Youth participation in good governance
“Spare the youth from your corrupt ways.”
Said Jess Anthony dela Cruz, who worked with two Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) Federation presidents from 2008 to 2014, in a call to politicians who initiate corrupt practices during elections.
Dela Cruz, who currently sits as chief of the Cebu City Youth Development Office under the Office of Mayor Tomas Osmeña said that in most cases, it is the barangay captain who “invests” in vote-buying on behalf of the young person running as SK chairman.
“It’s a culture that needs to be destroyed. This culture has to be stopped,” said Dela Cruz.
“These barangay captains or leaders who are supposed to train the youth to be good and accountable leaders are the ones who introduce the vote-buying culture,” he added.
Dela Cruz explained that the older and more seasoned politicians do this to “put the youth in their pockets” and later dictate or control the SK leaders.
Under the law, the SK gets 10% of the barangay share from the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA). The bigger the barangay’s IRA, the bigger the budget is for SK.
Former Cebu City SK Federation President Rengelle Pelayo said the SK was never spared from dirty politics.
“Sad to say, that was the case before. If they are related to any of the barangay officials, the money (allotted for SK) will go to other things which left SK with zero accomplishments,” said Pelayo, 27.
She now works as Executive Assistant to the Mayor under the Long Life Program.
“If the SK is indebted to the barangay officials, they cannot fight. Many are intimidated, scared. In my time, there were only a few who stood up and fought for their independence,” she added.
One of them was then Barangay Taptap SK Chairman Griffins Malazarte, who was only 15 years old when he assumed the elective position.
Malazarte was an active youth leader who joined barangay events as early as nine years old.
By the time he reached 13, he was already a known figure in the barangay and became vice president of the Taptap Youth Organization.
Malazarte said that he decided on his own to run for the SK chairmanship and appealed for his family’s support.
His father was a farmer while his mother was a school teacher.
During the 2007 SK elections, there were only 160 registered youth voters in Barangay Taptap, a mountain village located some 20 kilometers from Cebu I.T. Park in Barangay Lahug.
“The election is very dirty. You won’t win unless you do something. My case was different. I had poll watchers to check the precinct,” Malazarte recalled.
Out of the barangay’s 160 youth voters, Malazarte earned the votes of 154. The six remaining votes went to his opponent, a person who remains his friend to this day.
Soon after winning the polls, Malazarte learned that the village SK had P160,000 as annual budget.
He later used this to organize summer leagues, educational tours, feeding sessions and anti-drug and team-building activities.
The barangay also participated in the Dancesports Grassroots program and paid for the salary of two employees under the Clean and Green program.
Compared to other barangays in Cebu City, Taptap’s SK annual budget was minimal as the main source of income for the mountain village was farming.
According to Pelayo, other barangays such as Guadalupe, Lahug, Talamban, Mabolo, Tisa and Labangon have higher IRAs which naturally meant a bigger budget, which run by the millions of pesos, for their SK.
Pelayo and Malazarte both belonged to the old SK structure which was prone to nepotism and corruption.
Under the SK Reform Law, the SK leaders capacity to enter into contracts and handle large amounts of money were also questioned as those elected into office were between 15 to 17 years old.
Republic Act (RA) 10742 or the “Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Act of 2015” prohibits political dynasties and mandates training for elected officials prior to their assumption into office — the two salient features of the reform law.
The law bars youths who are related within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity to any incumbent elected official in the barangay, municipal, city, provincial, regional and national levels from vying for SK seats.
Under the new law, the voting age is now 15 to 30 years old from the previous 15 to 21 years old.
SK candidates should also now be between 18 to 24 years old instead of 15-17 years old.
Under the new reform law, the SK will now have financial independence as it will have its own bank account.
The funds will be deposited in the “name of the SK of the concerned barangay in a government-owned bank situated in or nearest to its area of jurisdiction,” states RA 10742.
Unlike before when the barangay captain and treasurer were the signatories for the release of the funds, the new law mandates that it will now be the SK chairperson and the SK treasurer.
Pelayo recalled that during her time, the SK used to submit a resolution for every fund disbursement and a training design for their activities.
This will then be included in the barangay council’s agenda for the older officials’ review.
All project proposals and training designs were also submitted to the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) for approval.
The SK reform act simplifies the entire process as only an SK resolution and a program design are needed for the funds’ release.
For its part, the barangay only needs to approve the Annual Barangay Youth Investment Plan once.
After the review and approval of the DILG, the SK can disburse of the funds.
Pelayo admitted that during her time as Cebu City SK Federation president, they were faced with several issues including teenage pregnancy among SK officials.
Also, activities only centered around sports, beauty pageants and entertainment events.
Many SK officials were also non-performing.
But Pelayo said many of them persevered in carrying out their responsibilities which earned Cebu City the Most Outstanding SK Federation national award in the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
“We can’t speak on behalf of the SKs from other cities and municipalities but we worked hard in Cebu City that our SKs are functional and performing effectively,” she said.
In Barangay Buhisan, for example, a twist was given to the usual sports league as each eligible player was required to submit five notebooks, one pad of paper, one ballpen, one pencil and one crayon set instead of paying registration fees.
The players were also required to participate in a clean-up drive, and in a drug awareness and prevention symposium.
“SK opened my eyes to both the good and bad side of government and politics. It helped me realize what I want and do not want to become,” said Pelayo.
“It has helped me cling on strongly to my principles because every experience will test the foundation of my moral values and the kind of character I have as a person,” she added.
“I would say I have grown better now and have learned to balance my idealism with our reality. The entire experience I had with all the failures, triumphs and struggles helped me become a better and stronger version of myself,” Pelayo said.
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