What I learned from SK
By Hilda Austria
SINCE no law has bee passed directing the postponement Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) election period, SK elections will now be held on February 28, 2015.
As a former SK chairman, I am glad the election for the representatives of the youth sector will push through however I am also saddened that the promised set of reforms was not delivered. The same constitution and bylaws apply for the next three years when we all saw the need for a series of amendment.
Since, there will be a lot more days before the amendment of the SK’s constitution and bylaws I hope this article would reach the congressmen and senators for their consideration.
These are the things I learned as SK chairperson for five years.
First, many of the elected SK officials were forced or enticed by their parents to run for office. Being minors they could not disobey their parents’ will notwithstanding their leadership skills, plans and programs for the SK. (Although a number of them have succeeded in establishing themselves as leaders and visionaries in their own right as public servants, after being guided properly.
Second, the ‘hakot system’ is a rampant practice particularly during the election for federation officials. For years, this practice of gathering majority, if not all the voters, in one place in a hotel or resort a day or days before the election (where they are treated as special guests) by a running candidate. If the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Commission on Election (Comelec) knew about it, they certainly did not do anything to stop this anomalous practice – exposing the future leaders to vote-buying and bribery.
Third, suppliers, contractors and even government officials and employees teach SK leaders how to earn legitimate commissions depending on the amount desired from legitimate activities. Yes, they said it was legit until I met a non-government organization fighting corruption that opposes the malpractice in our government’s system we have come to know as ‘kickbacks’. I remember one contractor who informed me that a co- chairman of mine took a P50, 000 ‘commission’ for just one project, I wondered how they got away with that huge sum of money. But, of course, there were those who discouraged us from being hooked with the corruption with suppliers and contractors.
Fourth, the quality and success of the plans and programs implemented by the SK council was dependent on the approval and support of the barangay captain and council. The SK council had to fight for its idealism against the traditional and ‘experienced’ mindset in the council. It took lot of courage and humility to gain the approval of the council for the holding of projects and the accompanying budget that needed the signatures of the barangay captain and barangay treasurer.
Fifth, SK kagawads often did not support or cooperate with the SK chairman. Given the benefits and privileges accorded the SK chairman – honorarium, training seminars, educational trips to other provinces – these create enmities particularly when the SK chairman does not share or transfer learnings and experiences.
Sixth, SK is a fun training ground and exciting avenue for aspiring leaders of our country. In SK, either one’s idealism and visionary thinking will die or awakened. It will die if one gives in to the corrupt system or awakened when one learns to fight for what is right.
I hope those who had gone through it and emerged as ‘awakened’ will extend their hands to these young future leaders.