. Lalagyan mo pa ng barangay officials, di nag-ooverlap 'yun," he noted.

But as of this posting, the Senate president maintained his silence on whether he supported or not of the SK abolition.

Amending barangay, SK polls possible

There is still time for the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms to pass an amendment of the Barangay and SK election laws.

"Baka umabot pa, may panahon pa," Representative Danilo Suarez (third district, Quezon) noted, adding that the minority bloc's position is for the postponement of the local polls to next year.

President Benigno Aquino III earlier said that he wants the barangay and SK polls to push through in October despite proposals of some congressmen to postpone it.

Suarez argued that the last presidential elections already caused alliances in the barangay level to break and while these may not be settled yet, the October polls are already threatening to worsen these rifts.

"Kanino ba tatakbo yung mga kandidato eh di sa amin din, bigyan naman kami ng isang taong pahinga," the lawmaker added.

Representative Mitos Magsaysay (first district, Zambales) meanwhile said her fellow colleagues in the lower chamber of Congress should first wait for the discussions of the suffrage committee that is set to begin on Wednesday before they announce the proposals of Aquino.

Several bills seeking the postponement of the October polls are pending in Congress, among them was filed by Filipino boxing icon and Representative Manny Pacquiao (lone district, Sarangani).

Kabataan on SK polls

Kabataan Representative Mong Palatino hit the statements of Aquino on the abolition of the SK council, saying it could have made an implication on the number of registrants.

"Sa tingin ko, hindi maganda na ito ay ma-float na idea ng Presidente at DILG during the registration week because it discouraged many young people para magparehistro," added Palatino.

Instead of abolition, Palatino sought some changes in the SK system through House Bill 1963.

The measure changes the age requirement for SK candidates from 15 to 18 years old; seeks to require SK units to deposit their funds in a bank preferably government-owned and granting SK units fiscal autonomy over their allotted budget; and requires the SK bodies to release a quarterly financial report.

The Kabataan party-list leader said it was unfair to accuse the SK groups of being corrupt since their projects will not be initiated upon if there is no approval from the barangay council.

"It is not the Filipino youth that has failed the system. It is the system that has failed them," he concluded.

Watchdog backs abolition

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) expressed support for the abolition of the youth council.

Henrietta de Villa, PPCRV chairperson, said they support the proposal to abolish SK but they want a youth representative to be elected in the Barangay elections on October 25, 2010.

"We support the scrapping of the SK but on the condition that one youth representative is elected in the barangay elections to sit in the barangay council," she said.

She added: "In that way, the youth will be mainstreamed with the barangay affairs because the SK didn't have much activity that will really improve the lot of the whole community and even the youth affairs."

She said that based on their observations on the ground that SK becomes the "entry" of political dynasties.

On Thursday, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) submitted a draft measure to Malacañang calling for the abolition of the SK and the election of a youth representative in the October 25 elections.

DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo said the draft measure will seek to repeal Section 423 to 439 of the Local Government Code that will, in effect, totally abolish the Katipunan ng Kabataan or the SK., and the amendment of Section 387 (a) and 390 of the same Code to include a youth representative in the barangay who will be elected at large by the youth aged 15 years old but less than 18 years old during the barangay elections. (Kathrina Alvarez/FP/Sunnex)