Tuesday, September 24, 2013

[Vital Signs Column] Reasons why I believe SK should not be abolished

Photo credits: Philstar.com
Nurse's Notes
By Alvin Cloyd Dakis, RN
October 01-15, 2013 Issue

While waiting for my plane to board, let me tell you something honest. I do not completely understand the mechanism of Sangguniang Kabataan or simply known as SK when I was younger. What I do remember though is that I was asked to run as SK Chairman when I was, oh well, overaged. I came to appreciate it late.

And honestly too that I have not felt the presence of our SK Council when I was in Cebu. All I know is that I can see their logo in basketball courts, posters, etc. I can only see them during the most important date - the local elections.

But when I started doing my advocacy work I came to know some former SK leaders and current SK officials - they are undeniably good (and good in a good way).

As Congress finalize their decision for the fate of SK Elections, and as we wait for the President's approval, some youths can't help but wonder how SK postponement or abolition would affect them.

Let me tell you the reasons why I believe SK should not be abolished:

1. The SK we have is historical.
The creation of SK is by far one of the most successful avenues for young people to participate in policy and governance among our Asian counterparts. It also remains to be one of those considered as good practices for young people participation. Abolishing SK would mean abolishing this established avenue for our youth.

2. Not all SK Officials are corrupt.
Even as we hear that, time and again, SK Councils become breeding grounds for corruption, the institution need not suffer as a whole. Corruption is embedded in a complicated manner in our government but have we called for it's abolition? No. We just reform it, change the defective area to a system that's better, highly measurable and can be regularly monitored and evaluated.

There are still elected SK officials who are serving faithfully to their sworn duty - but their kind is getting extinct really quick. What we need to do is to uproot those officials born from political dynasties. I believe that we should ensure that the young people we install in power are responsible, accountable and highly qualified. Then maybe then, we could also increase our qualifications and standards for those running for public office.

3. Exhaust all means to reform first.
I believe that creating SK is a monumental success for young people to participate in public governance. Every program and institution created underwent series of consultations and processes before approval. I would like to credit that work and therefore exhaust all possible means to reform the system first before finally declaring it null.

We Filipinos love to tinker, most of us believe that when a piece of something is broken, it doesn't deserve to be thrown out the garbage until we have found ways to fix it. In SK there are parts of the system that seriously needs updating and or fixing. Let's tinker on that first and see how the institution will work after that.

4. Opportunity for young people for meaningful participation.
As many view SK as an opportunity for corruption, so am I when I view this as a great opportunity for young people to meaningfully participate in local governance. But this will only be realized if we put enough attention in the implementation of SK.

But as this is an opportunity for young people to participate in decision-making, this same opportunity becomes our stumbling block because many of these SK Officials (all of whom are adolescents) are just being dictated of what to do, what to sign, and what to decide. These young people are robbed of that opportunity the SK is supposed to provide.

In all honesty, I believe that it takes certain maturity, knowledge and experience for a young person to battle out many critical decision-making done in the locality especially those that are directly affecting their constituents. But how can a 16-year-old defend young people's concerns and have the over 40s approve or believe them. Seriously, it takes a huge bout of courage, knowledge and maturity to deal with these people - qualities which can be widely seen from young people above 20s.

5. The youth voice is as important as everyone else.
Yes many young SK officials are inexperienced in public policy and governance, financing and dynamics of politics - but this is what SK is for, a training ground for young people to hone their skills in governance and to equally represent their voices in the seats of power. If our SK officials turn corrupt, blame the adults -those at the barangay. Where could they have gotten these traits, techniques and "skills"? Where else but from their adult counterparts!

I've met many SK officials who would tell me their Barangay Chairman will command them to sign documents they do not fully understand or hold their finances to be allocated somewhere else. These young people fear that they might be taken for granted and ignored should they expose these things. I cannot blame them, for many of us do not believe our youth can discern rightfully and take the right decisions for themselves.

As we progress to approve the postponement of the SK elections, many proponents and forces will continue their desire to strip young people's avenue for meaningful participation in governance in the name of the charges they kept pressing which started from the adults originally.

Truly the SK is not a perfect institution and it has a lot of flaws -I believe no one is denying this. But these flaws can be amended and changed. Abolition is never an answer. Abolishing SK is contributing to the abolition of the avenues for young people and abolition of our voices to equally participate in decision-making that we will later inherit.

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