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Amicus Curiae

Genie Celini D. Nuevo

Of breaking political dynasties and empowering youth leaders

Genie Celini D. Nuevo

April 13, 2016

Republic Act No. 10742 or the “Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Act of 2015” signed into law on 15 January 2016 is the first of its kind in the Philippines.

It is a rethinking of the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) system under the Local Government Code. But it is a unique overhaul of the law in that it is the first legislation which directly concretized the 1987 Constitutional prohibition on political dynasties. Before its enactment, it is worth noting that the State Policies and Principles, detailed in Article II of the Constitution generally cannot be invoked without an enabling law. Thus, while the Philippine Constitution prohibits political dynasties, the Philippine political system continued to be dominated by generations of political families. It is no wonder then that when RA No. 10742 was passed, it was heralded as a big step towards realizing an Anti-Political Dynasty Law of which passing was long overdue.

 

The anti-political dynasty provision of RA No. 10742 provides that to become a Sangguniang Kabataan official, one must not be related within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity to any incumbent elected national official or to any incumbent elected regional, provincial, city, municipal, or barangay official, in the locality where he or she seeks to be elected. This is apart from revision in the age requirement that one be at least eighteen (18) years but not more than twenty-four (24) years of age on the day of the elections to be qualified as an SK Official.

With the imposition of the new qualification, it is hoped that the same will bring in new blood to Philippine politics largely monopolized by clans who have wielded power for generations. This is on the assumption that this new blood with a possibly different perspective and leadership style will invigorate if not enhance Philippine governance.

Yet there is more. Given that these new SK leaders who are products of an anti-political dynasty law are starting out young, the new law mandates that they undergo the mandatory training programs before they can assume office. This training is focused on emphasizing the role of the youth in nation-building and molding them to become better citizens with the values of patriotism, nationalism and honor as a Filipino. Deliberate failure to attend the said training programs shall constitute as sufficient ground to disqualify said SK official or subject him to disciplinary actions. The same might be stringent but it is only fitting as the law explicitly deems the SK chairperson and members in each barangay as persons in authority in their jurisdictions.

Along with strengthening the leadership skills of SK Officials, the revitalized SK law likewise better empowered the SK as an institution by giving it a degree of independence from the barangay council. To champion the cause of the youth, the SK is given the responsibility to initiate and implement, in coordination with any national government agency and/or any private or nongovernment institution, programs and projects designed to promote general welfare, development and empowerment of the youth. It can hold fund-raising activities which are in line with the Comprehensive Barangay Youth Development Plan.

To grant the SK a degree of freedom in carrying out its task, the new law specifically granted it financial independence in its operations, disbursements and encashment of its fund, income and expenditures. To this end, SK funds are to be separately deposited under the separate account in a government-owned bank situated in or nearest to its area of jurisdiction with the SK chairperson and the SK treasurer as the official signatories. With this, SK projects will not be held captive by the barangay council which might have a different set of priorities for the projects to be implemented.

Indeed, the Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Act of 2015 is a refreshing take on the Constitution’s recognition of the vital role of the youth in nation building. Now that its legislative foundations are laid, the Philippines await how these mechanisms in the new law will ultimately pan out.