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Youth Participation in Local Governance
By Ramon T. Ayco, Sr.
March 2008
The words “governance” and “good governance” appear frequently these days in the discourse of
aid agencies, civil society groups and governments at all levels. In the development world, the
term does refer to the activities of government, but it is understood to go beyond government and
to include the relationships between formal government institutions and an active civil society.
There are eight (8) major characteristics of good governance and the first one is participatory.
The other seven includes: consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and
efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law.
Indeed, participatory is the first characteristic and is a key cornerstone of good governance.
Participation could be either direct or through legitimate intermediate institutions or
representatives. It is important to point out that representative democracy does not necessarily
mean that the concerns of the most vulnerable in society would be taken into consideration in
decision making. Participation needs to be informed and organized. This means freedom of
association and expression on the one hand and an organized civil society on the other hand.
Civil society refers to that sphere of voluntary associations and informal networks in which
individuals and groups engage in activities of public consequence. It is distinguished from the
public activities of government because it is voluntary, and from the private activities of markets
because it seeks common ground and public goods. It is often described as the "third sector."
Civil society includes voluntary associations of all sorts: churches, neighborhood organizations,
cooperatives, fraternal and sororal organizations, charities, unions, parties, social movements,
interest groups, and families. The inclusion of the family among those forms of social interaction
between economy and state yields the broadest definition of civil society. The boundaries are
defined variously in the theoretical literature, and there is much elasticity and ambiguity.
Reformers in Eastern Europe, who have been key to reviving the use of the term in recent years,
use it expansively to define the challenges of a democratic transition from statist regimes.
American conservatives are likely to speak of "mediating structures" more narrowly, and focus
on the family, neighborhood and local voluntary associations. Left-liberal intellectuals often
make the new social movements (women's movement, environmental movement etc.) the heart
of their argument for a renewed civil society that places the public sphere on more pluralistic
According to the Centre for Civil Society at the London School of Economics, “civil society”
refers to the arena of un-coerced collective action around shared interests, purposes and values.
In theory, its institutional forms are distinct from those of the state, family and market, though in
practice, the boundaries between state, civil society, family and market are often complex,
blurred and negotiated. Civil society commonly embraces a diversity of spaces, actors and
institutional forms, varying in their degree of formality, autonomy and power.
The idea of civil society as a corrective force to both arbitrary government and imperfect markets
emerged in the 19th century. The impetus for better governance has come, more often than not,
from grassroots movements in both urban and rural areas. Recent examples include the role of
student protests in the 1960s in the United States (US) and Europe, citizen and youth protests in
some Asian countries (e.g., Philippines, South Korea); movements organized around
environmental and global issues, etc. Often the root of such movements and organizations is a
feeling of alienation and non-consultation in the process leading to major decisions affecting the
livelihood of people.
The transition from single-party to multi-party systems in many transition and developing
countries has resulted in new, and often fragile, forms of representative government that are
superimposed on the erstwhile colonial or authoritarian structures and have not yet taken root
among the citizens. In such nations, civil society organizations play a critical role in countering
arbitrary actions and consolidating the base of good governance.
Moreover, recent efforts to address social exclusion and a democratic deficit focus on the role of
civil society organizations, use of volunteers, and partnerships. Democratic deficit involves the
lack of voice to the people, beyond electoral franchise and periodic elections. Social exclusion
refers to the marginalization of minorities, women, and weaker sections from the processes of
policy making, local administration, and the delivery of services.
Encouraging civil society organizations can, in time, help address both problems by fostering the
involvement of people in specific activities of concern to them, and they create a new
assertiveness and habit of participation.
In the Philippines civil society started blossoming in the late twentieth century, ironically, during
the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos (1972-86). The fifteen years of arbitrary governance, crony
protection, profligate living and gross human rights violations, capped by economic collapse,
heightened organized resistance to the repressive regime. In four momentous days in February
1986, Filipinos cried, “Enough!” Marcos Dictatorship was toppled down by a people power
uprising called EDSA I.
The years since EDSA I have witnessed an explosion of civil society groups in the Philippines.
From 27,100 non-government organizations (NGOs) registered as non-stock, non-profit with the
Philippines Securities and Exchange Commission in 1986, the number almost doubled to 50,800
by March 1992. That figure has increased to anywhere from 60,000 to over 95,000 NGOs today.
However, only an estimated 5,000 – 7,000 of these are grassroots NGOs whose organizers focus
on empowering poor and excluded people, and who live and work with them to overcome
poverty and powerlessness in rural, urban and indigenous communities. The other registered
NGOs center their activities around more middle-class interests, as in professional associations,
church-related groups, welfare associations, student alliances, professional organizations, labor
unions, academic institutions and the like.
Formally registered people’s organizations (POs) number in the thousands, augmented by 35,000
registered cooperatives, and a large but uncertain number of unregistered community groups.
Although the total figure for POs in the Philippines is difficult to estimate, one can confirm that
their numbers are growing. The local as well as national influence of NGOs, and increasingly
POs, is all the remarkable when one considers their aim of transforming a society with a
population pegged at 82.6 million in 2004 by the National Statistics Office (NSO). A 1998
nationwide survey revealed that no more than 15.9 percent of families listed themselves as
affiliated with POs or NGOs, while another 12.9 percent cited membership in cooperatives.
While these figures may appear small, in actual numbers NGOs and POs reached 2,384,943
families out of the 14,370,711 total for the entire country. Cooperative families covered 852,385
families. This is no mean feat.
The Philippines has often considered as possessing one of the most vibrant, robust, dynamic, and
participatory civil society in the world (Clarke 2000, Racelis 2000). Several cases has proven its
efficacy in providing policy inputs (Magadia 2003), delivering social services, pursuing socioeconomic development, and generating accountability. There is added significance if this will be
juxtaposed in the prevailing belief that the country possesses a “weak state” (Hutchcroft 1991).
But beyond this, the context of an active civil society in the Philippines is contingent upon the
idea that the process of democratization is an inclusive process that definitely necessitates its
participation and active engagement.
In fact, as much as there is a burden on the part of the state to institute the necessary reforms and
address the existing deficits in its democratic governance, civil society organizations are
responsible for a substantial portion of this task. As the primary actor responsible for the
transition from authoritarian rule, they cannot sit back, relax, and leave the task to the
government as there remains a plethora of problems, inadequacies, and limitations of the current
democratic polity.
At present, there are two interrelated modes of civil society engagement as far as the
agenda for democratization is concerned (Eaton 2003). On the one hand, there is the
protest mode which is what most civil society actors are familiar. The tactics of “expose and
oppose” run deep within the nature of Philippine civil society as manifested not only in the antidictatorship struggle but significant instances in post-Marcos politics. It comprises of the socalled “parliament of the streets”, coalition-building, collective mobilization, mass actions,
media campaigns, and community organizing. This mode of (dis)engagement often is a weapon
of last resort, particularly if normal or available venues have been exhausted.
Moreover, this contentious approach is often utilized when civil society perceives that the
democratic gains that it vehemently fought for are being jeopardized. This precedent had
tremendous repercussions for the nature of civil society that developed in post-Marcos Philippine
politics. It would not be the last time that societal groups were able to successfully demand
accountability from the state. The anti-Estrada campaign that culminated in the so-called People
Power II Revolt (or EDSA 2) is a genuine testament of the efficacy and strength of collective
mobilization in the Philippines. In this highly contentious episode, societal actors came to
challenge the legitimate rule of a very popular leader on charges of cronyism and corruption. The
range and intensity of contention spearheaded by the country’s civil society was not witnessed
since the struggle against the Marcos regime in the 1980s. Collective action generally aimed at
exacting accountability from President Estrada was successfully mounted using the framework
of resignation, impeachment, and ouster (RIO). In conjunction with other strategies of societal
accountability in different periods of the campaign, civil society groups were able to expose the
President’s political scandals, maintain these issues in the public agenda, acquire media attention
and national visibility, activate and exercise oversight over political institutions and legal
processes, and invite public support and participation (See Arugay 2004).
On the other hand, there is the participation mode, a more novel component in civil society’s
repertoire of engagement. This has reference to its contribution to the struggle to “restore”
democracy in the country. As a stakeholder in the post-authoritarian political dispensation, the
organizations that comprised civil society would want to institutionalize their access to power
and democratic space in the country’s policy processes. This enables them to forge strategic
partnerships to “collaborate and cooperate” with the state as well as other sectors in society in the
creation of new structures, mechanisms, institutions, and policies that could improve the health
of Philippine democracy. This requires civil society actors to devote their technical competence,
experiences, insights, and skills in order to come up with viable alternatives and lasting solutions
to lingering problems of the country. This mode may involve policy advocacy campaigns, the
establishment of public-civil society partnerships, and direct consultations with political
II. Youth as a major part of civil society
Youth organizations (NGOs and POs) are important part of civil society; and besides youth
within youth organizations, almost all other organizations in civil society have youth as members
and leaders. From that, we can conclude that youth is a major part of civil society.
The youth can be a good and powerful partner in governance not only in contributing novel ideas
but most importantly in putting novel ideas into reality. Not only for the youth sector but also for
the whole community and society as well. Not only for the future but most importantly at
Youth have a vital role to play in shaping present and future societies, and their transition to
independent adulthood is crucial in this regard.
The United Nations General Assembly defines “youth” as anyone between the ages of 15 and 24,
the age group when the builders of future families and rearers of the next generation develop
concrete attitudes and behaviour about being responsible parents and adults.
According to the World Assembly of Youth (WAY), there are about one billion youth living in
the world.1 This amounts to approximately one person out of five, or 17 percent of the world’s
total population. WAY states that about 85 percent of the world’s youth live in developing
On the 2007 International Youth Day celebration the United Nations announced that the world’s youth population
reached 1.2 billion.
countries and 60 percent in Asia alone. The total youth population is 525 million young men and
500 million young women, the majority of whom live in rural areas in the developing world.
In Asia in 2007 the estimated number of population of youth between the ages of 15 and 24 is
738 million, accounting for more than 18 per cent of the region’s population.
Table 1: The youth population in Asia and its subregions, 1960-2050
(in thousands and as a proportion of the total population)
West Asia
South-East Asia
East Asia
294 380
18.5 11 486
40 110
19.2 131 486 17.8
325 702
18.4 12 781
43 086
18.2 149 465 18.4
398 680
19.9 16 064
51 462
19.1 187 093 20.2
460 113
20.4 19 520
63 082
20.8 206 080 20.0
514 153
20.8 23 009
73 414
21.7 224 854 20.5
591 992
22.1 26 591
82 478
22.1 268 174 23.3
643 035
21.8 29 947
90 570
22.2 285 267 22.9
645 844
20.1 33 577
96 683
21.6 251 609 19.2
663 246
19.3 37 784
102 216
21.2 226 397 16.8
26 298
62 107
94 911
(1960-2000) 368 866
720 859
19.7 41 254
106 941
20.7 243 728 17.3
749 527
19.2 43 944
108 953
19.7 243 697 16.4
735 023
17.9 46 077
107 356
18.4 221 084 14.5
14 164
4 823
- 22 644 -2.8
714 618
16.6 47 184
106 659
17.4 201 051 13.0
709 765
15.8 48 958
107 631
16.7 188 238 11.8
718 880
15.4 51 296
106 209
15.8 189 567 11.7
719 875
14.9 52 612
103 152
14.9 191 729 11.7
706 101
14.2 52 878
100 330
14.0 188 789 11.5
681 642
13.5 52 421
98 288
13.4 180 420 11.1
655 470
12.7 51 974
96 329
12.9 169 106 10.4
Source: United Nations, World Population Prospects: The 2006 Revision (New York: 2007).
111 298 19.2
120 370 18.5
144 061 19.8
171 431 20.9
192 875 20.9
214 748 20.8
237 250 20.5
263 977 20.4
296 850 20.9
185 552
328 937
352 933
360 506
31 569
359 724
364 939
371 809
372 382
364 104
350 513
338 060
In the Philippines, young people from 15 to 30 years of age comprised 28.43 percent of the total
82.6 million Filipinos in 2004 according to the NSO. However, disparate operational definitions
of “youth” exist across government agencies as shown below:
National youth Commission (NYC) – 15-30 years old
Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) - 15-24 years old
Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) - 15-21 years old
Department of Health (DOH) - 10-24 years old
Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) - 7-18 years old
Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) - 7-18 years old
These variations are not unproblematic and, in fact, result in administrative overlaps. The
situation also presents a formidable obstacle to systematic data collection on the sector for
purposes of planning and policy formulation.
Youth Rights
Before anything else in dealing with the youth we have to recognize first the youth rights.
Youth rights refers to a set of philosophies intended to enhance civil rights for young people.
Youth rights are inherently responsive to the oppression of young people, with advocates
challenging ephebiphobia (the psychological and social fear of youth), adultism2 and ageism
through youth participation, youth/adult partnerships, and ultimately, intergenerational equity.
