The Sangguniang Kabataan: training ground for leaders or trapos?

By Wilhelm Matthew A. Tan

The Sangguniang Kabataan is the barangay youth council dedicated to the development and promotion of programs and activities that cater to the youth’s needs. On paper, this is an excellent platform for emerging leaders to hone their skills in public service. However, it has turned out to be a microcosm of the “adult” government where it is marred with issues of corruption and nepotism.

What really qualifies a candidate for SK? Be 18-24 years old, a Filipino citizen, and literate. Basically the same as a candidate for local and national government. The writer believes that these qualifications are not enough to assure the barangay’s youth that their aspiring leaders are ready to serve them if they meet the age and citizenship requirements. The future leaders of the barangay youth must be able to prove that they are not merely names in a popularity contest, and that sitting in public office is a reminder that their fellow youth trusts them to carry out their campaign promises and forge a better community for their constituents.

It may shock people to see that some of the candidates have no leadership experience or have taken up service roles in the school or the community. What do they expect when some of the country’s “leaders” were celebrities who have no idea what parliamentary procedures are? Grim as it may sound, but the youth leaders must now set a precedent for future leaders by taking up active roles in the community and in school before they can even file their certificates of candidacy.

Can the SK do more than barangay beauty pageants and basketball tournaments? Of course they can, and should. Symposiums on the risks of drugs and alcohol, teenage pregnancy, and leadership trainings should be more of the norm. Is it not the SK’s responsibility to mobilize the youth in nation building? And yes, anti-corruption and good governance as well. Corruption is so deeply rooted in Filipino culture that there are rampant Facebook posts about SK chairpersons inquiring about motorcycles days prior to the election. By enabling corruption among the SK’s ranks, they do nothing more than train and breed traditional and corrupt politicians.

To end this tirade or critique on the SK’s current status, depending on the reader’s views, “because mabait” and “tumutulong naman” are not valid enough reasons to vote for a candidate. A friendly candidate can be as incompetent as a rude one. A candidate with a strong moral fiber and a track record that vouches for their service is the one the youth should vote as their representative.

Wilhelm Matthew A. Tan is a psychology student studying in Iloilo.