Lawmakers divided on SK abolition

Manila, Philippines --- Neophyte lawmakers appeared to be sharply divided on a bill seeking to abolish the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) but are united in pushing a review of the law creating the barangay-based youth government for fine-tuning of certain provisions, particularly the imposition of disciplinary penalties for corrupt youth leaders.

Newly elected administration Rep. Edgar Erice has received backing from several newcomers in the Lower House for pushing for the passage of House Bill 1122 that provides for the abolition of SK and the creation of a barangay committee to replace the youth organization.

However, fellow neophytes have rejected the idea, saying that a closer study of the effectiveness of SK as a youth organization must first be conducted.

Reps. Gustavo Tambunting (UNA, Paranaque City); Silvestre "Bebot" Bello III (1-BAP Partylist); Nicasio Aliping (Independent, Baguio City); and Francisco Ashley Acedillo (Magdalo Partylist) thumbed down HB 1122 which they believe will put an end to youth involvement to barangay governance.

HB 1122 calls for the scrapping of both the SK and the October elections for its new officers. Its author urged Congress leaders to place the measure in the priority legislative agenda upon the opening of the 16th Congress in two weeks.

Tambunting said he sees no reason for Congress to scrap SK as it continues to "serve its purpose" of being a training ground for future leaders of the country.

Bello, a former justice secretary, said a corrupt local leadership should not be blamed on the SK.

"The elections for new SK officers must continue. We have to develop new leaders at an early stage of their life," said Bello.

However, Aliping agreed that further examination of the SK's role in youth governance has to be conducted to determine whether or not the youth organization has become a mere instrument for corruption and a first step in maintaining political dynasty.

"If it is proven that the SK indeed has become a breeding ground for corruption and the establishment of political dynasty, then it has to be abolished," said Aliping, who also aired plans of joining the Liberal Party, President Aquino's political affiliation.

Meanwhile, neophyte senator Jose Victor "JV" Ejercito-Estrada yesterday reiterated his objection to the proposal to abolish the SK, saying lawmakers should instead reform the youth political system in order to make it more responsive and appropriate to the changing times.

The opposition senator said abolishing the SK is not the logical and reasonable step to solve the problems within the system, adding that there is a need to "breed better politicians" which the Philippine government can bank on in the future.

Ejercito pointed out that abolishing the SK without alternative structures would only mean disservice to the youth and more chaos in their generation.

"At the end of the day it is clear to me that the SK is worth fighting for. The key lies in the proposed reforms. To breed better politicians, we should have better quality leaders from our youth who should take a proactive approach in these reforms. We cannot give up on our youth now," Ejercito said.

However, Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte expressed preference for the abolition of the SK under its present set-up.

With the SK officials elected and given huge budget, Belmonte said it exposes the youth to traditional politics which may affect their idealism. (With reports from Hannah L. Torregoza and Chito A. Chavez)