With rights of course come responsibilities. In a democracy the right to participate and vote
implies a responsibility to become more active in the community, to learn how to listen to the
views of others.
The "youth rights movement", also described as "youth liberation", is a nascent grassroots
movement whose aim is to fight against ageism and for the civil rights of young people - those
"under the age of majority", which is 18 in most countries. It is ostensibly an effort to combat
pedophobia and ephebiphobia throughout society by promoting youth voice, youth
empowerment and ultimately, intergenerational equity through youth/adult partnerships.
As opposed to "children's rights" groups, which tend to advocate entitlements for young people
and favor paternalistic handling of minors by government, youth rights organizers seek to
enhance the role of young people in society through youth empowerment and equal rights.
First emerging as a distinct movement in the 1930s, youth rights have long been concerned with
civil rights and intergenerational equity. Tracing its roots to youth activists during the Great
Depression, youth rights has influenced the civil rights movement, opposition to the Vietnam
War, and many other movements. Since the advent of the Internet youth rights is gaining
predominance again.
Of primary importance to youth rights advocates are historical perceptions of young people,
which are informed by paternalism, adultism and ageism in general, as well as fears of children
and youth.
Youth rights advocates believe those perceptions inform laws throughout society, including age
of consent, Child labor laws, right-to-work laws, curfews, drinking age, driving age,
emancipation of minors, minors and abortion, closed adoption, corporal punishment, the age of
majority, military conscription and the right to sign contracts.
There are specific set of issues addressing the rights of youth in schools, including zero
tolerance, gulag schools, In loco parentis, and student rights in general. Homeschooling,
unschooling, and alternative schools are popular youth rights issues.
Adultism is a predisposition towards adults, which some see as biased against children, youth, and all young
people who aren't addressed or viewed as adults. Adultism is popularly used to describe any discrimination against
young people and is distinguished from ageism, which is simply prejudice on the grounds of age; not specifically
against youth. Adultism is ostensibly caused by fear of children and youth.
A long-standing effort within the youth rights movement has focused on civic engagement.
There have been a number of historical campaigns to increase youth voting rights by lowering
the voting age and the age of candidacy. There are also efforts to get young people elected to
prominent positions in local communities, including as members of city councils and as mayors.
Strategies for gaining youth rights that are frequently utilized by their advocates include
developing youth programs and organizations that promote youth activism, youth participation,
youth empowerment, youth voice, youth/adult partnerships and intergenerational equity between
young people and adults.
Other issues that concerns youth are education, unemployment, juvenile delinquency ….
Youth Activism
Youth activism is best summarized as youth voice engaged in community organizing for social
change. It deals not only with youth issues like education, unemployment, juvenile delinquency,
etc. but also other social issues like graft and corruption, environmentalism, globalization, etc..
Around the world young people are engaged as activism planners, researchers, teachers,
evaluators, social workers, decision-makers, advocates and leading actors in the environmental
movement, social justice organizations, campaigns supporting or opposing legalized abortion,
and anti-racism, and anti-homophobia campaigns. As the central beneficiaries of public schools,
youth are also advocating for student-led school change through student activism and meaningful
student involvement.
There are three main forms of youth activism. The first is youth involvement in social activism.
This is the predominant form of youth activism today, as millions of young people around the
world participate in social activism that is organized, informed, led, and assessed by adults.
Many efforts, including education reform, children's rights, and government reform call on youth
to participate this way, often called youth voice. Youth councils are an example of this.
The second type is youth-driven activism requires young people to be the primary movers within
an adult-led movement. Such is the case with the Sierra Club, where youth compel their peers to
join and become active in the environmental movement. This is also true of many organizations
that were founded by youth who became adults, such as SEAC, National Youth Rights
Association, Global Youth Action Network, and Free the Children. Such is also the case with the
European Youth Union.
The third type is the increasingly common youth-led community organizing. This title
encompasses action which is conceived of, designed, enacted, challenged, redesigned, and driven
entirely by young people. There is no international movement that is entirely led by youth, aside
from the World Federation of Democratic Youth, which has UN NGO status. A number of local
or mission-driven initiatives serve as examples, including Ignite, addressing tobacco use; Seattle
Young Peoples Project, located in Seattle; and Article 12, working for youth involvement in
In the Philippines, the chronicle of the Filipino nation is that of youthful aspirations for change.
Some of the major figures of the Philippine struggle for independence from Spain had barely
reached adulthood when they produced their bravest deeds. José Rizal published his seminal
novel Noli Me Tangere (which meant “Touch Me Not”) that exposed the abuses of the Spanish
clergy in 1886, when he was just 25 years old. Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Jacinto, the
founders of the clandestine insurgency movement, began organizing the resistance to the colonial
state when they were in their twenties. Bonifacio’s wife and comrade, Gregoria de Jesus, was
just 21 years old when she joined the struggle in 1896.
Fast-forwarding to the early1960s and 1970s, it was again a strong, socially committed youth
movement that began to mobilize against another repressive regime, that of President Ferdinand
Marcos. Examples of militant Youth Organizations during 60s and 70s were Kabataang
Makabayan (KM), Student Cultural Association of the Philippines (SCAUP), Samahang
Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK), National Union of Student of the Philippines (NUSP), College
Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), and many more.
After the declaration of martial law in 1972, these youth activists provided the backbone to the
organized anti-dictatorship movement throughout those dark years. Militant youth organizations
like KM went underground to pursue their nationalist and democratic goals. Many of them went
as far as national democratic guerrilla fighters.
People Power of 1986, which resulted in the bloodless ouster of Marcos, was yet another
landmark in Philippine history. It was made possible with the help of young volunteers who
exposed electoral fraud at the hands of Marcos and provided logistical support to day-long mass
mobilizations. People Power II was no different. Again, young Filipinos provided the muscle to
peaceful mass actions that led to the downfall of President Joseph Estrada in 2001 over his grave
misuses of power and public funds.
While the two People Power hallmarks were about peacefully mobilizing against abusive and
corrupt regimes of Marcos in 1986 and Estrada in 2001, there was another People Power called
EDSA Tres which was a violent expression of urban poor protesters registering their dissent
against the Arroyo government over the arrest of “their president” Joseph Estrada. While the
former were mainly a middle class mobilizations, the failed siege of the presidential palace on
the 1st of May 2001 was an action mainly by urban poor in Metro Manila and suburbs.
What comes to the fore here is the ugly class divide that is so characteristic of Philippine society.
Perhaps this can explain why the youth has not been able to successfully mobilize as a unified
youth movement, since class divisions provide more salient markers of identity than generational
Only when it comes to issue-based campaigns, have there been successful attempts at
consolidating various youth groups. One such triumph is the First-Time Voters campaign, which
emerged from the voters’ registration fiasco during the time of People Power II. As seen earlier,
the lack of public information on the process and deadline of enlistment for new voters resulted
in the gross disenfranchisement of 4.5 million young people. Although the youth groups that
mobilized to assert their right to suffrage in 2001 were not able to reverse the COMELEC’s
stance, their actions grabbed national headlines and engaged all three branches of government.
Spearheaded by Akbayan youth, the groups3 filed a case at the Supreme Court, forced the
legislature into the special session and provoked a special intervention by President Arroyo.
Another recent achievement is the suspension of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC)
following the murder of Manila-based University of Santo Tomas engineering student Mark
Wilson Chua in March 2001. He had paid with his life for exposing alleged anomalies in his
school’s ROTC program. Various student groups across ideological persuasions and geographic
locations staged mass actions, which snowballed into calls for reforms to democratize and
demilitarize the National Service Program. Legislative measures have since led the ROTC to
become an optional program.
The collective political psyche of Filipinos was also shaken by the Oakwood Mutiny on 27 July
2003, when a group of young military officers attempted to oust President Arroyo and her
Secretary of Defense Angelo Reyes over allegations of corruption in the military. The nation was
captivated by the televised coverage of the aborted coup, as the protagonists of the plot were
remarkably young, articulate and fearless. Even those who disagreed with their chosen means of
advancing their cause sympathized with the young men’s outrage at the senseless deaths of
fellow young combatants in Mindanao and the sickening opportunism of turning war into
business. It was a rousing reminder that the idealism of youth prevails even in ultra-conservative
Youth participation in the Philippines can therefore be characterized as event-driven. Young
Filipinos are not afraid to mobilize in extreme situations, such as when President Estrada
plunged the country into a deep political crisis. Yet in “normal” times, only organized youth
groups engage in advocacies and political debates, as average young Filipinos are no different
from the rest of the “MTV generation” all over the world. Sad to say, the pull of popular culture
is stronger than that of popular politics.
Youth Participation in Decision-Making
The word heard round the world today is “participation”. Governments, international
organizations, NGOs and community-based groups have rallied behind the idea that all people,
young and old, male and female, rich and poor have a right to be part of decisions that affect
their lives. For young people, the drive toward increased participation has led to the development
of youth parliaments, youth councils, parallel meetings and forums; the publication of thousands
of papers, reports and policy documents; and the inclusion of youth programmes in several
development agencies concerned with sustainability. The word has spread – but has all of the
talk about youth participation been effectively translated into genuine inclusion and
empowerment of young people as active citizens?
The core group of the movement includes the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP), the Movement
for the Advancement of Student Power (MASP) and Alyansa, a formation of urban poor youth. A full account of
the problem is found in the article “First Time Voters: A Case of Continuing Political Disenfranchisement” by
Jonas Bagas. Published by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Philippine Office.
To some degree, the answer is yes: youth-affirmative policies have become pathways to good
practice in several cities and countries around the world. To a large extent, however, it remains
unclear whether or how words in favor of youth inclusion and empowerment have been matched
with resources, concrete commitments and action within international, national and local
decision-making bodies. Even where youth-participation policies have brought about positive
action, much remains unknown about the long-term sustainability and effectiveness of those
efforts and the quality of the engagement4 experience.
Research shows that young people experienced inconsistency in their everyday lives in relation
to their interface with public service decision-making, which led to disaffection. For example, in
some circumstance their views were actively sought. In others, they were ignored or less valued
than those of adult ‘experts’. In addition the influence young people were able to exert over
matters that affect them was dependent on such factors as their social class, geographical
location, ethnicity, involvement in social networks and confidence, the free time they have, and
their accessibility to adult decision-makers.
Public decision-making bodies often appeared reluctant or unwilling to review and reflect on
their participation processes, preferring instead to publicize the volume of activity they were
undertaking, the numbers of young people involved in consultations, rather than the impact that
such activity had generated. Whilst young people’s involvement in participation allowed them to
access a new world of politics, government and institutions, young people often complained that
this world was dominated by a small elite of regular youth participants, upon whom adults placed
an unhelpful reliance, and whose attraction was rooted in their confidence, skills and willingness
to relate closely to adult and organizational sensibilities. There were large swathes of the youth
population who either consciously did not want to enter this world, or whose lives did not cross
over with decision-making opportunities.
If public authorities will not harness young people’s ideas and energy, two different things may
happen. First this may lead to negative (i.e. anti social) consequences; or to a confrontational or
combative actions in the pursuit of their idealism instead of being participative.
We can avoid young people going to the streets in order for their voice to be heard. Youth
activism can be harness not only outside, like the streets, but also inside the government.
Collectively the youth could become the strongest voice in the country. The youth could be a
part of that voice for positive change.
The Centre of Excellence for Youth Engagement, a Canada-based collaboration of youth, academic researchers
and youth organizations, has developed a working definition of engagement: “the meaningful participation and
sustained involvement of a young person in an activity, which has a focus outside of him or herself. Full
engagement consists of a behavioural component (e.g. spending time doing an activity), an effective component
(e.g. deriving pleasure from participating in it) and a cognitive component (e.g. knowledge about the activity).”
The Centre of Excellence proposes that meaningful “engagement” moves beyond “participation” in relation to the
experience of youth in decision-making. (www.engagementcentre.ca)
As United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said: “Young people are not only the leaders
of tomorrow; they can play a leading role in the development of their communities today. Let us
hope that their good works today blossom into lifelong commitments that will benefit all the
world's people.”
The issue of power
The transition of policy commitment into everyday practice is a challenge not unique to youth
engagement, and raises many questions about what power the young citizen can expect over
decision-making that affects his or her life. Youth participation has been described as an example
of the sort of challenge facing those in positions of power who are being required to move from a
traditional vertical model of decision-making to a horizontal process, with stakeholders, citizens
and external experts all working to both shape and deliver policy.
In this challenge there is also an important shaping context – namely, the paradoxical
relationship that adults and adult organisations often have with young citizens. Adults have – the
argument goes – always been fearful of young people and seen them as a potential problem for
the smooth running and organization of society. But these fears are only one side of a
contemporary paradox in the way society views young people.
A growth in our fear and suspicion of young people has coincided with concerted efforts to
protect children and young people from threats posed to them by adults and society.
