SENATE President Juan Ponce Enrile wants to synchronize the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections with the regular elections in 2013, instead of honoring the October 2010 schedule.

“We’ll economize much and maybe what we can save can be earmarked for education and health,” Enrile said.

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President Benigno Aquino III has said he wants the barangay and SK polls to push through in October, but some members of Congress believe there’s still time to postpone the exercise.

The House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms has yet to consolidate at least 15 bills seeking the postponement of the October polls, among them the proposals filed by Reps. Gabriel Luis Quisumbing (Cebu Province, 6th district) and Manny Pacquiao (Sarangani, lone district).

Quisumbing proposed the postponement of the barangay and SK elections to October next year, to cut costs. The barangay and youth elections were last held in October 2007.

He clarified, however, that he is not in favor of abolishing the SK, although he agreed it needs restructuring to fit its purpose of training future leaders.

Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, interviewed separately, said she believes the term “youth” should be redefined. If they cannot be trusted to get married, then they should not be trusted to craft ordinances, said the governor.

The SK Federation has a seat in the Provincial Board (PB).

But giving the youth a voice doesn’t necessarily mean having kids craft laws that will affect constituents much older than they are. At the very least, she added, they should have finished their formal education before they can speak for the youth.

She also said it is unfair that SK representatives in the municipal or city councils and the PB have to choose between attending the session and going to school.

PB Member Ribomapil Holganza Jr., a former commissioner of the National Youth Commission, said the SK should be transformed because the “bad traits” of older politicians will be absorbed by the integration of minors in government.

“Let us go back to the roots of giving the youth a voice,” he said. Holganza represents the Association of Barangay Councils in the PB.

He noted that in other countries, the “youth” include those who are in their 30s and 40s.

When asked about the case of Talisay City Councilor Eduardo “Digul” Gullas III, 18, Garcia said it’s different because while an 18-year-old can file a certificate of candidacy for councilor, it is still an elective post.

It’s a question of whether he or she can win the elections.

Former gubernatorial candidate Hilario “Junjun” Davide III, who leads the Liberal Party in Cebu, cost should not be the main issue, if the SK election can really contribute to good governance and leadership.

He said he noticed the SK has been too politicized.

“I am in favor of the proposal of Interior and Local Government Secretary (Jesse) Robredo that the SK be abolished, but I am also advocating that the youth must be represented in the barangay council,” Davide said.

Kabataan party-list Rep. Mong Palatino questioned proposals to abolish the SK, but agreed some reforms are needed.

House Bill 1963 proposes, for example, to make 18 the minimum age for SK voters, instead of the present 15. It also seeks to grant the SK units fiscal autonomy over their allotted budget and seeks to require the SK to release a quarterly financial report.

The Kabataan party-list leader said it is unfair to accuse the SK of being corrupt, since their projects cannot be pursued 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 said. (Sunnex)/JGA/EOB)