Congress ratifies bicam report on SK Elections postponement
Manila, Philippines – The Senate and the House of Representatives ratified last night the bicameral committee report postponing the scheduled October 28, 2013 Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections to a later date but not beyond February 23, 2015.
Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter S. Cayetano abstained in the voting because he is for a 100 percent reform of the SK structure.
The bicameral conference agreement was made by Sen. Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., chairman of the Senate Local Government Committee, and the eight-man House panel led by Capiz Rep. Fredenil H. Castro.
In the House of Representatives, Liberal Party Reps. Edgar Erice and Winston Castelo, both principal authors of the House version of the bill, said they expect President Benigno C. Aquino to likewise swiftly approve the measure that will reset the polls any day from October 28, 2014 to February 23, 2015.
The bicameral panel also agreed to adopt the House provision that will not allow current SK officers a holdover authority to continue serving as such until the next elections are held.
The son of the late President Marcos said there is no agreement for a holdover position of the now aging SK members “because we are trying to reform the system.”
This issue prompted Sen. Francis Escudero to reject the bicameral report, saying this is tantamount to abolishing the SK for that period.
But Erice, who originally called for the abolition of the barangay youth organization, said the deferment of the SK polls “is a positive step towards the reforms needed” for the youth group.
Himself a former SK officer, Erice assailed the SK over the proliferation of corruption in the youth organization.
Castelo said that the bill also allocates 10 percent SK share of the barangay budget as reserved for youth development programs.
Both houses of Congress have only one year to finalize much-needed reforms in the country’s youth representation system, explained Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, chairman of the Senate Youth Committee.
“We will have at least a year to pass an SK reform bill or the current law governing the youth organization will remain enforced even after the next scheduled SK polls,” said Castelo.
Marcos said he is entertaining proposals to increase the age entry level for SK positions.
“With the postponement, we have a virtual deadline of one year to hold in-depth consultations with our youth constituents, come up with innovative solutions, and agree on the necessary reforms that will make our youth leaders more empowered and effective,” Aquino said.
Aquino said his office has been consulting with various youth groups and will lead stakeholder consultations on the issue.
Castelo said his next move will be to introduce the reform measure which will raise the SK officers’ eligibility from 15 to 18 years to 18 to 21 years old.
As approved, both legislative chambers agreed to hold the next SK election between Oct. 28, 2014 and February 23, 2015.
The specific election date would be determined by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
After ratification of the bicameral conference committee report by the Senate and the Lower House, the measure would be transmitted to the Comelec and the postponement would become official.
Marcos stressed that senators and congressmen who are bicameral conference committee members are not pushing for the abolition of the SK although some senators sought the abolition of the SK because several members have reportedly been politicized and that corruption had seeped into the SK structure.
Marcos said the existing SK funds could be used by Sangguniang Barangay only for youth development programs.