‘We often think that children ought to be happy, a notion that dates back to the romanticism of
the eighteenth century. We also often want them to be obedient to adults, an idea with deep roots
in many parts of the past. We sometimes think of children as innocent, but can equally easily
lurch into thinking that some of them are at any rate evil, both of them ideas with a traceable
ancestry’ (Hugh Cunningham, The Invention of Childhood, 2006)
Competition between the generations and communities
There is also a new emerging phenomenon – that of adults and young people being in
competition. Whilst adult and young people’s worlds are segregated and separated in many
respects, they have been thrust into new competitive relationships – not only in the workplace,
but in the consumer market place, and in civil society, where increased emphasis on public
deliberation and civic engagement means that adults and young people compete for power and
influence over public decision-making. The nature of challenges in society – community
cohesion, environmental concerns, and responsive public services, amongst others – requires cooperative relations between generations and communities, made up of dialogue, tolerance,
awareness and understanding including a realization of the assets, talent and potential of young
people within and across different groups in communities including religious and ethnic
The evidence presented is only some of that which hints at a growing separation of adult and
young people’s worlds. This places particular importance on youth participation being effective.
Effective engagement has the potential to build bridges between adults and young people, who
can share experiences, learn new skills from one another, and have dialogue that builds trust and
understanding. This in itself is valuable, but it can also produce materially beneficial outcomes.
Despite endorsements and the strong theoretical rationale, the practice of youth engagement
remains unfamiliar to most policy makers and local leaders, and their collective experience is
limited (Zeldin, 2003). Moreover, they have questions, the most fundamental being: What are the
benefits of youth engagement to young people and to communities? Research on this question
has been slow in coming (Torney-Purta, 1990), but the trend may be reversing, with a multidisciplinary body of research beginning to accumulate (Flanagan & Sherrod, 1998) (Table 3).
Decision-Making in Families
There are extensive data showing that adolescent development is promoted when parents
encourage young people to develop and express their own opinions and beliefs, in a context of
warmth and firmness (Steinberg, 2001). Eccles et al. (1993), for example, report positive
associations between the extent of adolescents’ participation in family decision-making with
school motivation, self-esteem, and adjustment during the elementary to junior high school
transition. Grotevant and Cooper (1986) similarly found that adolescents who are allowed to
assert themselves and participate in family discussions within a context of mutuality – that is,
parents and adolescents acknowledge each others’ viewpoints – are most likely to score higher
on measures of identity and role-taking skills than parents and adolescents who do not
acknowledge one another’s views. The associations are particularly strong when adolescents are
afforded the chance to define and reflect on the parameters of a given issue (Olson, Cromwell &
Klein, 1975; Smetana, 1988). Participating in family decision-making through action, not only
deliberation, also appears to benefit adolescent development.
Jarrett’s (1995) literature review concludes that the assignment of early family responsibilities,
when properly managed, encourages mastery, enhances self-esteem, and facilitates family
cohesion. Among children from low-income families, for example, the review found that the
most “successful” youth had parents who intentionally challenged them to use their skills and
competencies in the home, such as assisting in and executing domestic and childcare
Decision-Making in Schools
Efforts to elicit the voice of students in decision-making are often constrained by schools’ focus
on academic performance and by the risk of losing order (Fullan, 2001). When youth are given
the opportunity to participate, however, positive outcomes are observed, especially when
teachers engage them in shared inquiry and service learning in the context of a collective purpose
(Andersen, 1997; Melchior, 1997; Yates & Youniss, 1996).
Newmann and Associates (1996), for example, found that positive academic outcomes were
facilitated in secondary schools when teachers engaged students in the construction of
knowledge and where a norm existed that valued community connections as well as academic
learning. In addition, academic test performance and SES academic inequity were found to be
diminished in schools which used these authentic instructional strategies (Lee, Smith &
Croninger, 1997).
Involvement in extracurricular activities, which often gives youth a chance for decision-making
in a structured setting, may also contribute to positive youth outcomes (Mahoney & Cairnes,
1997). Rutter, Maugham, Mortimer and Ouston (1979) found that schools in which a high
proportion of students held some position of responsibility, such as student government or taking
active roles in student assemblies had better outcomes in behavior and academic achievement.
Similarly, Eccles and Barber (1999) conclude that participation may promote academic
achievement and prevent involvement in risky behaviors, especially when involvement entails
“pro-social activities” and “performing arts”. Participation in school activities has also been
found to contribute to esteem building and positive school attachment, which in turn, contributes
to a wide range of achievement and favorable behavioral outcomes (Finn, 1989; Leithwood &
Jantzi, 1999).
Decision-Making in Youth Organizations
There is accumulating evidence that youth benefit when given the opportunity to make, and act
on, decisions for the common good in youth organizations and programs. The American Youth
Policy Forum (1999, p. iv), for example, after synthesizing 18 evaluations of effective programs,
concluded that a common aspect was that “youth not only receive services, but provide them. In
this way, they change from participants into partners, from being cared for, into key resources for
their communities.
This change in approach helps build youth resiliency and protective factors in powerful ways”.
Other reviews of youth development programs indicate the following to be common across
effective programs: the opportunity to develop self-efficacy, to contribute to others, to participate
actively in real challenges, and to produce a recognizable program or achievement (Catalano,
Berglund, Ryan, Lonczak, & Hawkins, 1998; Roth, Brooks-Gunn, Murray and Foster (1998).
Similarly, Hattie, Neill, & Richards (1997) conclude from their meta-analysis of adventure
programs that the positive effects on youth development stem from the experience of actively
participating in challenging group problem-solving and decision-making situations.
Recent studies have sought to identify the full range of outcomes that youth perceive that they
gain from their engagement. For many Chilean student researchers, for example, the dominant
outcome was a positive feeling that they had contributed to “a better society in which everyone
was committed to the rights, duties and responsibilities of democratic living” (Prieto, 2001:88).
Larson, Hansen & Walker (2002) describe the learning outcomes of high school youth in a
Future Farmers of America chapter as they engaged in planning a summer camp for 4th graders.
Two domains of learning processes were identified in most of the students’ accounts of their
experiences: learning instrumentality, or setting a goal and working to accomplish it, and
teamwork. Zeldin (2003), found that a majority of youth involved in organizational governance
were led to explore their identity and acquired community connections, both instrumental and
emotional. Illustrative examples include:
Bad experiences in the system gave me a poor self-image. If asked to describe myself before,
I would say “I’m Jenine [not her real name] and I’ve been locked up this many times.”
Working here helped me reconstruct who I am so I’m able to speak and not be afraid of
people. I can debate ideas and not be afraid of myself.
I have a totally different outlook on my community. Before I thought, what can I possibly do?
Why would adults want to listen to me? But working here showed me that adults are willing
to listen and take you seriously. Before I thought there was nothing here but school and jobs,
but now I’m more politically aware of what’s going on.
Influences of Youth Engagement on Community Settings
There are numerous case examples that illustrate the ways that youth can have positive effects on
their environments, but there is scant empirical research. Insight may be gained from research on
families. During adolescence, parent-child relationships undergo transformations in roles and
responsibilities, with a significant shift toward mutuality in decision-making. These shifts are
dramatic, but still reflect continuity with the past (Grotevant & Cooper, 1986). It is likely that
youth may impact social organizations through similar negotiation processes. Sabo (in press), for
example, observed that organizational transformations occurred as youth moved from peripheral
roles to roles of full participation. Youth brought their own understandings and expectations to
institutional roles, which, in turn, led the organization to conceptualize the roles in new ways.
Similarly, when youth are engaged as researchers in schools and communities, studies indicate
that the culture and content of decision-making undergoes incremental, yet noteworthy, changes
and that youth interests are more keenly reflected in deliberations (Kirshner, Fernandez, &
Strobel, 2002; Mitra, 2001).
As changes in organizational context occur, policy modifications are also enacted. Fielding’s
(2001) four year study of youth as educational researchers, for example, showed that, after initial
resistance, the engagement of youth contributed to improvements in curriculum and classroom
practice. Similarly, Zeldin (2003) found that adult leaders in youth organizations reported
making better decisions with increased confidence as they became more connected with youth
through the processes of shared governance. Additionally, youth engagement led some
organizations to reflect on issues of representation, which led to improved outreach to, and more
appropriate programming for, diverse constituencies. There were ripple effects throughout the
community. As some of the organizations gained visibility through their youth engagement and
community outreach efforts, they established new standards for other organizations and local
Why is youth participation important?
Though youth participation itself can cost time and money in the short run, the process will result
in activities that are based upon issues facing youth and upon their understanding of problems
and will be therefore more relevant to the needs of their generation. Their participation can lead
to better targeting of benefits to youth, the group that can best identify the impact of specific
laws and policy. It can also help to secure the sustainability of activities as youth, as primary
stakeholders, will be more invested in their momentum. Types of participation range from
consulting and consensus building, to partnership, evaluation and management.
Youth participation in policy formation can help to highlight the link between public spending
(budgets) and youth development, to sensitize people in government to the concerns of young
people. In addition to influencing budgets so that they reflect the needs of youth, young people
can also help to reform institutions that affect their lives. Institutions should provide mechanisms
for youth to participate in deliberations on policy and to help guide and set priorities within such
discussions. Youth should be engaged not just with governments or in policy-making but in all
aspects of society, setting the stage for their continued participation throughout adulthood.
What conditions help provide a good environment for youth to meaningfully participate in
• Freedom to organize without restriction, prejudice or discrimination (freedom of
• The ability to meet regularly without impediment (right of assembly).
• The freedom to say what they want without fear of intimidation or reprisal (freedom of
expression) and to stay informed (right to information). With improved access to
information, young people can make better use of their opportunities to participate in
• The ability to receive support from, and collaborate with, other segments of civil society
and the media.
How can government facilitate the capacity building of youth organizations?
• Allow youth organization to open bank accounts.
• Provide space for student councils in all universities and secondary schools to represent the
interests of students.
• Provide safe and convenient meeting spaces for youth.
• Facilitate national and international cooperation between youth organizations.
What does it mean to describe good governance for youth participation? It means that youth
derive a sense of empowerment from their participation in the decision-making process. While
youth participation can be praised, it has to be actively promoted and thus it involves different
approaches and methods.
How can government promote and include youth in government and policy formation?
• Give young people increased access to the decision-making process and policy
implementation at the local level. Many youth do not see a connection between politics
and their daily realities; however, this does not mean that they are not interested in their
futures. A process of building trust may be initiated when young people have increased
access to the decision-making process. Young people can emerge from such exposure with
increased self-esteem, better communication skills and better knowledge about their
communities and effective leadership. Such opportunities are likely to arise in communitylevel activities, and youth are more likely to flourish within an institutional framework of
representative local government. Thus, one element of the decentralization of government
and a deepening of democracy is the institutionalization of opportunities for youth.
• Offer civic education in schools for young people to learn about their rights and
responsibilities as citizens. Research has shown that most youth have a strong desire to
actively engage with their communities but know little about the decision-making process.
By knowing more about the political system, young people will be better equipped to
identify, support and monitor the elections of candidates who press for economic progress,
social justice, and peace.
• Assess the organizational structures of institutions so that youth may play a role in
their core functions. Young people’s role should not be limited to that of bystanders or
advisors. Institutional reform allows youth to participate on a consistent basis and not only
in ad hoc or project-based activities. Organizations at every level have felt the pressure to
change their structure at some time; adapting government structures to facilitate the
participation of youth should be seen as part of the progress of their transformation over
time. The government can appoint a focal point who is consistently accessible to youth
organizations. However, participation itself can become over institutionalized and become
a part of the bureaucratic routine. Being conscious of this possible outcome can serve to
avoid complacency.
• Explore the creation of national youth parliaments and local youth councils as
mechanisms to include youth in the decision-making process. Some local governments
have recognized these forums as permanent statutory bodies that guide the development of
policies by serving as a resource for civil servants and legislators. They have also
traditionally served as major channels for the cooperation and exchange of information
with national governments. Networks of local youth councils can foster exchange between
different cultures and regions of a country as well.
• Include youth in the international gatherings like, for example, sending youth
representatives in national delegations to the General Assembly and other relevant
United Nations meetings. Youth delegates enrich the debate and policy dialogue and
strengthen existing channels of communication and cooperation between governments and
young people. An open and transparent selection process should target a diverse array of
youth organizations and include youth in the decision-making process itself. Selected youth
should receive a briefing before their arrival so they are familiar with the procedures and
work of the UN. Support for youth delegates should continue upon return to their home
country—this support should help leverage their experience so that their role as a
representative of their country in an inter-governmental forum may inspire other young
people and have a continuing impact.
• Promote the accessibility of elected officials to youth. Elected leaders should be
encouraged to keep “office hours”, through an established minimum per month, designated
specifically for an exchange with youth representatives and youth organizations. Young
people may hear the leader’s proposals and hear feedback and offer avenues for follow-up
to keep lines of communication open. As part of this effort, leaders should also participate
in interviews with youth media.
• Conduct a survey on the voter participation rates of eligible youth and launch
campaigns to increase young voter participation among identified inactive youth.
