ALL over the world, the Philippines is the only country to have a grassroots based and government funded political structure for young people. In 1991, Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code created the Sangguniang Kabataan to represent the interest of young people in the legislative body.

The unspoken goal was to bridge generation of leaders by helping new ones emerge. In many ways, the local code provided the space for young people to acquire leadership skills, be able to negotiate and have their interests taken seriously. Yet, for so many times, adult legislators have failed. They have seriously failed in bridging the generation of leaders.

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It was not the fault of young people to be relegated in programs that only have to do with sports and drug abuse prevention. It is not to be taken against them that programs and interventions do not go beyond basketball courts or procurement of sports supplies. In many ways, these interventions and facilities are also needed in the barangays.

There are substantial interventions that young people could be part of. There are huge challenges in the areas of environment, education and social infrastructure. There are initiatives where SK officials could have played a good role. If only politicians allow them.

In bridging the gap between the old set of leaders and the new one, it was unfortunate that the young people have to learn the rope from traditional politicians and their ways of dealing with things. So we see young leaders molded from the same despicable ways-unable to take and represent the interest of their sector genuinely and going through the route of the usual stuff.

Thus, the proposal to abolish the Sangguniang Kabataan may be appealing. Except that the young people themselves were never consulted on the proposal. It is always easy to assume everything for the youth rather than confronting some basic ills in the political system which makes it difficult for young people to assert.

Allegations of corruption and inefficiency hobbled the SK for years. But like all other officials or representatives, abolishing it may not be the solution. For every Sangguniang Panlungsod, we have one SK representative. The same allegations confront council members, how come we are only asking for the abolition of SK members?

Government said that by abolishing the Sangguniang Kabataan, it can save at least P3.5 billion on election expenses, but then again, why at the expense of the youth?

SK representatives have appealed that instead of abolishing youth representation, measures be undertaken to educate barangay officials in dealing and supporting their SKs and strengthening the SK to ensure greater participation and accountability.

The bottomline -- need for greater appreciation on the participation of young people and enabling mechanisms that will allow the youth themselves to decide on their own-away from the influences of their parents and traditional politicians who may have their own interests that do not necessarily represent the concerns of the young people.

It may be easy to call for the abolition of the Sangguniang Kabataan but what we may need is to genuinely understand and appreciate the value of youth participation. The Sangguniang Kabataan should cease to be mere consultative bodies without the real power to implement.

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