Bicam panel approves SK Reform bill

MANILA, Oct. 7 (PNA) — The bicameral conference committee of Congress has approved the measure seeking to reform the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) by insulating it from too much politics.

The panel approved the bill late Tuesday after reconciling the conflicting provisions of the House and Senate versions and voted for an SK overhaul that will change the rules of SK processes and eligibility of leaders.

Among the bill’s key provisions include a higher age limit, financial independence, mandatory training and skills development of SK leaders and banning of political dynasties.

The consolidated reform measure sought to increase the age bracket for youths eligible to assume a post, from the 15-17 years old age bracket to 18-24 years old.

The proposed measure will also render SK financial independence, thus, giving the SK officials greater freedom in its operations, disbursements and encashment of their fund, income and expenditures.

To ensure there is adequate safeguards on the use, and against potential abuse of fiscal autonomy, the bill also provided for a mandatory training and seminar on leadership, program development and youth advocacy.

The consolidated bill has also adopted an anti-dynasty provision requiring that an SK official “must not be related within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity to any incumbent elected national official or 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.”

Members of the Bicam panel from the House of Representatives present include: Reps. Pedro Acharon Jr. (South Cotabato), Raul Del Mar (Cebu City), Anthony Del Rosario (Davao del Norte), Kaka Bag-ao (Dinagat Island) and Barry Gutierrez (Akbayan Partylist).

Meanwhile, Senate members present were Senators JV Ejercito, Koko Pimentel and Bam Aquino, who was the presiding officer.

Gutierrez, one of the principal authors of the bill at the House of Representatives, said the new rules will shut out political dynasties and traditional politicians from overextending into the SK system, and co-opting its mandate as tool for youth representation by turning it into a mere rubber stamp.

“By raising the age limit, we are also raising the level of accountability among elected SK officials, particularly as they are given greater autonomy to undertake SK decisions while ensuring that they are old enough to face charges of any potential wrongdoing,” the Akbayan Partylist lawmaker said.

“With these crucial reforms underway, we look forward to finally seeing the SK system living up to its potential of becoming an effective vehicle for advancing youth interests and a training ground for capable and effective leaders of the future,” Gutierrez said.

The proposed measure will now be sent back to both chambers of Congress for ratification before it is forwarded to President Benigno S. Aquino III for signature.

The House of Representatives is expected to ratify the bill within the week. (PNA)