September 28, 2023

We only have one month before we hold the Sangguniang Kabataan elections 2023. This means that we, particularly the youths, will again share the enthusiasm to exercise our constitutional right to suffrage. However, as we prepare for the Sangguniang Kabataan 2023 elections, questions and concerns about the requirements and credentials for candidates in the SK elections persist, explicitly shown on social media platforms where SK candidates has been the subject of mockery in the form of memes.
For many years, the Sangguniang Kabataan has served as a collective venue for voicing out youth concerns (directly) affecting them and a platform for the young people in the Philippines to actively expose and engage in local governance. Republic Act 10742 or the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) Reform Act of 2015 provided the qualifications for aspiring candidates: a citizen of the Philippines; a qualified voter of the Katipunan ng Kabataan; a resident of the barangay for not less than one year immediately preceding the day of the election; able to read and write Filipino, English or the local dialect; 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, municipal, or barangay official in the locality where the aspirant seeks to be selected; and must not have been convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude.
While youth participation in local governance is undeniably an excellent measure to boost youth leadership, are our Constitutional requirements of being able to read and write, must be a registered SK voter, enough to qualify a candidate for such a position? We are all equally qualified to run if the Constitution is the basis. But the question is, are we similarly capable and deserving? As a youth, I believe we should have our own personal biases and standards apart from what our Constitution requires. In making an informed decision on who to vote for, consider adding criteria for the feasibility of a candidate’s platform. Their platform reflects their potential, principles, strategies, and goals in addressing the different political issues. What plans do they have, the questions of why and how are they going to actualize and defend such plans. This will help us to dig down deeper regarding the political status of a candidate. Also, look for candidates that have political skills and awareness. We would want a representative who is equipped and knowledgeable with our political system’s roundabout, a candidate with a firm political stance. This is where our relevant and enhanced educational background comes into play. Having a scholastic background germane in politics, such as political science, public administration, economics, etc., is an edge since the candidates have the basic theoretical knowledge regarding politics and the public. Theoretical knowledge goes hand in hand with practical application. This is why a candidate with applicable and material experience is a must. When we say experience, we mean a candidate who is immersed with volunteer works, and community involvement such as workshops, seminars, training programs. Significantly, a leadership experience(s) to ensure a more qualified and credible candidates.
Believe it or not, these biases will make it easier to filter out candidates who have a high potential as best fit to be our representative(s). Why must we have educated, competent, and experienced young leaders? Assuming a candidate can read and write, can they draft resolutions and policies, which are essential skills to carry out their function? What if the candidate lacks relevant leadership background experience and their only credential is winning a beauty contest or a basketball Liga? Can they provide constructive programs and solutions aside from pageants and liga to help the community? Or suppose the candidate is entirely unaware of our country’s political and contemporary issues, let alone identifying the primary concerns of the young Filipinos in their respective communities. How can they effectively resonate with us and address our pressing needs? Say the candidate is a Filipino but is foreign to the basics of our Philippine Constitution, such as the Preamble and more importantly the SK Reform Law, and the Local Government Code. Can they ensure a public service that is within the bounds of law? If beauty pageants, business establishments, or even people when looking for a partner, demand such standards, we too must define high standards for aspiring public servants since politics affects almost every aspect of our society. Requiring high standards and qualifications for Sangguniang Kabataan elections in the Philippines is a step towards a more efficient and effective youth governance system which in turn, would benefit the society. So, do you want competent, efficient and effective public governance? If yes, then I say raise your standards. Otherwise, we are just tolerating and contributing to a possible misgovernance.
The youth demography is a powerful force to impact our future and political landscape, so we have to scrutinize and demand only the best from aspiring candidates. Sangguniang Kabataan elections are not just another political event. These elections have the potential to bring about significant changes and provide the young Filipinos the power to build a better future by electing competent – not only constitutionally qualified but also intellectually and politically competent leaders who can represent our category, who can translate our needs to actions and policies, and who can reflect our aspirations and best interest.
To my fellow youth, as the countdown to Oct. 30 begins, it is crucial to recognize that the candidates we elect are not the culprits for change and the better-looking future we crave. Instead, it is the youth voters. The voters will decide what kind of leaders and governance we will have, the progress and changes we will attain, and the shape of the future we will look forward to. Every once in a while, we get the opportunity to redefine what it means to empower the next generation – a power that is in the hands of every youth like me. I hope, the youth will all make an intelligent choice on who to elect. As our all time favorite election motto goes, “Vote wisely.”