Youth participation in governance

By Cris Evert Lato-Ruffolo and Morexette Marie B. Erram April 12,2018

Rengelle N. Pelayo  (CDN PHOTO/LITO TECSON)

THE RETURN OF THE SK

(First of two parts)

Rengelle Pelayo was an active student leader of Abellana National High School when she decided to run as Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) chairman of Barangay Buhisan back in 2007.

At 17 — and by legal definition still a minor – Pelayo assumed the elective position as head of her barangay’s youth.

She won by a margin of 10 votes against her opponent, Anabelle Aman, who was her former classmate at Punta Princesa Elementary School.

Later, in an election among the SK chairpersons from Cebu City’s 80 barangays, she was voted as the SK Federation president, a position she held until 2010.

Jess Anthony dela Cruz, who worked side by side with Pelayo from 2008 to 2010 as Executive Assistant to Mayor Tomas Osmeña assigned in the SK Federation Office, said Pelayo was able to implement several youth projects during her term.

She also led the action against six SK chairpersons who were suspended for their failure to submit reports and carry out projects mandated by law.

“When I learned more about SK and understood the rationale behind its creation, I saw a great avenue where I can put my skills and talents to good use for the benefit of my fellow youth, this time in the community and not just in school,” said Pelayo.

“ I felt a different sense of fulfillment when I decided to set the course of my life driven with a new sense of purpose,” she added.
Pelayo, now 27, did not come from a family of politicians.

Her parents, Rey and Leoncia, operated a small carenderia (mini-eatery) in the village whose earnings were used to send Pelayo and her younger sister to school.

Herself now an Executive Assistant to Mayor Osmeña, no one in Pelayo’s family has joined politics or public governance even up to this day.

Her case is perhaps more of an exception than the rule, as many SK contenders in the past had roots to politics or public office.

Barangay Bulacao candidates for the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections show (above) their certificates of candidacy that they have just filed at Cebu City’s Commission on Election office in this Oct. 10, 2010 photo. Top photo shows Rengelle Pelayo, then a 17-year-old girl, who ran and won as SK chairperson of Barangay Buhisan in this 2007 photo. She later won as Cebu City’s SK Federation president and served until 2010.
CDN FILE PHOTOS

Postponements

On October 2013, then President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III signed into law Republic Act (RA) 10632 that postponed the SK elections set on

October 28, 2013 to a date to be determined by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) between October 28, 2014 and February 23, 2015.

Aquino wanted to give lawmakers time to introduce reforms in the SK structure which was then hounded by issues and controversies as youth leaders were used by older politicians and barangay officials in their corrupt activities.

Later, another law – Republic Act 10656 – again postponed the SK elections to the last Monday of October 2016.

To primarily take on functions related to youth issues and concerns, an eight-member Task Force on Youth Development was formed. The task force also handled the SK budget which comprised 10% of the barangay fund.

When President Rodrigo Duterte took over the country in 2016, the synchronized Barangay and SK elections set on October 31 that year was moved to October 23, 2017.

But on October 2, 2017, the President signed RA 10952 which moved the twin elections to May 2018.

Following a series of delays, the Barangay and SK elections will finally push through on May 14.

The Comelec has issued a calendar of activities designating April 14 to May 21 as the election period.

The filing of certificates of candidacy (COC) will be from April 14 to 20, while the campaign period will be from May 4 to 12.

All candidates are expected to file their Statement of Contribution and Expenditures (SOCE) on or before June 13.

According to Comelec, around 55 million voters in the Philippines are registered to vote in the May elections.

In Cebu City, some 100,000 youth voters have registered for the village polls – a record number because of Congress’ decision to adjust the maximum voting age from 21 years old to 30, said Lawyer Marchel Sarno, the election officer for Cebu City’s north district.

Sarno also said that Comelec has completed the printing of the list of voters for all the 80 barangays of the city.

SK Reform Act

RA 10742 or the new SK Reform Law mandates changes in the SK for a “meaningful youth participation in nation-building”.

Under this law, the voting age is now 15 to 30 years old when it was previously 15 to 21 years old.

SK candidates should also now be between 18 to 24 years old instead of 15-17 years old.

Pelayo is happy with the reforms saying that increasing the age requirement for aspiring SK officials addresses the issue of inexperience and maturity of SK officials from prior years.

“I can’t generalize that minors 15 to 17 years old are not capable of discharging the functions because thank God during my time, I was 17 and I think I was able to do it. It differs and it’s a case to case basis. But, just to improve the performance, the reforms I believe will really help SK improve,” said Pelayo.

The reforms also include an Anti-Political Dynasty provision to counter political inbreeding that leads to corruption.

“The reformed SK law promotes fiscal autonomy to ensure that the utilization of the budget is really given to the discretion of the SK,” she said.

Cebu City Jerry Guardo, who sits as chairperson of the Committee on Youth and Sports, believes that SK leaders play an important role in society as they serve as bridge that connects the young generation with older leaders.

“SK leaders will help link the youth on being proactive, knowledgeable and being participative with government affairs. (This is) because they can truly relate to the members of their generation than other officials who belong in the older generation,” said Guardo.

Guardo said SK leaders will play a major role in barangay-based issues such as the implementation of the curfew for minors and illegal drugs.

“At this point in time, the SK can really help their fellow youth in avoiding illegal activities which will destroy their future. The youth are placed in a critical stage that will shape them as responsible adults, ” said Guardo.

But Guardo added that SK leaders, to be able to govern well, will still need the guidance of more experienced adults. /WITH REPORT FROM CORRESPONDENT ROSALIE ABATAYO
(To be concluded)

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