Seares: Cebu City SKs to pick rep for City Council amid charges of coercion and meddling by politicos. At least five youth leaders vie for federation president.

CEBU. (From left) Kim Kyle Buendia, Matt Estenzo, Rhea Mae Jakosalem, Ethan Maamo, and Riziel Punes Saladaga.
CEBU. (From left) Kim Kyle Buendia, Matt Estenzo, Rhea Mae Jakosalem, Ethan Maamo, and Riziel Punes Saladaga.Contributed photos

SANGGUNIANG Kabataan (SK) chairpersons who were elected in the October 30, 2023 elections in Cebu City were scheduled to vote Tuesday, November 14, for the president of the SK Federation in the city, who will sit in the City Council.

RESCH OUT, ONG MAY STILL BE IN. The seat, occupied for the last five years by Councilor Jessica Resch, will be filled November 30 by the new SK president, even as the city's new Association of Barangay Council's president will also fill the barangays' seat to be vacated by Councilor Franklyn Ong.

While Ong, who was reelected in the October election, can bid for ABC post and thus keep his seat, Resch, by reason of age, cannot.

Politics has never been shut out of SK elections and, once again, this year -- after the long term holdover caused by several postponements of BSKEs -- it rears its no-so-pretty head in an exercise that theoretically, along with the barangay election, is apolitical but actually mired in politics. The hold-over ABC and SK councilors in Cebu City, as example, have been identified with BOPK during their entire stay.

On the eve of the city's SK Federation elections, these charges have come out:

[1] An open letter published in the Cebu Updates Facebook page, signed by one Inday Josa, raised reports about newly elected SK chairpersons being "compelled to sign a manifesto of support" to the SK chairperson of Parian, with the threat of making it "hard for the incoming SK administrations" that won't back the "anointed leader."

"Inday Josa Chiongbian Osmeña," more identified through her FB posts with the BOPK camp than with any other group, didn't offer any proof of the alleged coercion. Josa offered sound advice though to the SK leaders: The document won't be binding; vote freely in the Federation election; and complain and expose anyone responsible for the intimidation.

[2] Atty. Eric Medalle, a former chief of staff of Mayor Michael Rama, urged youth leaders who are being coerced to support any candidate to come to Medalle. "Ako mismo mangunay og kiha ana (nila), pro bono, free of charge." He warned in his Facebook page that those who won the elections by vote-buying and fraud, claiming he has all the evidence to file criminal charges against them.

[3] At least one SK Federation aspirant, Matt Estenzo, SK chairperson of Guadalupe, when asked by media about the issue of politician's meddling in SK elections, said he condemns any form of coercion or pressure on the youth leaders, especially in the choice of their representative to the City Council. The young leaders should freely and independently select their own leader. "Free will and conscience" should guide us, Estenzo said.

FIVE BETS. News+One learned Monday, November 13, there were at least five aspirants for the position of SK Federation president, which automatically makes the winner the person to fill the councilor's seat that Resch would leave.

They are:

* Kim Kyle Buendia of Labangon, a civil engineering student, CEO and president of Kyle Construction Services; 2021 barangay councilor; son of the barangay captain;

* Matt Estenzo of Guadalupe; former USC president; medical student; ambulance crew volunteer; fire responder; Covid-19 front-liner, Cebu City "Little Mayor"

* Rhea Mae Jakosalem, reelected SK chairperson of Parian;

* Ethan Jacob Maamo of Banilad; schooled at Sacred Heart School and De La Salle University;

* Riziel Punes Saldaga of Tisa; three-time president of Tisa National High School Supreme Student Government; editor, Tisanian Times; student councilor, Cebu City Student Supreme Student Government League of Presidents

A politician or politicians have been linked to each of four aspirants (one is supposedly independent) but their names are withheld as the source/s didn't give evidence of the alleged support.

It would seem that no party is supporting a specific candidate but a member or members of a party are lending support. One is allegedly backed by a former councilor and a ranking council member; another by another councilor; and two others, also by a councilor each.

WHO'S RAMA PITCHING FOR? From the talks, none, but he could be giving his support through an individual, a colleague or colleagues of Barug. After all, it would involve a seat, one of a precious few, in the local legislature.

Mayor Rama had publicly declared he'd support Councilor Ong for the ABC presidency so that Ong could keep his seat In the City Council. (Last year, 2022, the mayor reportedly expressed support for another barangay captain as ABC president.) But he'd leave the SK Federation elections alone, for the young leader to decide on their own.

EASY TO CHECK OUT later on. Once the SK Federation president sits in office as city councilor, inevitably he or she shows political color. The pattern of voting, particularly on contentious issues, will define Barug or BOPK, or -- surprise, surprise -- independent/non-partisan interests.

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