Voting is one powerful sign of youth connectedness. Though much of the information
gathered on voter participation reflects national averages, disaggregated data from these
national statistics can be helpful in reaching out to youth who are not participating.
Organizations made up primarily of young people have specific needs. For example, they
often face difficulties accumulating resources.
To address this challenge, they should have access to financial services to open bank accounts.
So that youth civil society can flourish, youth should be regularly permitted to use city premises,
such as schools or meeting halls, to meet.
There are different levels of youth participation. The higher the level of participation, the more
control, influence and responsibility young people will have on their lives and the future of their
communities. There is a difference between ad-hoc and structural participation. Ad-hoc refers to
one-time participation in a certain project or conference, while structural participation represents
a more continuous involvement over a longer period of time. There is also a difference between
direct and indirect participation. Direct participation implies direct contact with the decisionmaking person or body. Indirect participation refers to having one’s opinion represented by
someone else, for example by a youth council or youth parliament.
Young people can decide on which level, and in what ways, to participate, although the choice
may be dependent on the willingness of the level of government or organization and its
representatives to listen to youth. Ideally, local and national governments should support young
people in their endeavors to obtain resources and to meaningfully participate in youth
empowerment programmes and in the formation and implementation of youth policy.
Empowering young people means allowing them to make informed decisions that affect their
lives. Empowerment is more than the opportunity to influence policy; it is a process of capacity
building that includes and often requires access to education, employment, health, and resources.
If youth are encouraged and given the tools to fully participate in society, they will become more
knowledgeable about their rights, more responsible citizens, and often more self-confident.
Young people should be given the platform to take an active role in addressing key questions,
such as what capacity deficiencies exist that are preventing effective local development and good
governance. Enhancing opportunities for youth participation builds their skills and knowledge
base and also serves to better cultivate policies that affect their lives.
There is an emerging movement worldwide to give the youth a direct role in shaping policies and
programs through the establishment of National Youth Councils (NYCs). For youth
organizations they play an important facilitative role in the coordination of youth work, while for
governments they serve as a go-to point for expertise on youth issues and concerns. And for the
small group congregated over pasta at the UN cafeteria, composed of a team from the Canadianbased TakingITGlobal and from the European Youth Forum, their absence in certain countries is
From the research conducted by International Research Project, There are three identified broad
categories of NYCs around the world:
1. The most prominent form of NYC is the European model of an umbrella organization
that facilitates the work of youth organizations nationally. These groups are in principle
run by youth, are independent from the government, and operate in accordance with a
democratic elective process. We have called these NYCs “Youth-driven NYCs”.
2. In Europe, most national governments have a structure, called the youth “authority” or
“ministry,” to manage state relations to youth. To make things slightly confusing, in some
countries, notably in Africa and Latin America, these government structures are also
called “national youth councils.” In this report, we have distinguished those organizations
that are closely tied to the state as “State-driven NYCs”.
3. Finally, alternatives to the NYC structure have evolved in some countries. We have
called these “Other youth umbrella structures” and have included two examples. In
Turkey, for instance, an annual Youth Parliament is held with equal regional
representation from local youth councils from around the country. The working of the
Parliament is facilitated by a youth-led NGO with domestic and international funding. In
Ukraine, there have emerged several groups playing roles similar to that of a NYC.
In the Philippines, the legal frameworks of the country state place high premium on youth
participation. The 1987 Constitution, in its declaration of principles and state policies, explicitly
states that “The State recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and shall promote
and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual and social well-being. It shall inculcate in
the youth patriotism and nationalism, and encourage their involvement in public and civic
affairs.” (Article II, Section 13).
Albeit paternalistic in its tone, this declaration reflects a historical state policy of encouraging
young people to become involved in politics.
It was no other than former President Ferdinand Marcos who first enshrined youth participation
in politics. The Kabataang Barangay (KB) or “Village Youth” was a youth organization at the
grassroots level created in 1975. Essentially the youth wing of Marcos’ support base, the
motives behind its creation had more to do with quelling opposition to the dictatorship rather
than providing genuine youth representation in community affairs.
The KB’s demise was concurrent with the return to constitutional democracy in the aftermath of
the 1986 People Power Revolution.
In its place, several openings for youth participation were brought about by the increased
democratic space, from national-level decision-making processes down to the community (see
Sangguniang Kabataan [SK] on page xx-xx).
The National Youth Commission (NYC)
The Philippines National Youth Commission is one of the NYCs in the world which falls under
the category of “state-driven NYCs.” It was established by virtue of the RA 8044 or the “Youth
in Nation-Building Act” of 1995, hailed as landmark legislation in the promotion of youth
welfare. NYC acts as the secretariat of the Sangguniang Kabataan National Federation. Tasked
to “provide the leadership in the formulation of policies and in the setting of priorities and
direction of all youth promotion programs and activities,” NYC has two notable programs:
• The Integrated Sangguniang Kabataan Organizational Leadership and Reorientation
(ISKOLAR) Program was expected to fulfill the NYC’s mandate to train youth leaders.
Unfortunately, ISKOLAR only reached a limited number of areas due to budget woes and
poor information dissemination.
• The Green Brigade was designed to encourage the youth to participate in environmental
issues. Green Brigade covered more areas compared to ISKOLAR but was also hampered
by budget limitations, lack of coordination among government agencies, and problems with
project continuity given the fast turnover of personnel at key leadership positions. These
are compounded by the internal problems of the NYC, namely the lack of teamwork, a nonstrategic approach to program implementation, and the capability to handle a multitude of
tasks. The NYC has become more of a planning and monitoring body than an implementer
of programs.
In essence, the NYC is the government arm that advocates the youth’s causes from within the
bureaucracy. It coordinates and partners with agencies that are already implementing youth
programs. It also acts as “repository” and “clearing house” on youth concerns in aid of policymaking, providing feedback and input to legislators and government executives.
The NYC was involved in advocating for the Magna Carta of student rights.5 This proposed
legislative measure provides for the participation of student council representatives in decisionmaking that affects the rights and welfare of students, including tuition fee hikes. Other current
programs are the Youth Entrepreneurship Program to jumpstart young businesses through
revolving loan facilities and the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan, which provides short-term
employment for out-of-school youth to address pressing needs of this sub-sector.
Significantly, the NYC also hosts the Medium Term Youth Development Plan (MTYDP)
secretariat. The first Medium Term Youth Development Plan as a derivative product of two and
a Medium Term Youth Development Plan 2005-2010.
National Youth Parliament (NYP)
Another product of the “Youth in Nation-Building Act,” the National Youth Parliament is
another innovation in youth representation. It has been convened every two years since 1996.
The responsibilities of youth parliamentarians are to:
• act as local/sectoral coordinators of the NYC for a two-year term;
• liaise and network for the NYC and provide feedback in line with MTYDP;
• participate actively in youth activities and projects; and
• assume the role of youth advocates in their respective areas and sectors.
Sorely missing in this official “job description” is how delegates ensure that they are indeed
representative of the youth in their localities. There are no provisions on consulting constituents
and establishing accountability mechanisms.
The same can be said of the national selection process of convention delegates. The NYC singlehandedly selects youth parliamentarians on the basis of geographical and gender balances. The
only stated requirements are the age limit (below 30 years of age) and people who are not guilty
of crimes of “moral turpitude.”
It is important to note, however, that the resulting resolutions submitted to the NYC are merely
recommendatory in nature and therefore may or may not be incorporated into youth policies.
There has been no assessment of this mechanism since its inception.
The House of Representative failed to pass the Magna Carta of Student Rights. Last year (2007) Akbayan Party
List filed another bill called the Student Rights And Welfare (STRAW) Bill.
Youth at the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC)
The National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) is another hallmark of the post-authoritarian
era. It was created by virtue of Republic Act 8425, also known as the Social Reform and Poverty
Alleviation Act of 1997. Its mission is to institutionalize the participation of basic sectors,
including youth sector, in the anti-poverty initiatives of the government. The President of the
Republic chairs the body. There are two vice chairpersons: one from government and another
representing the 14 basic sector representatives.6
As with the other sectors, the Youth Sectoral Assembly elects a Sectoral Council among
themselves. From this Council, one Youth Sectoral Representative represents the sector at the
NAPC top-level policy-making and coordinating structure, together with 20 national executive
government agencies and umbrella organizations of local government units.
Aside from its coordinative role between government and private sector stakeholders in
development, the NAPC’s overall mandates and functions are to recommend policy and other
measures to “ensure responsive implementation of the government’s Social Reform Agenda and
the meaningful participation of the basic sectors.” It is also tasked to monitor the implementation
and management of related programs and advocates for the mobilization of resources for poverty
alleviation, including working with local government units.
But up to now, there has not been a comprehensive assessment of the impact NAPC has had on
improving the lives of poor people. Certainly the lessons of the NAPC experience on making the
poor people’s voices heard will be useful for designing appropriate venues for youth
participation in the future.
Youth in the National Legislature
In the 12th Philippine Congress, only 14 out of 236 national legislators are below the age of 35.
This is equivalent to about 6 percent of the total (while only 14 percent were females of all age
groups). Of these 14 representatives, at least 6 are members of prominent political dynasties,
whose older relatives sit in the Senate or other branches of the government.
Introduced in 1998, the party-list system of representation provides an inroad for broad-based
electoral politics at the national level.
It reserves 20 percent of congressional seats for groups representing marginalized and
underprivileged sectors. The youth are one of the sectors identified in the Party-List Act.7
The 14 basic sectors are: farmers and landless rural workers, artisan, fisher folks, urban poor, indigenous cultural
communities/indigenous peoples, workers in the formal sector and migrant workers, workers in the informal
sector, women, persons with disabilities, victims of disasters and calamities, senior citizens, NGOs, cooperatives,
and of course, children, youth and students.
The Party-List Act (Republic Act 7941) defines a sectoral organization as a group of qualified voters bound
together by similar physical attributes or characteristics, or by employment, interests or concerns. The twelve
However, no youth formation has yet been able to hurdle the 2 percent threshold to earn a seat in
Congress. In 1998, the votes of all seven registered youth party-list organizations taken together
amounted to a measly 4 percent of the total votes cast for the party-list. The most successful
youth party-list to date is Anak ng Bayan (“Children of the Country”), which garnered 1.69
percent of the total votes cast in 2004—but still not enough to win a single seat. It was only in
the short period prior to 1998 that Sectoral Representatives, the forerunners of the present partylist system, also included Youth Representatives who were appointed by the President of the
National Movement of Young Legislators (NMYL)
The National Movement of Young Legislators (NMYL) came into existence in 1991, as a
formation comprising vice governors, vice mayors, board members, city and municipal
councilors and Sangguniang Kabataan presidents from ages 18 to 35. According to the
movement’s website, such young officials comprised around one third of the total local
bureaucracy in 1997.
The stated objectives of the NMYL are:
1. To organize and consolidate local young legislators nationwide;
2. To advance the cause and interests of the youth in particular and the people in general;
3. To promote and work for the legislative measures which push forth the rights of our
youth, particularly in the areas of: equality education, progressive culture and arts, decent
jobs, a humane and peaceful environment, and freedom of speech and expression; and
4. To work for a clean, honest, and service oriented government.
The organization stands for the principles of empowerment, political pluralism, equality and
“genuine nationalism.” The declaration of principles is an interesting mix of progressive and
conservative expressions. For example, “genuine nationalism” is framed in terms of young
legislators representing the “hope of the Fatherland.”
The section on political pluralism, by contrast, calls for “alternative politics to transform
Philippine politics as to accommodate a greater variety of ideas and/or ideologies.” Equally
encouraging is the description of NMYL’s appeal for equality: “Because traditional politics
thrives on inequality, alternative politics seeks to correct this problem by promoting greater
equality among people not only in the politics sphere, but also in the socio-economic spheres.
Electoral reforms aimed at “de-linking” money power (or greater chances of winning elections)
are part and parcel of the program of alternative politics.”
sectors enumerated are: labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, elderly, handicapped,
women, youth, overseas workers, fisher folks, veterans and professionals.
But again, no updated records on the NMYL’s achievements or regular activities were available
at the time of writing.
Political Parties
Political parties with youth wings are the Liberal Party and Aksyon Demokratiko, which are
parties identified with mainstream politicians. The party of President Arroyo, the Lakas
Christian-Muslim Democrats, also formed a youth team in the run-up to the 2004 elections.
However, this formation merely functioned as vote generation machinery. Unlike in other
countries, Filipino youth have yet to come forward as a unitary force in pushing for a youth
electoral agenda.
Among alternative parties, the Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party is one of the few parties with a
youth program and legislative agenda.
Organizationally, Akbayan youth are represented by their own sectoral representative in the
National Council, the second-highest governing and policy-making body of the party.
