Cendaña: Disadvantageous

THE proposal to postpone the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections anew is disadvantageous to the Filipino youth.

If approved by Congress, this will be the third postponement of the SK polls in three years. The first postponement was mandated by Republic Act 10632 or "An Act to Postpone the Sangguniang Kabataan Elections on October 28, 2013 Amending for the Purpose Republic Act 9340 and for other Purposes". By amending RA 9340 which synchronized SK and barangay elections every three years, RA 10632 set the new date of SK elections between October 28, 2014 to February 23, 2015.

The first postponement law intended to give time for Congress to legislate measures to reform the institution. This was demanded by young people in order to make the SK relevant and effective. The law also specified that there was no holdover for SK officials during that period, they stepped down on November 30, 2013. Since the appointment of officials even on a temporary basis to fill the vacancy was barred, there was no SK these past three years.

By February 2015, Congress was unfortunately not able to pass the reform law. The situation called for another postponement of the SK polls. RA 10656 was enacted. It synchronized again the SK polls with the barangay elections scheduled on the last Monday of October 2016.

After the long wait, the much-anticipated SK Reform Act or RA 10742 was finally enacted on January 2016. The law outlines the major structural reform features in the youth council, which include fiscal independence, transparency & participatory mechanisms, continuing mandatory training and the historic anti-political dynasty provision.

With the approval of RA 10742 early this year and the pronouncement of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte after the May 2016 elections that the barangay and SK polls shall push through as scheduled, the process was put into motion with the registration of voters for two weeks last July.

If the number of registrants for the SK elections is an indicator of interest among young people, it is safe to say that the Filipino youth are enthusiastic about the SK. A total of 3,095,187 new voters registered for the polls, 1,615,830 of the new registrants are aged 15 to 17 and 1,180,959 are 18 and above. This is on top of the already registered youth voters for the 2016 national elections, which are around 20 million.

The source of enthusiasm could be the reforms in the new and improved SK that encourage broader participation. It could also be because of the longing of young people for a venue for meaningful involvement in community governance. The youth has been disenfranchised for three years now because of the absence of the SK.

There are currently 10 bills filed in the Senate and the House of Representatives seeking to postpone the barangay and SK elections to 2017 or 2018. For the barangay council, this means extending the term of current officials on hold over capacity. For young people, it means two more years without SK.

The proposed third postponement of the SK elections goes against the pursuit of genuine youth development which underscores young people's participation and involvement. For the SK, the third time is definitely not the charm.

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