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Calls To Abolish Philippines' Local Youth Council

The national elections for village officials, including local youth councils, will be held in the Philippines this October. But a heated debate is underway, with some saying the youth council is a waste of money and should be abolished.

INDONESIA

Selasa, 20 Agus 2013 14:11 WIB

Calls To Abolish Philippines' Local Youth Council

Philippines, Local Youth Council, national election, Madonna T. Virola, Sangguniang Kabataan

The national elections for village officials, including local youth councils, will be held in the Philippines this October.

But a heated debate is underway, with some saying the youth council is a waste of money and should be abolished.

Proponents of the abolition, including election officials, claim the youth council has become a breeding ground for the political elite.

It’s a claim members of the youth council vehemently deny.

But according to 17-year-old Krystyna Dy, president of the federation of youth councils in Isabela province, northern Philippines, it is the sole representation of the youth down to the grassroots level or the barangay level.

She is strongly defending the Local Youth Council, called Sangguniang Kabataan, or SK, against calls for it to be abolished…

Across the country there are around 42,000 youth councils that are responsible for implementing youth welfare programs for a three-year term.

And the next elections are scheduled for this October.

James Jimenez is the director of the information and education office at the National Elections Commission.

He says the local youth councils have inspired young people to get involved in politics, but have not satisfactorily delivered services.

“It has evolved into something more than just an extension of the power structures that are already at play, not giving significant space to any newcomer.  It might have started out as an excellent program, but over the years we’ve seen it has not lived up to its potential and if we’ve given it the opportunity to- perhaps for lack of better words- redeem it self, it hasn’t. Now is time to do away with it.”

Whether to dissolve the Local Youth Councils across the country will be up to Congress, which includes both supporters and critics of the council.

The Elections Commission has urged President Aquino to ask legislators to defer the SK elections before the next election in October.

Professor Benjie Marzan from the University of the Philippines in Baguio City agrees the council should be dissolved.

He says the councils have become irrelevant and too sports-oriented.

“I think the youth should get involved more in terms of their commitment, not just lip service, to not be influenced by politicians because they are the future of the country so they should stand on their issues and get more involved in more serious ways rather than part of their leisure activity.”

But youth council officer Krystyna Dy says sports projects are alternatives to vices like drugs and gambling.

She proudly cites the other projects in her province, including a special program that addresses teen pregnancy.

“We hold youth counseling sessions around the national high schools, we had around 100 symposiums, for three years now, we’ve been distributing free diapers around RHUs, the daycare centers, we also give free vitamins. Now this year we’re giving away free first aid kits and medical kits in the same district hospitals. Just last year we held a surgical mission provincial wide. We have projects regarding the out-of-school youth.”

President Marcos established the youth council in 1975 in response to the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The law mandates that each village have its own youth legislative council, with eight elected officers aged between 15 and 17.

According to government regulation, 10 percent of a village’s total revenue should automatically go to the youth council.

In total, that’s about 102 million US dollars.

But the council is often accused of being a waste of money and a place for the political elite.

“They would accuse us of being the breeding ground of corruption or for political dynasties, we won’t get to that statute if our higher officials would set a good example to us, as if to treat us like pupils, we have to start from top down to the bottom because, we look up to our elders.”

Krystyna Dy’s father is vice president of the league of village captains in the province and president of Cauayan City.

She says there is nothing wrong with coming from a political family.

“I didn’t run because they forced me to run, because they want to monopolize the political realm in Isabela, it’s because I want to service, I grew up seeing my family serve, I’m doing good job. I hope the other officials in my country will also do a good job in their jurisdiction.”

Krstyna plans to finish law school then serve as a district representative in her province to champion the youth sector.

But James Jimenez is still convinced the youth council has to go.

“You can change structures but if you ultimately depend on -again- minors to run for office, you’re again opening up the possibility of minors related to other elected officials, then you’re not removing the problem of dynastism, you’re just changing the clothing of the program.”

Other politicians have suggested the budget for the council be scrapped entirely, to encourage young people to get involved on a voluntary basis.

Responding to the criticism Krystyna Dy says the council is not perfect, but they are working hard to improve.

“There is no such thing as a perfect institution.  We admit that we have shortcomings, we have problems. The Local Youth Council has filed a reform bill.”

This is to address issues raised against them like they’re too young to be playing with politics because officials age between 15 to 17.  Former youth council officers and now young senator
Bam Aquino, a nephew of President Aquino, has backed up Dy’s group.

Merle Pimentel is a development worker, who has been training young people on values-based leadership.

She says the youth council should be reinvented and not totally abolished.

“I still believe that the young people are still the hope of every nation.  They will be the future leaders, we really need to prepare them. What is important is to install a very good program that will strengthen their emotional, not just physical, social as well as spiritual strength or leadership.”

The debate over the country’s youth council continues, but whatever is decided hopefully the voices of young people continue to be heard…







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