Last year (2007), Akbayan Party List filed a bill called the Student Rights And Welfare
(STRAW) Bill, a proposed measure that would hopefully reinvigorate a movement that has
always been crucial to Philippine democracy. The bill will essentially affirms the rights and
freedoms accorded to students by the Constitution and other international human rights
agreements but, unfortunately, not yet found expression in our laws and in the government's
Rules and Regulations Age requirements for public office vary by position:
• The Philippine Constitution states that to qualify for senatorial elections, one must be at
least 35 years of age;
• Candidates for District Representatives at the Lower House of Congress must be at least 25
years old;
• Candidates at the provincial level (governor, vice governor, board members) must be at
least 23 years of age on Election Day;
• At the city and municipal level, candidates for mayor and vice mayor must be at least 23
years of age on Election Day, while candidates for city or municipal legislative councils
must be at least 18 years of age on Election Day;
• At the barangay level (barangay captain and councilors), candidates must be at least 18
years of age on Election Day.
• Sangguniang Kabataan (see p. xx-xx) must be at least 15 years of age, but not more than 17
years of age on Election Day.
The 1973 Constitution amended the earlier suffrage provision of the 1935 Constitution, thus
lowering voting age from 21 years of age to 18. For SK elections, all Filipino from 15 to 17
years of age are eligible to vote.
Sadly, the Philippine system is not designed to encourage electoral participation. The enlistment
of voters is neither automatic nor mandatory. Consequently, there are little efforts by the
Commission of Elections (COMELEC) to educate voters on the necessity and requirement of
registration. In recent history, this has led to massive disenfranchisement of some 4.5 million
young voters8 who were not able to register in time for the May 2001 elections, since there was
only minimal public information on the deadline of registration. There was some improvement in
the run-up to the 2004 elections, as 4.2 out of 4.9 million eligible new voters were able to
The Reality of Philippine Politics
As can be seen from the discussion above, the Philippine political system is not closed to the
entry of young people. Existing legal frameworks ensure broad participation and consultation in
the policy process by various sectors.
Reality, however, does not quite live up to the spirit of these laws. Perhaps more than individual
political will, the greatest obstacle to meaningful youth participation in politics is a pervasive
political culture of personality and money politics.
In the electoral arena, the highly personalistic nature of campaigning often prohibits the entry of
new political players.
Power contests are still dominated by members of established political clans who field
candidates at various levels from the Congressional districts to the provincial and city levels.
Name recall and financial resources are foremost factors here. In the Philippines, political parties
and platforms are largely incidental. Voters are not asked to vote for parties, but write down the
names of the candidates of their choice on the ballot. In such a setting, it helps to have a familiar
last name and well-financed campaign machinery.
And so, it is not uncommon to find that young politicians who are second and third generation
descendants of prominent politicians. It is interesting to note that during the 11th Congress, from
1998-2001, a handful of young legislators gravitated into an informal bloc in Congress. All of
them were in their 30s, well educated and hail from elite families. In keeping with the typical
Filipino penchant for popular culture, they were dubbed as the “Spice Boys.” Their youthful
projection received much media attention. Yet in the end, they did not do much to break away
from the traditional fold.
Estimates from the First Time Voters Project, 2004.
Even the bureaucracy is not spared from the influence of political dynasties. The incumbent
appointee to the NYC, Chairperson Paolo Benigno A. Aquino IV, is the nephew of the famed
martyr Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. The NYC Chairperson under President Ramos was Amina
Rasul-Bernardo, the daughter of former Senator Santanina Rasul who is from a powerful
Mindanao political clan.
In such a system, political education often lags behind. Politics, to ordinary people, is a
combination of popularity contest and the calculated outcome of patronage exchanges. It is also
common knowledge that if need be, intimidation and threats can do the trick in hotly contested
elections. Where pragmatic gains dictate the conduct of elections, public debates on platforms
and issues become secondary. This has bred a deep sense of cynicism among ordinary voters, in
that they feel that it does not really matter who their elected officials are, since “all of them are
corrupted by the system” anyway.
At the same time, however, a growing reform constituency is steadily contesting these old
norms. Various elements of the progressive left movement together with reform-oriented civil
society formations are strongly advocating political and electoral reforms aimed at re-designing
the rules of the game and holding politicians accountable to democratic principles. By and large,
these advocates have come from the student movement that mobilized against Marcos in the late
1960s and early 1970s, also dubbed as the “First Quarter Storm.” Others were politicized during
the anti-dictatorship movement that culminated in the first People Power event of 1986.
To the extent that the present generation of young activists is becoming part of this movement,
the future of Philippine politics might hold more promises.
IV. Youth Participation in Local Governance
It is important that today's youth be encouraged to take interest in local government decisionmaking activities and that opportunities be created to foster civic participation by young people.
Local governments are closest to the neighbourhoods and communities in which their citizens
live and are often the most visible to youth. They have more information on what is happening
in terms of systems and procedures, structures and resources for supporting young people’s
participation in public decision-making. This is hardly surprising as it is at local government
level that public services are primarily delivered to citizens and where day-to-day contact with
young people as citizens and service users is a central raison d’etre. They therefore have an
indispensable role in fostering the inclusion of young people into society.
The local level represents the context in which youth can, generally speaking, be most
efficacious. Firstly, issues that are closest to youth (such as schooling, public services and
transportation) are generally managed or at least implemented by local governments. Further,
Mayors are by definition physically and symbolically closer to citizens - they tend to be more
able and willing to make themselves available to their constituents, young ones included. Many
Municipal Youth Councils already exist, in a wide variety of incarnations, and in some cases,
work very closely with their Mayor and local government administration in terms of policy and
programs in the area. This is not to say, even in the best of cases, that youth participation has
been truly optimized.
Local governments are immediately responsible for upholding the rights of youth, ensuring
community cohesion, a healthy environment, a good quality of life, and sustaining social and
economic development. Local governments must provide political leadership and a vision for the
future for both individuals and civil society organizations. They need to encourage the
participation of youth not just in municipal policy making but also at the family, school and local
community levels.
Locally elected officials and administrators sometimes tend to work in isolated spheres. To
remedy this and raise their awareness, they should consistently engage with youth groups and
those who have everyday interactions with youth, such as social workers, teachers, and health
care providers, with the aim of addressing needs and improving the provision of services. This
process can also serve to help evaluate the services in terms of their specific impact on the lives
of youth and to increase the transparency of funding and decision-making.
A lot of work of local government and its civil society partners is carried on without an explicit
recognition of children and youth (think about transportation planning, sanitation, zoning
regulations, for instance.). Policy making, planning and resource allocation are often viewed as
benefiting some “universal” citizen, without regard to age or gender. A municipal official in the
Philippines, quoted in one of the papers (Aguirre), put it very clearly: “We don’t differentiate the
concerns of children and youth from those of adults. We see the project as a whole and cannot
target particular groups of people.” We know from experience, however, that the actions of local
government and its partners are not neutral, and that this hypothetical universal citizen may share
few of the needs of a 2-year-old boy or a 15-year-old girl.
The participation of young people is only one approach to addressing this problem and there are
many other steps that need to be taken. One of the hallmarks of “good governance” is its
inclusiveness and attention to equity and participation for all groups. But even progressive
governments that refer carefully in their policies to “women and men,” may express an unwitting
bias against children and youth. This is not unique to government. This bias can run deep in
many quarters. Even in discussions among committed development professionals who are fully
aware of the benefits of taking gender into account, it is not uncommon for interest to fade if the
topic of children and youth comes up. The unspoken message is that bringing children and youth
into the discussion is a not-quite-relevant tangent—that surely their needs are met if their
parents’ needs are met. To some degree, this is true. But it is also true that boys and girls of
different ages experience the world in particular ways, and may be affected in particular ways
(sometimes profound and long-lasting) by a range of decisions and actions.
Responses to children and youth by local government can depend on political relationships and
alliances. It is small wonder that poor children and youth’s needs are often neglected. Children
and some youth don’t vote, and poor children and youth are doubly marginalized. Political
alliances are significant in ensuring attention to particular priorities. Barangay Payatas (in the
Philippines), for example, was doing well on resource allocations in part because of the friendly
relations between the mayor and the barangay captain. Cabannes also indicates, in his
assessment of four participatory experiences in South America, that “the mayor's leadership
during the initiative, or that of his or her representatives, has been essential in determining the
disposition of other local participants, and has given legitimacy to the decisions and agreements
reached, as well as the implementation of specific projects.”
But both Aguirre and Cabannes make it clear that these political alliances can be a chancy
strategy when it comes to longer-term success. Examples from the CFCS database also describe
situations where a change in administration resulted in the abandonment of a previously favored
project. As Clements points out, “While bodies like UNICEF might consider a ‘Child Friendly
Cities’ agreement to have been made with a particular city, the city itself may consider this
agreement to have been made with a particular mayoral individual and may have mixed feelings
about sustaining the agreement once that individual is no longer in office.” The papers by
Cabannes and Barceló demonstrate that even if a project manages to survive through a change in
administration, it may change quite radically.
A more productive approach appears to be an effort to sidestep these tenuous political alliances
in favor of something more solid and enduring. Recommendations in this regard have been
numerous, and come especially from experiences in Latin America. Ronald Ahnen, in his
discussion of four municipal-level Child and Adolescent Rights Councils in Brazil (referenced in
the CFCS overview), points out that, while the sympathy of the mayor is a significant advantage,
there are also distinct benefits to political independence on the part of these councils. It allows
them to deal effectively with both opposition and ruling parties and to weather changes in
administration. A well-organized NGO coalition, Ahnen argues, can make all the difference in
ensuring that a council does not become a rubber stamp for the mayor’s office.
A good example of children and youth participation in local governance is the children
participatory budget council (CPBC) in Barra Mansa, a special project established in 1998,
which aims to foster citizenship among children and youth aged between nine and 15, drawing
on the experience with participatory budgeting by city and municipal councils in Brazil.9
Children elect their peers to a children’s council, which has at its disposal a small portion of the
municipal budget equivalent to about US$125,000,210 for use on the priorities determined by this
council (Brazilian Institute for Municipal Administration 2000).
The project, established through a municipal law and implemented by the city council under the
direct responsibility of the mayor’s office, is part of a broader action plan developed by Barra
Mansa city council, which aims to promote and institutionalize the effective participation of
children and youth, drawing in all age groups, including teenagers, both to encourage their civic
engagement and to recognize their role and importance as both individuals and citizens (Urban
Management Programme-Latin America and Caribbean 2000). It is supported by the Municipal
For more details of participatory budgeting, see Menegat, Rualdo (2002), "Environmental Management in Porto
Alegre," Environment and Urbanization 14(2); also Souza, Celina (2001), "Participatory Budgeting in Brazilian
Cities: Limits and Possibilities in Building Democratic Institutions,” Environment and Urbanization 13(1), 159184.
Barra Mansa city council allocated 150,000 Reais to the children’s participatory budget council in 1999,
R$150,000 in 2000 and has committed R$180,000 for 2001.
Secretariat of Education through school teachers and head teachers, neighborhood residents’
associations, church groups, and delegates and councilors of the adult participatory budget
Participatory management councils are highlighted in the 1988 Brazilian Constitution as “...one
of the principal tools of public participation for the reorientation of public management” (IBAM
2000). Integrating public participation into municipal budgeting is a process that is being
developed by a number of city councils in Brazil which, like Barra Mansa, consider participatory
budgets to be “...a democratic way of administering public funds… [as] it is public money, the
budget is made public, so the planning process should also be public” (UMP-LAC 2000). The
participatory budget councils are seen as real fora for the practice of citizenship and public
participation in defining and accompanying the implementation of public policies.
Working with public budgets11 enables a range of issues to be addressed that are extremely
important for the development of children and teenagers as citizens who are both aware and
capable of participating in the social, political and economic affairs of their city and country.
Through the CPBC, Barra Mansa city council affirms children’s and teenagers’ rightful status as
“full citizens”, as established in the children’s statute. The experience of the children’s
participatory budget council also shows that it is possible to carry out urban management with
children, rather than only for children (Children’s Participatory Budget Council).
In Asia and the Pacific, which has one third of world’s children and youth, experiences varies
from country to country:
The region is diverse in terms of languages, cultures, religions and political systems. The
economies of many countries in East and Southeast Asia are growing rapidly, while other
countries, especially those in the Pacific, are seeing very limited investments. Among the main
factors that shape the context for child and youth participation in the region are the economic
situation of a locality; the political system; social relationships, including gender relations and
attitudes towards children; and the nature of the education system. The following paragraphs
explore these contexts.
China and Vietnam are states with restrictions on media freedom and political expression,
limited space for civil society, and no independent human rights organizations (Young 2003).
Both countries are paternalistic states that strongly emphasize the responsibilities of citizens
towards the state. The state, represented by the government, in turn earns its legitimacy by
providing political stability and the structural conditions for economic prosperity. This
hierarchical and authoritarian relationship between state and citizen is mirrored in the
relationships between parents and children and between teachers and students (SalazarVolkmann 2005).
