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  • Writer's pictureTelibert Laoc

Hope in Philippine Politics: In-School Youth in the Sangguniang Kabataan

There were no candidates in over 11,000 of the 360,000 (3 percent) elective positions in the Sangguniang Kabataan elections in 2018. Most of the places are in the urban areas, cites Hirayang Kabataan, a civil society organization training youth to understand the SK and run in the elections in 2023. Not included in the count are the number of candidates who ran without opponents – lone candidacies, which the Democratic Insights Group suspects is a much higher number*.


The Sanggunian Kabataan are barangay-level youth councils composed of elected officials aged between 15 and 30 years old. The eight-member body includes a chairperson, and a secretary**. There will be at least 42,029 barangay in this year’s elections. This would require at least 672,000 candidates for each post to be contested by at least two candidates.



Encouraging in-school youth to run in the SK elections


With their Tara Takbo! Program, Hirayang Kabataan engages youth through their respective schools, to run in the sangguniang kabataan elections. In preparation for the elections in October this year, the organization invited DIG to attend their training with youth from different schools under the Diocese of Imus (Cavite) Educational System. Fifty senior high school students were in a three-day workshop to orient them on the SK elections, prepare them to mount a campaign, and become SK leaders in their locality.


A second of a series, teachers from various schools served as trainers, taking on the role that Hirayang Kabataan played in the prior session. DICES plans to run future workshops with alumni and for youth in various communities. For their part, Hirayang Kabataan will be engaging more schools as there is more interest in this work that they do.


Hirayang Kabataan and DICES youth training on the sangguniang kabataan in late January 2023 in the province of Cavite. (Photo Credits: DIG)

The SK as a training ground


Republic Act 10742 or the Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Act of 2015 is novel and is lauded for its anti-political dynasty provision which states that, a candidate “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.”


Women candidates in the national and local elections make up as little as over 20 percent. It appears that the political groups and parties are not keen enough to have women candidates among their ranks. The DIG looks at the SK and sangguniang barangay as lesser politicized and akin to the ground-breaking anti-political dynasty provision in the SK, legislating a gender quota for these councils might just work. There would be a need for a few more research on how women youth could be encouraged to run in these village-level contests, which in the future could help the supply-side with attracting potential female (and male) candidates.


Support for SK officials


In the DIG’s Run in the SK Elections Campaign Program, where Hirayang Kabataan will be in the forefront along with various civil society organizations and schools, schools will be invited to inform students on the SK and encourage them, especially women youth, to run. This program promotes Maayos na pulitika sa mga bata magmumula, or banking on the youth from which good politics would come. The theory of change would be that SK officials would better serve their constituencies when they are supported and assisted by institutions of higher learning.


When students signify interest, they will have access to resources that would guide them in planning and running a campaign. Once elected the students will receive capacity-building inputs that would help them carry out the tasks of an SK official. The inputs will be online and delivered monthly through 1.5 hour-sessions throughout the 36 months of their entire term. Topics would include orientation on the barangay youth development planning, budgeting, program execution, systems thinking, as well as on youth engagement programs by different political parties around the world and developments in leadership and the use of technology to improve citizen engagement.


Within the second quarter of 2024, DIG would bring together schools and universities supporting the call for students to run in the SK polls to organize a lobby. This would be to amend Republic Act 10742 in order that the state-subsidy for education for SK officials to be expanded to include private universities. SK officials enjoy free tuition only if they go to state universities and colleges. The lobby would also include amendments to ensure gender parity in the SK within a municipality.


Data needs for the 2023 elections


To improve public knowledge, the DIG recommends for the Commission on Elections to collect and publicize data within a month of the elections, following the data principles in the Open Election Data Initiative, on:

  1. Number of candidates, disaggregated by female and male, per barangay;

  2. Number of uncontested elections; and

  3. Votes of all candidates by barangay.


Notes:

* The DIG writes in a three-part series that candidacies from the provincial level, including district representatives to Congress down to the city or towns, had their share of unopposed contests, a phenomenon in Philippine politics.

** On the query, “What is the distribution of female and male officials in the sangguniang kabataan? Point to the website of the National Youth Commission that has statistical data.”, ChatGPT responded that the National Youth Commission data in December 2020 show that there are 296,586 officials nationwide and 51 percent are female. However, the link: https://database.nyc.gov.ph/sk-database/, can no longer be accessed.

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