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Citizen participation and our right to a healthy environment

By: Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos May 06,2018 - 09:45 PM

Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos

A week from now, on May 14, from 7 am to 3 pm the synchronized Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) Elections will be held.

Finally, after several postponements, we will choose the authorities who will steer, within the next three years, the smallest political unit, the barangays, and the SK, towards the path of sustainability and resiliency in this era of tremendous upheavals and uncertainty.

The 2018 elections are extraordinarily significant because, for the first time, the officials of the Sangguniang Kabataan under RA 10742 or the Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Act of 2015, will be voted into office by voters ranging from 15 to 30 years of age.

RA 19742 was enacted into law in January 2016 to transform the SK governance and make it a genuine and effective platform for “meaningful youth participation in nation-building”, and free it from the clutches of politics, as we know it, by making it financially independent, yet accountable.

Not many are aware that RA 19742 is unprecedented – the first law that implements the constitutional ban against political dynasties.

It specifically provides that any SK official, whether elected or appointed, “must not be related within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity to any incumbent elected national official or to any incumbent elected regional, provincial, city, municipal, or barangay official, in the locality where he or she seeks to be elected.”

Talk of political will! We had it in said statute.

The 16th Congress and the Aquino administration certainly had loads of that when the SK Reform Act of 2015 became a law in 2016.

President Duterte can perhaps make it a sterling legacy to the Filipinos when he signs into law the bill banning political dynasties for all elective and appointive positions in government.

It might be an act of self-immolation for some, but in the long term, it will be transformative and what this highly vulnerable nation of ours deserves.

The appalling culture of impunity and the undeserved sense of entitlement are major blocks in attaining participatory, transparent, accountable governance under the Rule of Law.

To our candidates, win or lose, be the agents of change in prioritizing our people’s rights to life, health, a healthy environment and livelihoods, especially those in coastal and agricultural areas, and in ancestral domains, who are dependent on healthy natural ecosystems to survive.

To our voters, never fail to exercise your right of suffrage and continue to engage in decision-making at all levels.

The Constitution guarantees us such right – and duty. Article XIII, section 16, my favorite provision, states, “The right of the people and their organizations to effective and reasonable participation at all levels of social, political, and economic decision-making shall not be abridged.

The State shall, by law, facilitate the establishment of adequate consultation mechanisms.”

By actively participating in nation-building, the vacuum, now occupied by political dynasties, will be filled. Mabuhay!

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TAGS: citizen, participation, right

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