The New Aurelio Portuguese dictionary defines budgeting as: “calculation of the revenue that should be collected
from a financial exercise and the expenses that should be made by the public administration, organized by
definition by the government and submitted to the approval of the relevant legislative bodies.” To budget is
defined as: “to evaluate, estimate or calculate.”
As a result of rapid economic growth in Vietnam and China, young people’s participation in the
labor market is generally high, compared to other parts of the world. Children are under pressure
to acquire a good education in order to take full advantage of existing economic opportunities.
Primary and secondary school students, especially those in urban areas, have limited free time to
spend on social activities that are not directly relevant for passing their academic examinations.
Levels of political activity and politicization among young people tend to be low.
The globalizing economies in East Asia are creating demands for a new type of workforce. In
order to capture new markets and to move beyond low-cost and low-tech jobs, the Chinese
education system, for example, is moving away from rote learning and is beginning to encourage
students to think critically and autonomously, and develop their creativity. This requires
significant changes in the relationships between teachers and students and more room for
students’ individual expression. The new Chinese education system supports some of the values
underlying children’s participation, and to some extent this makes it easier to promote children’s
expression and decision making in school and at home. West et al.’s article, “From Performance
to Practice: Changing the Meaning of Child Participation in China” analyzes how children’s
participation and children’s roles are changing in the context of the broader changes happening
in China’s economy, social relations and education system.
These political, social, economic and cultural forces provide the context for child and youth
participation in China and Vietnam and in other countries with similar political and social
characteristics. These are, of course, generalizations; there are wide variations between countries
and significant differences within each country. Some of these factors support, while others
hinder, child and youth participation.
The situation is very different in a country such as the Philippines, which has a multi-party
democracy, press freedom, a diverse and vibrant civil society, and independent human rights
institutions. Democratic spaces for political action and social activism are much greater here than
in China or Vietnam. The Philippines is also offering some of the greatest opportunities for
exploring and experimenting with children’s and young people’s participation in the region.
(Cambodia is another country in the region where children’s participation has benefited from
expanded democratic spaces.) Protacio-de Castro et al.’s “Walking the Road Together: Issues
and Challenges in Facilitating Children's Participation in the Philippines” presents a critical
review of NGO and government experiences with children’s participation in the Philippines.
With the exception of North Korea and Myanmar, where opportunities for child and youth
participation are highly circumscribed, other countries in East and Southeast Asia tend to fall
somewhere along the spectrum between the two extremes marked at one end by China, and by
the Philippines on the other.
The situation in the Pacific differs in significant ways from that of East and Southeast Asia.
Pacific island nations are in situations of acute economic distress and face multiple development
challenges. Youth unemployment and underemployment are high, while education systems are
often focused on academic learning for non-existing white-collar jobs. While youth
unemployment is high in some other parts of the region, the disenfranchisement of young people
in the Pacific is more likely than elsewhere to turn into violence that can destabilize entire
nations, as the recent disturbances in the Solomon Islands and in Timor-Leste show. This is just
one of the many reasons making young people’s participation a critical necessity.
Other significant differences include the strength of traditional family networks and social
pressures to provide material support to relatives (e.g., the wantok system in Melanesia).
Although significant progress has been made in developing participatory initiatives with young
people, no regular mechanisms have yet been established for their involvement in governance.
While transport costs are high between islands in the Pacific, the widespread use of English and
similarities in culture and history are some of the factors that can facilitate networking across
Pacific island nations.
In the Philippines even before it became a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the
Child (UN CRC), it had already enacted a law to ensure that the voices of children and young
people were heard on issues that directly concerned them. Actually the Philippines has been
making investment in youth for more than two decades now. The right of children and young
people to participate in governance has been recognized as early as the 1970s by the Philippine
government through Presidential Decree 603 or the Child and Youth Welfare Code. It is further
enshrined in the Republic Act No. 7160, also known as the Local Government Code of 1991,
which formed the Katipunan ng Kabataan (KK) to tap and harness the energy, enthusiasm, and
idealism of young people. Those aged 15 to 17 years old in a barangay could register in the KK
and have the right to vote and be voted into a governing body called the Sangguniang Kabataan
(SK). The SK chairperson assumes a seat in the Barangay Council, and is given full powers and
authority like any member of the Council.
R.A. 7160 is now more than a decade old. Policymakers are divided in determining whether or
not the SK has served its purpose. Some argue that the SK introduced young people to political
patronage and maneuvering instead of nurturing and strengthening idealism. There is also a
perception that the SK has not engendered genuine youth participation since most of its members
hail from well-to-do or political families.
On the other hand, there are those who believe that the SK’s full potential has yet to be explored.
In the 2003 Second National Consultation Workshop on Child Soldiers in the Philippines,
participants identified the SK as one of the potential partners toward increased youth
participation in the campaign against the use of children as soldiers.12
The National Anti-Poverty Commission - Youth and Students (NAPC-YS) believes that the SK
should not be abolished, but reformed instead. With the necessary policy and institutional
reforms, the SK can still live up to its potential of being a democratizing institution that
effectively responds to local youth issues and concerns and ensures that the youth and students
are part of vital decision-making processes in the community.
Proceedings on “Enhancing Partnerships Towards Effective Strategies on DDRR,” Second National Consultation
Workshop on the Use of Child Soldiers in the Philippines, 09-12 November 2003, Lauremar Beach Hotel, Opol,
Misamis Oriental. Philippine Coalition to Stop the Use of Children as Soldiers/Canadian International
Development Agency (CIDA)/UNICEF- Manila.
Youth participation in governance: from the 1970s to the present
PD 684 created the Kabataang Barangay composed of all youth 15-18 years old.
The Marcos administration expanded the age bracket to 15-21 years old and created the
Pambansang Katipunan ng Kabataang Barangay under the Office of the President. Critics
believe this countered militant youth activity and only exposed the youth to graft, corruption and
The Kabataang Barangay became less popular with the youth.
Youth turned to student activism.
The League of Filipino Students (LFS) lobbied for the re-establishment of student councils and
other rights lost during Martial Law.
Student activism waned after the EDSA revolution.
Konsultahang Kabataan was organized in February 1987; the NYC was proposed.
The Aquino administration created instead the Presidential Council for Youth Affairs (PCYA)
with limited powers.
The National Youth Commission (NYC) was created as a national agency.
The 1991 Local Government Code abolished Kabataang Barangay and created the Katipunan ng
Kabataan and the Sangguniang Kabataan that covers youth ages 15-24 years old.
Age bracket changed to 15-18 years old.
Age bracket again changed to 15-17 years old.
The 2001 Regional Youth Summit tackled problems in SK.
House Bill 185 aims to replace the SK system with “Youth Sector Representatives.”
These debates led to proposals to abolish or change the SK. House Bill 185, which seeks to
abolish the SK, was filed in Congress. At the same time, an SK Reform Bill is being pushed to
change the SK system. As these proposals are not based on empirical studies, the Department of
Interior and Local Government sought the assistance of the United Nations Children’s Fund
(UNICEF)-Manila. UNICEF-Manila funded a systematic and nationwide assessment of the SK’s
impact on the youth as basis for more rational and effective recommendations.
UNICEF-Manila commissioned the University of the Philippines’ Center for Integrative and
Development Studies Psychosocial Trauma and Human Rights Program (UP CIDS PST) to look
into the effectiveness of SK councils across the country.
Researchers used an extensive nationwide survey as primary tool, and validated findings through
a study of related literature, key informant interviews, and focus group discussions where the
youth actively participated.
The following is the result of said assessment:
SK accomplishments
Despite the weaknesses of the SK, there have been success stories that show its potential as an
important organization. Like the KB, the SK has produced a crop of local government officials,
as well as national legislators. SK Federations at all levels have also been consistent in
celebrating the annual Linggo ng Kabataan (Youth Week), a yearly weeklong event when youth
members get the opportunity to act as officials of all local government and national agencies for
a week.
Other concrete examples of the SK’s potential as a vehicle for youth participation:
• Some SK officials in the barangay and municipal levels consistently involve the KK and
other youth in consultations and project development.
• A former SK chairperson mentored his successor in developing projects that went beyond
holding the usual summer sports-fest such as basketball tournaments for young men in
• Another SK official coordinated with her fellow SK officials and with proper agencies to
initiate a reforestation project in her area.
Public perceptions on the SK
A study showed that both youth and representatives from government agencies do not have a
thorough understanding of the SK and its activities. The SK’s most significant function–the
ability to make policies and resolutions–did not make it to the list of top three SK roles in the
Based on the Youth Attributes, Participation, and Service Providers (YAPS) study NYC
conducted in 2004, the youth believe that the SK should create role models for them, and
organize sports and youth activities.
Asked the same question, government officials said the SK should:
1) Develop and initiate youth programs;
2) Serve as role models for the youth; and
3) Legislate measures to promote youth development.
The study revealed that the youth’s interests vary across age brackets: those who are 15-24 years
old shared the same level of interest in sports and recreation, studies and employment; while
those between 25-30 are more interested in studies, work/ employment, and skills upgrading.
In terms of priorities, the 15-17 age bracket ranked studies as top priority, and those in brackets
18-24 and 25-30 said family was their top priority. In addition, the 25-30 age group ranked the
need to find a decent job as second priority.
The study also showed that the youth are concerned about three main issues:
• Health: related to drug and substance use and abuse, and sexual risk behaviors;
• Education: access to affordable education and to tertiary education, as well as accessibility
to newer forms of information, communication and technology; and
• Employment: job availability as the top concern of those in the 18-24 age group.
None of the participants in the study raised concerns over youth participation issues. However,
those who attended the 2001 Regional Youth Summits raised the following:
• Government-related problems;
• The SK;
• Lack of active participation of the youth;
• Lack of information on programs for the youth;
• Insufficient and inefficient budget allocation; and
• Suppression of student rights
Studies also show that the youth are worried most about corruption at the barangay and
municipal levels. They are concerned about abusive politicians who engage in nepotism and
narco-politics and meddle in election results via vote buying. Some participants complained local
government authorities use SK officials as ‘tools’ in advancing their political agenda. They are
dismayed over the lack of existing programs for the youth, and lack of support in terms of
funding and implementation of existing youth programs that limit their projects to sports
activities and street-cleaning initiatives.
At the Regional Youth Summits, participants candidly said there was lack of control and
autonomy in the SK in the barangay such that SK leaders become mere ‘consultative bodies’
without real power to implement their desired youth programs. They say some political
interventions stunt the potential of the SK. SK officials are also generally perceived as
incompetent, inefficient, and lacking initiative.
These concerns reveal the disillusionment, indifference and apathy of the youth sector towards
the government and youth-directed government programs. The low levels of youth participation
in the SK and government-related programs, and the popular view that the government is selfserving, manifest these concerns.
This lack of faith in the SK could be borne out of the SK officials’ lack of understanding of their
duties and responsibilities and the SK structure. They are also unable to navigate through the
bureaucracy, create a development plan and budget, and encourage other youth to participate.
Other studies recommend changing the age bracket, currently at 15-17 years old, because of the
youth’s political immaturity. At this age, the youth are also more concerned about studies rather
than civic duties.
Abolition of SK
Several youth groups have opposed moves to abolish the SK. The Student Council Alliance of
the Philippines (SCAP) said the SK is a necessary mechanism “to uphold the interest and welfare
of the youth sector through a democratically established institution for governance.” It said
abolishing the SK is equivalent to “the repression of the democratic rights and welfare” of the
Specifically, the SCAP seeks to strengthen youth participation through the SK system by:
• preventing the abolition or phase out of the SK;
• strengthening the KK and extending the voting populace of the SK to include those in the
18 to 21-year-old age bracket;
• pushing for necessary reforms in the electoral system, particularly the modernization of the
Commission on Elections to allow automation of election and voter's registration; and
• establishing a collegial body to review, assess and recommend proposals to further
strengthen and promote meaningful youth representation and involvement.
While allegations of corruption, inefficiency and ineffectiveness of the SK may not be true for all
SK Councils, the Region 7 Delegates Corps of the 5th National Youth Parliament also said that
the move to abolish the SK can be remedied by reforms. In a statement, the group said the
government would “retrogress from its significant and notable achievement of institutionalizing
wider youth participation and genuine representation” if the SK were to be abolished.
Results and findings
Among the key findings of the research is that the SK’s performance of its functions is generally
weak. This is especially true in terms of coming up with legislations, submitting reports and
holding consultations with its constituents. There is also a mismatch between the needs of the
youth and current SK projects.
On the other hand, the study also identified the strengths of the SK, including its ability to source
alternative funding, and hold active consultation and coordination with various national and local
government units and NGOs. Respondents said the SK uses its limited funds efficiently and
affects the youth situation and the communities positively.
In understanding the experience of Filipino children and the youth in the SK and in gauging its
effectiveness, it is important to highlight the following:
• While involvement in the SK has both positive and negative effects on young people, the
youth reported a generally positive impact (e.g. greater appreciation for country and
service, improved leadership skills) from their personal experience working with the SK.
