MANILA, Philippines – National Youth Commission (NYC) chair and celebrity Aiza Seguerra appealed to Congress to let Sangguniang Kabataan elections push through this October.
"Kung ayaw nilang ituloy ang barangay [elections], maintindihan namin. Pero sana 'yung SK [elections] ibigay na po sa amin. It’s been years," said Seguerra on Tuesday, August 15, during a Palace news briefing.
(If they want to postpone the barangay elections, we understand. But I hope they give us the SK elections.)
Seguerra was asked to weigh in on Congress' moves to postpone barangay and SK elections from October this year to May 2020. House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, President Rodrigo Duterte's staunch ally in the lower chamber, is gunning for the postponement in order to give Duterte the power to appoint barangay officials. (READ: Are we postponing barangay and SK elections or not? P500M is at stake)
Seguerra, an appointee of the President, said that SK elections must push through to allow more youth representation in government.
"It’s hard if old people or if adults will decide for young people. What we want is representation," Seguerra said.
While Alvarez himself wants to abolish SK because he claims its officials are paid by government even if they do not work, Seguerra asked the public to give the institution a chance.
"If they fear that what happened before will happen again, that's why there is reform. SK is different now. Please give SK a chance," said Seguerra.
By reforms, Seguerra was referring to the SK Reform Act which aims to curb corruption in the youth council. The law raises the age requirement for SK officials from 15-17 years old to 18-24 years old. It also requires them to undergo leadership training for good government practices and fiscal transparency.
Another major part of the legislation is its anti-dynasty provision that prohibits kin of incumbent officials up to the second degree of affinity and consanguinity to run for a position in the SK.
Asked if the postponement of SK elections will hamper implementation of NYC programs, Seguerra said local youth development offices, created by the SK Reform Act, can implement those programs instead.
Many local government units, from the municipal to the provincial level, already have LYDOs, he was happy to report.
Seguerra also differed with President Duterte on how to handle lumad schools which teach students to rebel against the government.
Duterte has threatened to bomb buildings of such lumad schools. Seguerra, meanwhile, hoped the President will do no such thing.
"We want to make sure that all schools won't be affected by any war or any power struggle so, of course, we are asking the President to not do that," said the NYC chief.
He also appealed to various groups not to use learning institutions to brainwash children with their own propaganda or agenda.
"Let’s lay off our schools. Let’s make sure that the youth will study, that the youth will learn to think for themselves," said Seguerra.
Responding to backlash from Duterte's threat to bomb lumad schools, Malacañang clarified that the President only meant tougher crackdown on schools which flout Department of Education regulations.
The Philippine military said Duterte's threat is not policy, but just a way of communicating a tough stance, thus they will not be bombing lumad schools. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.