Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo of the National Unity Party (NUP) has filed a measure seeking sweeping reforms in the composition and functions of the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) to help insulate its members from partisan politics and save the government some P9.25 billion annually.
Gunigundo, who represents the 2nd district of Valenzuela City, said his measure--House Bill 1333--aims to change the age requirement for SK members and officers and remove the SK Federation president as ex-officio member of local government legislative bodies.
To save the government over P9 billion annually, Gunigundo said his proposed law, among others, scraps the 10 percent allocation of the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) designated for the SK through the barangays.
“We cannot entrust power and public funds to teenagers aged 15 to 17 years old who are just beginning to learn what responsibility and accountability are all about. Under our existing laws, minors who are below 18 years old cannot enter into agreements, sign contracts, enter into marriage, obtain driver’s licenses, nor be prosecuted for criminal offenses. They have not reached the age of majority or emancipation,” said Gunigundo.
Gunigundo, who was the Deputy Majority Leader in the 15th Congress, said HB 1333 seeks pertinent amendments to several provisions of Republic Act 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991, to effect his proposed reforms.
These include Section 424, which he proposes should state that the Katipunan ng Kabataan shall be composed of Filipino citizens actually residing in the barangay for at least six months, who are 18 but less than 21 years of age on the day of the election, and who are duly registered in the list of the SK or in the official barangay list in the custody of the barangay secretary.
Gunigundo’s bill also modifies Section 329, pertaining to the general fund of the barangay fund, so that all the income of the barangay from whatever source shall accrue to its general fund and shall, at the option of the barangay concerned, be kept as a trust fund in the custody of the city or municipal treasurer or be deposited in a bank, preferably government-owned, situated in or nearest to its area of jurisdiction.
The measure seeks to amend Section 428 to ensure that an elective official of the SK is a Filipino citizen, a qualified voter of the Katipunan ng Kabataan, a resident of the barangay for at least one year immediately prior to election, at least 18 years but less than 21 years of age on the day of the election, able to read and write in Filipino, English, or the local dialect, and must not have been convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude.
It also proposes changes to Section 429 so that the term of office of SK officials shall commence at noon of November 30 next following their election and shall end at noon on November 30 five years thereafter unless sooner removed for cause as provided by law, permanently incapacitated, die or resign from office or have reached the age of 21.
The measure likewise aims to repeal Sections 436 to 438 of RA 7160 pertaining to the Pederasyon ng mga Sangguniang Kabataan.
Gunigundo noted that the Comelec would have to spend at least P3.2 billion to elect 42,025 SK chairpersons and 294,175 SK councilors nationwide.
Moreover, RA 7160 provides that 10 percent of the IRA share of barangays should go to the SK, which is around P6 billion this year.
“With the approval of this bill, our government saves P9.25 billion which can be better allocated for teacher training and materials development under the K to 12 Law,” said Gunigundo.
Gunigundo noted that the reforms are necessary to correct the flawed setup of the SK, which allows minors to dispose of public funds and participate in partisan political activities.
“Removing the ‘ex-officio’ position of SK in the local government legislative bodies, such as the Sangguniang Panlalawigan or Sangguniang Panglungsod will insulate the SK from the negative influence of unscrupulous politicians,” he said.
Gunigundo pointed out that the SK is not truly representative of the entire youth population of the country. Based on data supplied by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the National Youth Commission (NYC), there are only 2,459,520 registered SK voters for the October 2010 elections, which is not even 10% of the 27,825,500 total youth population nationwide according to Gunigundo.
He brushed aside concerns that the youth might not be heard if the SK’s participation in legislative activities are restricted. Gunigundo noted that persons as young as 18 years old can be elected as barangay kagawads, persons 21 years old and above can be elected to the City or Municipal Council, and persons 25 years of age can be elected as members of the House of Representatives.