• There is lack of knowledge among the public on the duties of the SK. This may account for
the positive perception of the SK’s relevance and contributions to the community and youth
situation. This is despite the disparity between the youth’s most pressing needs and
interests, and the SK’s projects.
• Aside from the low level of children and youth participation in the SK, there is also a low
level of understanding and appreciation for children’s rights and young people’s
• Degree and quality of support, supervision, and assistance from local government officials
and organizations are extremely important to the success of the SK. Clear local and
national policies on youth participation and procedures have tremendous effect on the
youth. Poor awareness and understanding of legal frameworks affects elections and the
release of funds, among other things, that can cause SK councils to function poorly.
Individual situations and roles of SK members, such as school and work, also affect their
These findings led to the conclusion that the potentials of the SK are not being maximized,
resulting in projects and programs largely limited to sports and infrastructure development, and
environmental protection.
The research also includes case studies that highlight principles of good practices among youth
organizations. While negative perceptions, weaknesses or ambiguities in policies and the
ineffectiveness or non-implementation of these policies weigh down the SK, it still has great
potential to become a true venue for youth participation in governance. Through the SK, young
people become assets and active forces in solving community problems.
Measuring SK’s effectiveness
The study gauges the effectiveness of SK participation based on its functions, as mandated by
law. Section 426 of the Local Government Code states that the SK is expected to:
A. Promulgate resolutions necessary to carry out the objectives of the youth in the barangay in
accordance with the applicable provisions of this Code.
The SK’s performance of its legislative function is weak. Out of 30 accomplishment reports in
the NYC’s records, only 12 made the cut for this study. Of the 12 reports, only three showed
legislative acts as accomplishments. Of the three, only one submitted a copy of the resolution
However, the outputs also showed SK representatives are capable of coming up with highly
relevant ordinances. The immense potential of the youth parliament to engage in legislative
action was showcased during the Linggo ng Kabataan.
One SK federation passed an ordinance observing curfew hours for minors while another pushed
for the support of SK-initiated sports programs from the local government. The third SK
federation listed 28 resolutions on volunteerism, education, livelihood, infrastructure and
interaction among various youth groups.
Table 2. SK Federation Projects Based on Accomplishment Reports
Actual Number
Actual Number
of Projects by
of Projects by SK
SK Provincial
Promoting Youth
Participation (includes
Linggo ng Kabataan)
Charity (gift-giving)
Total Number of Projects
of Projects
These included the following:
• tobacco ban for minors;
• creation of bicycle lanes;
• the provision of a legitimate venue for street vendors;
• sanctions for establishments that dump chemical wastes into rivers;
• housing; and
• training for teachers
From 2002-2004, the SK Provincial Federation President of Cebu authored five ordinances on
these issues:
1. Provision of support to continue hiring new teachers;
2. Request for the construction of city and municipal libraries;
3. Monitoring of educational facilities, student-teacher ratio, NEAT and NSAT results;
4. Construction of a separate facility for children in conflict with the law (CICL), as well as
male and female detainees;
5. Creation of an educational and livelihood training center in the provincial rehabilitation
center; and
6. Promotion of peace and order among rival fraternities
B. Initiate programs designed to enhance the social, political, economic, cultural, intellectual,
moral, spiritual, and physical development of members;
There is a mismatch between SK projects and what the youth really need. Based on the survey,
the top three SK projects deal with sports concerns, environmental issues, and infrastructure.
Programs on education and training, health and nutrition, anti-drug abuse and livelihood were
hardly mentioned.
SK councils have also failed to follow the required budget allocations mandated by the 2001 SK
Constitution and By-Laws. Each of these projects should have a 10-percent (10%) share of the
total funds: Green Brigade, livelihood programs, capacity building, and anti-drug abuse
The review of accomplishment reports shows SK councils had spent their funds mostly on
sports-related, environmental, and infrastructure projects. They also focused on beauty pageants,
talent shows, dances, social gatherings, music band contests and the like.
Participants in the study say projects that address the vital problems of the youth, such as
education, health, livelihood, and vices, were lacking.
C. Hold fundraising activities, proceeds of which shall be tax-exempt and accrued to the
general fund of the SK;
Less than 30 percent (30%) of the survey respondents have conducted fundraising campaigns.
About 16 percent (16%) solicited funds from government officials and less than 10 percent
(10%) asked for solicitations/sponsorships from private groups.
When asked if the SK budget was sufficient, majority said they had “just enough” funds. Slightly
less than half of the respondents said they encountered problems in obtaining funds.
Table 3. Problems and Facilitating Factors in Obtaining SK Funds
Problems (in percent)
Facilitating Factors (in percent)
Problems in obtaining approval of
38.18 Cooperative and supportive
Barangay Council
Problems in the process
29.09 Good barangay operations
Too little barangay funds
17.00 Good SK plans
Table 4. Agencies that Support SK and Type of Support Provided
Source of Support
Type of Support
Financial support
Government organizations
Technical support
NGOs / international NGOs
Technical support
The survey showed the tedious process of obtaining funds. SK councils found it difficult to get
the approval of the barangay captains in releasing their budget.
D. Submit annual and end-of-term reports to the Sangguniang Barangay on their projects and
activities for the survival and development of the youth in the barangay;
One glaring finding in the study is that SK councils do not submit reports, or these reports fail to
reach the NYC. There was no standard format used in the reports as SK councils do not get
guidelines on preparing them. Of the 30 reports readily accessible at the NYC, the study only
used 12. The rest merely contained photos of SK projects.
E. Consult and coordinate with all youth organizations in the barangay for policy formulation
and program implementation;
Surveys and interviews in the study revealed there was very little consultation with the youth in
situational analysis, planning, monitoring, and evaluation. It should be pointed out that the SK is
not an organization in itself. It is the council of officers that represents the KK which is a larger
youth contingent.
F. Coordinate with the concerned national agency for the implementation of youth development
projects and programs at the national level;
Majority of SK survey respondents reported having partnerships with national government
agencies and LGUs. The SK usually coordinates with LGUs to ask for financial assistance. For
their part, government agencies provide SK councils with technical support (training, materials,
and human resources) during project implementation.
The Impact of the SK Experience on the Youth
The impact of the SK can be gauged by how it has shaped the lives of its members. Survey
respondents said involvement in governance has had both positive and negative effects on them.
Below are some of the positive effects that were mentioned:
a. The experience begins with filing for candidacy. Young people could be internally or
externally motivated to run as SK officer, and this affects how they view their
b. SK members said they learned important skills and values, and encountered beneficial
opportunities during their term.
Table 5. Positive Effects of the SK on Members
Skills and Knowledge
Values/ Qualities Acquired
Time management
Being responsible
Knowledge of legal matters
(law implementation, the
justice system and legal
Decision-making skills
Prioritization skills
Management skills
The value and importance of
gaining their constituents’
A better understanding of how
to interact with others (“you
can’t please everyone”)
Interpersonal skills
How to handle pressure and
negative feedback
Tiyaga or hard work and
That service means love (for
constituents), treating them as
hindi ibang tao (not different
from oneself)
Confidence (e.g. in public
How to fight for one’s rights
and be vigilant
The value of transparency
Leadership skills
Parliamentary procedures
New Opportunities Met
Financial benefits (e.g.,
Opportunities to travel
Meeting important people (e.g.
high- ranking government
Making new friends
Opportunity to serve as role
models for the youth
Opportunity to serve the
community through projects
Opportunity to practice
legislative capacities
Immersion in the ‘real world’
contributed to social
These results confirm previous studies that youth participation and involvement in local
governance promote the full and healthy development of young people. SK councils also gained
values that developed a sense of responsibility and service to others. Acquiring these values
encouraged them to become public servants.
SK officials who shared their positive experiences also experienced negative effects. Their
responses can be categorized into: negative behaviors learned, challenges and dislikes associated
with entering politics. (See Table 5)
Some SK respondents mentioned they were exposed to, or were directly involved in, intolerable
practices such as corruption and nepotism. Several respondents described one common practice:
when the SK liquidates funds or receives solicitations/sponsorships for their projects, the
barangay captain gives the SK chairperson ten-percent (10%) of the amount spent. This is
reportedly ‘standard practice’ (dubbed as ‘SOP’), which some barangay captains insist on doing,
even if SK chairpersons themselves refuse to accept the money.
Table 6. Negative Effects of the SK on Members
Negative Behaviors Learned
Became ‘plastic’ (phoney/fake)
Became mataray
Were exposed to corruption
and nepotism
Were involved in corruption
and nepotism
Pressure from high
expectations of community
residents and LGU officials
Less time for school, family,
friends, religious duties, etc.
Facing failure when plans do
not push through
Constant public scrutiny
Dislikes Associated with
Gained a negative image/
SK affected by politicking of
government officials
Gaining enemies
automatically (through
Lack of acknowledgment for
their services
Dealing with conflicts between
the SK and other public
Dealing with uncooperative SK
Non-participative youth
Misunderstandings between the
SK and community members
Some SK officials expressed confusion as to what constitutes corruption. Some were not aware
that it is wrong to take office supplies for personal use or accept gifts and money. These findings
create the impression that dubious practices are rampant within the SK. (See Table 6)
SK officials and some respondents said that the foremost negative effect of being an SK member
is that they had less time for other responsibilities in school and at home. For the national results,
the second most-mentioned negative effect was that the SK members “learned to lie or become
However, only a few SK members raised this point. The low number of responses on corruption
and shady practices could be interpreted as follows:
• SK members want to preserve their integrity;
• SK members may be wary of implicating other government officials;
• The response was not important to them while answering the survey; or
• Incidents on corruption and shady practices were few.
While only a few SK members may actually learn to or practice corruption and other
questionable practices, the view of non-SK respondents (e.g., barangay captains, councilors, and
other LGU officials) could not be ignored.
Table 7. Survey Results of Negative Effects of SK Membership
National Results (in percent)
SK Members (in percent)
No time for self, family, school 24.03 No time for self, family, school
Learned to lie, be corrupt
9.05 Made enemies
Made enemies
6.87 Stress
Good SK practices
Being part of the SK changed the way SK respondents view public service and governance. The
recurring theme in their anecdotes was that they realized public service and governance
involved the personal commitment to serve, and that being in government is a difficult and very
demanding task. Despite the hardships, they recognized that serving others could be an
enjoyable experience. Below are some examples of good practices of some SK councils:
A. Cordova, Cebu
A guiding hand and a determined mentor made all the difference for SK councils in Cordova,
Cebu. A DILG officer’s active and hands-on approach helped Cordova’s SK work hard and
make a difference in the community. The DILG officer made sure political maneuvers could not
be carried out during elections.
When asked how she did this, she replied: “Ewan ko. Maldita siguro talaga ako. Nung nalaman
ko na may ganoon na nangyayari, pinuntahan ko ‘yung lugar tapos kinatok ko sila. Sinabihan
ko, ‘Bawal yan, hindi n’yo yan pwedeng gawin (I do not really know. Maybe I’m just strict.
When I found out that that was happening, I went there and knocked on the door. I told them,
‘That’s not allowed. You cannot do that.’).”
She used the same no-nonsense manner in preparing SK officials in her area in handling
responsibilities. During the ISKOLAR training, she shared important information on allocating
and acquiring funds, planning and implementing projects, and making accomplishment reports.
She required SK officials to submit a development plan at the start of each year and an
accomplishment report at the end of every year.
The DILG officer’s respect for young people’s abilities has led to continuing efforts to maximize
the SK’s performance, while SK’s appreciation for her guidance and mentoring has made them
receptive to these efforts. As a result, Cordova’s SK implemented relevant projects such as a
medical mission for underprivileged youth in the area.
B. Panabo City, Davao del Norte
The youth can lead, but they can lead more effectively with the cooperation and support of
concerned organizations.
The youth learned about culinary arts, basic electronics, and food and beverage/housekeeping
through the Hotel and Restaurant Services (HRS) Livelihood Program initiated by the SK
chairperson of Barangay San Fernando and conducted in cooperation with TESDA, and the
Davao Services Cooperative Federation (DASCOFED), a local NGO in Panabo City.
This was the second in a series of livelihood training workshops San Fernando SK conducted.
The venue provided a stepping stone for the youth to find jobs. One of the participants became
the chief cook of a popular bakeshop in Digos City in Davao del Sur, while another found
employment in a four-star hotel in Davao City. One of the participants landed work in Japan,
while another returned to school. The SK is planning its next round of livelihood programs
which will be on basic physical therapy, refrigeration and soap-making.
C. Gamu, Isabela
Genuine concern and consistent efforts to make the youth feel needed and supported in local
policies and programs allowed youth participation in governance to bloom in Barangay Mabini,
Gamu, Isabela. SK elections succeeded due to SK officials’ intense door-to-door campaign, a
symposium about the SK, and miting de avances (campaign assemblies) in each purok (district)
of their barangay. These activities had positive results: all socioeconomic classes were wellrepresented in the 2002 elections.
