Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sangguniang Kabataan creator: Abolish SK!


Sangguniang Kabataan creator: Abolish SK!

Senator Pimentel wants barangays converted into bigger and viable economic units

By Efren L. Danao, Manila Times Senior Reporter

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr.,the “Father of Local Autonomy” and the lawmaker who “created” the Sangguniang Kabataan, are among the millions who are disgusted with the monster that the SK has become. He now wants the SK abolished.

He is also unhappy with the performance of some barangay officials and this most basic political and administrative unit’s failure to achieve its potential.

He wants the barangay to be converted from a political unit into a properly organized and therefore viable economic unit.

Pimentel told The Manila Times that he conceived of the SK as a vehicle for the youth to be actively involved in community development. Now he laments that this ideal has not been achieved.

“I now have very serious doubts in keeping the SK as such,” he said.

For him, the last straw was the conduct of the SK election on October 29. “The supposedly more idealistic youths were imitating their elders by engaging in cheating, vote-buying and intimidation. There was even a killing,” he said. “It was ugly before but now it is already a serious moral and social problem.”

SK monster created

It would seem then that Pimentel had created a “monster” in the SK where the youths get indoctrinated fast and early into the ways of the older, corrupt politicians of their localities. Very often, the SK chairmen are related to the powers-that-be in the local government.

Pimentel, however, has not given up his desire to involve the youth in development efforts. But this would have to be through vehicles other than the SK, which he hopes would eventually go. He said he is now consulting with acting Chairman Re­surreccion Borra and Commissioner Florentino Tuazon of the Commission on Elections to map out plans on how to accomplish this.

“One proposal is to elect at large a youth representative in the municipal or city council. This means that a youth candidate will run alongside those for councilors,” he said.

Under the Local Government Code, it is only the president of the SK in the entire town or city that becomes ex-officio member of the municipal or city council. Pimentel noted that vote buying is also resorted to in the election of the president of the local association of SKs.

Pimentel’s proposal for the conversion of barangays from political to economic units is a radical departure from the barangay as seen by the code he authored. The barangay is the smallest political unit but Pimentel said its potentials would be enhanced if it becomes a true to its ideal as an apolitical entity and becomes a true economic units instead.

He said that it is about time that barangays become financially autonomous and viable. He lamented that the continuing dependence of barangays, as well as other local government units, on their internal revenue allotments is keeping them tied to the strings of the power that disburses the IRA.

He pointed out that the Local Government Code had given the barangays the power to become true economic units by raising local taxes but most of them had failed to exercise this power.

Pimentel said that if barangays continue to depend on the IRA for their operation, they would remain subject to the dictates of higher local government units and this negates the autonomy envisioned for them under the Local Government Code.

“There will be consultations on how to convert the barangays into economic units. I am confident that concrete reforms would come out within the next three years, before the next barangay election,” he said.

He also called for a more rational creation of barangays by municipal or city councils to make them more effective in local development instead of being mere instruments for scheming politicians out to distribute largesse to their loyal followers.

He noted that among the country’s barangays are those with very small population and land area. Most of these barangays were created through a resolution that ignored the provision of the Local Government Code stating that a barangay should have a population of at least 2,000.

Thus, there is a big disparity between Barangay Commonwealth, the most populous barangay in the country with almost 180,000 residents, and Barangay 660 in Ermita, Manila, the smallest with a population of only 74. Despite its small number of residents, Barangay 660 gets an IRA of P260,000 a year. Barangay Commonwealth has an IRA of P24 million a year. The smallest barangay in Quezon City, Barangay Manga, has a population of only 494.

The most popular barangay in the country, Forbes Park in Makati , has a population of 3,420 and an IRA of P1,016,808.

Pimentel said that the people are not necessarily better represented by the creation of a big number of barangays. He lauded Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim for deciding to rationalize the city’s 897 barangays. (See related story tomorrow, “Barangay execs must remain elective–Lim.”)

“This means that a single street in Manila with very few residents would no longer be recognized as a barangay,” he said.

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