“The deepest definition of youth is life as yet untouched by tragedy.” —Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947)
AS the country prepares for the upcoming elections for the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK), it’s time to rethink the relevance of this “institution” in the country’s political system. At the outset, allow us to say let’s consider abolishing it. With the corrupt nature of the country’s politics today, such an early initiation into the arena would conceivably heighten the risk of corrupting our children, turning them into cynical political operators at an early age.
The SK was supposedly a mechanism to channel the energies of the youth in nation-building. It was a nice idea, really, whose parentage could be traced to our national hero Jose Rizal’s prophetic words about the youth as “the future of the motherland.” Indeed, it’s nice to think of the young people planning their own sports activities, helping in the cleanup and management of the local environment, or even doing small projects like antidrugs campaigns as well as values education.
The reality, however, strays far from such expectations. Even before the start of the election-campaign season, we have seen youngsters brazenly aping the deadly sins of traditional politicians. We have seen young candidates resorting to the hakot system, hiring trucks and vehicles for their “supporters” to make an impression of popular support, as they troop to the Comelec office to file their candidacies. In essence, they are violating the rule on premature campaigning, but these youngsters say they are not since they don’t have posters saying “vote for so and so.” It’s a clever trick that most politicians resort to all the time.
SK candidates are also not supposed to spend so much money for campaigning. And yet, we can already see lots of huge posters of SK candidates around. Where did these young people get the money? This question is important because it seems we are actually socializing these young people in money politics in so early an age. And it’s not far-fetched that some of these young people might eventually be tempted to buy votes and manipulate the entire electoral process.
We are not against active participation of the youth in community affairs per se. In fact, we would like to encourage them. But politicizing this process is not the way to go. These days, there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence indicating that many SKs have become extensions of local political dynasties. Many of them have drifted into the web of the sleazy and corrupt network of patronage politics. Some of these youngsters ended up not finishing their studies and became local wheeler-dealers.
“So young and yet so corrupt.”
Does that line ring a bell?
Instead, why not just hold a simple local assembly of young people for them to elect among themselves their representatives, the way school kids elect their class officers? And once they have their own set of officers in the communities, they still can suggest important legislation by simply approaching their local adult legislators, whose job really is to draft local ordinances and rules for local development.
We are suggesting these simple roles for them in community affairs because at such a tender age, these kids should really be spending their time in school. Parents and the community as a whole should give time for the kids to study, to play, and enjoy local educational and ennobling cultural opportunities.
Let’s give the business of governance to adults. Let’s allow our children to enjoy their youth. A few years from now these young people will also become adults. Then they will have their time to serve the community and the nation as a whole. (Originally drafted as editorial for BusinessMirror, 19 October 2007)