Mabini’s Barangay Council had a lot to do with these accomplishments. It lends financial and
moral support to the SK and gives youth officials room to make their own decisions and craft
programs. Mentoring and genuine trust boosted the SK’s confidence in making its own
development plan. Youth officials also consulted with the KK and systematically monitored their
As a result, about 20 percent (20%) of the KK are active and functional. These active members
are divided into working groups that take charge of various projects (e.g. environmental projects,
training and workshops for out-ofschool youths). KK members are aware of their functions.
The SK heads the quarterly assembly meetings with the KK. Through these meetings, their
accountability to the KK is ensured. The Barangay Captain asks young people to evaluate SK
projects but does this informally. The SK consults the KK on how to use funds and is subjected
to a regular audit.
The research team believes that abolishing the SK will not serve the best interest of children and
young people. It will not shield them from the negative influences of politics and politicians, but
would only destroy a unique system and a mechanism that has great potential for youth
participation in governance and community service.
Providing the youth a seat in local government and a budget mandated by law, and allowing
them to take part in shaping local policies and programs make them an important part of the
community. While some regard them as a burden, the youth can be productive allies in seeking
to solve society’s ills. After all, they are experts on the challenges faced by their peers in the
Admittedly, the study reveals generally low levels of participation in the SK among young
Filipinos. Respondents may not perceive the SK as a meaningful venue for participation.
However, by retaining the SK system but with some changes, the youth’s message is clear: they
need and want to be involved in the local development process.
It is recommended therefore, that weaknesses in the SK be addressed by changing crucial aspects
of existing policies and implementation.
Researchers established a framework composed of five general themes/goals and guides to attain
these goals:
1. Strengthen the SK’s partnerships with adult organizations like government agencies,
NGOs, faithbased organizations, etc., and children/young people’s organizations such as
the KK, youth organizations, and children’s associations.
2. Establish a standard, programmatic system for monitoring, supervision and technical
support to the SK.
3. Provide programmatic capacity-building for KK members, SK officials and adult
4. Ensure democratic, participatory, non-partisan, community-based and child-friendly
5. Enforce existing policies.
Below are specific recommendations on how these could be done:
1. Strengthening the SK’s partnerships with adult organizations.
Systematically tapping youth organizations – including formal, structured
organizations and informal ones such as ‘fraternities’ and peer groups – in
encouraging youth participation in planning, implementing, and monitoring SK
projects. In terms of policy changes, this can mean amending Sections 43 (a) and 431
(d) of the Local Government Code to create a position within the SK council devoted
to networking and coordinating with youth organizations in the community (i.e.,
youth liaison officer). This would ensure someone in the SK is in-charge of
coordinating with youth organizations in the community for consultation and
cooperation in SK initiatives. This means conducting consultation workshops
(including activities for situational analysis, planning, monitoring, and evaluation),
and implementing joint or co-sponsored projects in coordination with youth groups.
b. Fostering closer working relationships between the SK and the SB in performing the
SB’s function to make barangays child-friendly. In May 2005, UNICEF-Manila
distributed a primer on “What barangay officials can do to set up a child-friendly
locality.” The primer identified local institutions that can play important roles in
making their barangays child-friendly. One of these is the SK, as it can work more
closely with other barangay institutions such as the Barangay Council for the
Protection of Children (BCPC), and the Barangay Early Childhood Care and
Development (ECCD) Coordinating Committee. The SK can work with these
institutions in monitoring the situation of children in the barangay. They can also
participate in the preparation, implementation, and monitoring of these institutions’
action plans on children, childcare, and child development.
Assigning additional functions to SK Municipal and City Federations, such as
consultation and coordination with government agencies, youth organizations, and
other civic groups, and situational analysis of children and the youth in their area of
jurisdiction. This can be done by amending Section 1, Article V of the SK
Constitution and By-Laws. Suggested means to fulfill these functions include:
• Creating a directory of the relevant organizations and groups and distributing
these directories to SK councils in the barangay.
• Coordinating with government agencies and other civic groups that can help
create programs and projects (i.e., resource persons or materials for capabilitybuilding or advocacy efforts).
• Encouraging youth organizations to help drum up support for SK and viceversa. SK should also consult with youth organizations, not only on programs
and projects, but also in policy formulation, situational analysis, monitoring and
d. Providing relevant, regularly updated information to national government
agencies. This can help the SK disseminate information to local SK councils. For
example, the National Anti-Poverty Commission Youth and Student Sector
(NAPC-YS) and NYC could work together to perform the following:
• Collection and consolidation of data on the national situation of the youth. This
can include data on the most important needs, interests and concerns of young
Filipinos. NAPC-YS and NYC can collate this information and forward it to SK
councils on a yearly basis. The information can be disseminated through the SK
National Executive Board and by SK Federation officials at various levels until
they reach local SK councils
• Development of recommendations on programs that can address the youth
2. Establishing a standard, programmatic system for monitoring, supervision, and
technical support to SK councils.
This system should balance young people’s needs and adults’ able supervision with the need for
freedom from overly rigid and prescriptive structures. The issue of budget allocation is usually
where conflict between the SB and the SK arises. Survey results show instances of both: on one
hand, barangay captains who dictate how SK funds should be used; on the other, those who
allow the SK to use their funds as they please.
Policymakers must maintain their respect for young people’s rights and abilities. Changes in
relevant policies and processes should also help ensure that SK councils receive adequate and
appropriate guidance from adults—both from government officials whom they work closely
with, and from members of civil society.
The recommended mechanism can function as a system of checks and balances to minimize
irregularities or corrupt practices within the SK. In addition, establishing such a system is
important to ensure that SK projects will have an impact on the holistic development of young
people in the community and will be consistent with the larger context — that of the objectives
and actions of adult local government officials and community members.
Adult supervision, guidance and mentoring can take many forms. Thus to be effective, it is
crucial for the legal framework to clearly define the roles and functions of various government
agencies and/or officials working with the SK. At the same time, the legal framework should
provide for mechanisms that will facilitate the performance of functions of agencies and
The following are some recommendations on how this can be done:
a. Amend Section 426 of LGC to require the SK to formulate an SK Development Plan in
consultation with the youth and in accordance with the Barangay Development Plan. This
would help SK councils become more transparent and efficient, and minimize difficulties
in obtaining funds and reducing conflict between the SK and the Barangay Development
b. Revise SK Constitution and By-Laws to include an article on procedures for reviewing
development plans. It could specify that the Municipal Planning and Development Office
(MPDO) should guide barangay SK councils in creating development plans, while the
Provincial Planning and Development Office (PPDO) should guide municipal/city SK
councils. On the barangay level, the review process could be as follows: Before budgets
are submitted and reviewed for approval, barangay SK councils should first be required
to submit an SK Development Plan to the MPDO. The MPDO should review the plans to
ensure that these can be integrated into the Barangay Development Plan of their
respective barangays, and with the development plan of their city/municipality.
Once the plans have been approved, the MPDO should guide the SK in prioritizing
planned programs so they could allocate resources accordingly. As the secretariat of the
Municipal Development Council, the MPDO can also assist or endorse the SK to NGOs,
religious institutions/organizations, civic organizations and other members of civil
society to rally support for the SK’s plans. The review process for municipal/city
federations can follow a similar procedure.
c. Amend Section 389 (b-11) of LGC to define the barangay captain’s function more
clearly. The study reveals the barangay captain’s supervisory role over the SK is vaguely
defined in the policy framework. Having relevant policies that stipulate the barangay
captain’s function can address this. These policies may include ensuring the SK’s plans
and activities are in accordance with the barangay’s objectives, and that the SK
Development Plan is consistent with the Barangay Development Plan. The barangay
captain should be limited to ministerial roles in approving the development plan and a
plan of expenditures.
d. Develop a systematic and programmatic monitoring and evaluation system. Findings
suggest that DILG officers at provincial and municipal/city levels, working in
coordination with the NYC, can best perform overall monitoring and evaluation of the
SK’s performance. Policies on NYC’s functions could be amended to include the
development of a monitoring and evaluation guide DILG field officers could use in
evaluating the SK performance. These agencies could also look into the possibility of
forming an inter-agency, multi-sectoral body responsible for formulating this guide,
similar to the Advisory Council incorporated in NYC’s recommendations for
strengthening the SK. This guide should help DILG officers determine the progress and
identify lessons learned by answering the following:
1. What SK councils want to achieve (deciding on their own goals);
2. What they have done (reflecting on their achievements);
3. What they still need to do (determining what action has to be taken); and
4. What changes were seen (examining the impact)
Appropriate policy changes could also be made to specify that the function of the Municipal/City
Local Government Operations Officer (MLGOO/CLGOO) include monitoring and evaluating
SK performance at the barangay level. The Provincial Local Government Operations Officer
(PLGOO) includes monitoring and evaluating SK performance at the municipal/city level. SKs
involved in a housing project
The monitoring and evaluation function of DILG officers should include:
• Regular monitoring and evaluation meetings with the SK. The meetings can be held twice a
year. MLGOOs/CLGOOs can minimize costs by meeting with SK councils from five or six
neighboring barangays in a community center or DILG office at the same time. In
clustering barangays together, the field officer can take into consideration the size and
number of barangays in a particular municipality/city, as well as how to maximize the
efficiency of the process.
• Evaluation of SK performance based on a standard guide to be developed by the NYC
• Documentation of SK experience. This is important to identify the good practices and the
principles applied which could be documented and disseminated. Problems encountered
and mistakes must also be recognized so they could be transformed into lessons learned.
The documentation should include activity reports and action plans resulting from each
capacity-building activity SK councils attend (e.g. Lakbay-Aral activities).
In general, the study shows that many perceive SK councils focus on sports more than any other
youth concern. One of the possible reasons is the automatic designation of the SK Chair as Chair
of the Committee on Youth and Sports Development. Renaming the Committee may prompt
government officials and citizens to have a broader view of the SK’s role. Amendments to
Sections 430 and 438 (c) of LGC could pave the way for renaming the Committee on Youth and
Sports Development as Committee on Youth Development. It is also important to involve SK
councilors in various committees in the barangay. This is because youth development should cut
across different programs and projects of the community.
3. Provide programmatic capacity-building for KK members, SK officials and adult
This will ensure SK councils are adequately prepared for their functions and continue to receive
relevant training as their term of office progresses. The training program should involve KK as
the bigger organization to develop a pool of future leaders and allow more youth to be involved
in the community. Moreover, training should fulfill the important need for adult officials to work
with young people in general, and with SK councils in particular.
The effectiveness of these capacity-building efforts can be ensured through the following:
a. Developing and implementing a continuous, culturally sensitive training program for
SK councils at various levels.
Existing policies4 on ISKOLAR already outline the process that should be followed. They also
identify responsible public officials and government agencies. However, the non-programmatic
manner in which ISKOLAR is currently conducted suggests these policies are not being
implemented strictly. Involved agencies (DILG, NYC, SKNF) and key officials (DILG
Provincial/City Directors, Municipal and Local Government Operations Officers, DILG
Regional Action Officers) should be aware of their mandated duties. DILG Regional Directors
must ensure the designated ISKOLAR Action Officer of their respective regions perform
responsibilities assigned to them in DILG MC No. 99-86 (i.e., provision of technical assistance
in the conduct of training, monitoring and evaluation of DILG participation in the
implementation of the program).
DILG can handle continued training on topics they are equipped to discuss, such as SK
functions, responsibilities, laws and resource mobilization. In addition, NYC and SK Federation
can tap other government organizations, NGOs, and civil or people’s organizations to conduct
training on other important topics.
b. Ensuring ISKOLAR covers the following topics:
• SK functions and responsibilities
• Skills and processes
ISKOLAR training Phase I should include:
• making development plans;
• budgeting funds for activities;
• requesting and obtaining funds;
• using funds efficiently;
• mobilizing resources;
• adopting parliamentary procedures; and
• Situational Analysis, Planning, Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation
(SAPIME) process of project implementation
ISKOLAR Phase I should also include a discussion on child-friendly methods and
processes. This can help them with activities and programs that will effectively reach
out to the youth.
ISKOLAR training Phase II for SK Federation officials should include:
• skills in building and strengthening networks with NGOs, youth organizations, civic
organizations, and other groups that can give support to the SK and
• skills in formulating and implementing legislative measures at their respective
c. Increase the effectiveness of capacity-building activities aside from ISKOLAR (i.e.
Lakbay-Aral activities) by establishing a selection process that allows SK officials to
attend activities that match their capabilities. The Barangay Council should supervise
to ensure the process is transparent and participatory.
d. Review training methods and resource materials currently used and make them more
child-friendly or appropriate to SK officials’ developmental levels. Child-focused
civic organizations can be tapped to improve materials and processes. The NYC
could oversee equal distribution of resource materials through its area offices. They
could ensure such materials are equally distributed at the provincial level. Different
levels of the SK Federation should coordinate to make sure these materials reach
barangay SK councils.
Amend Section 431 of LGC to add to the SK chairperson’s functions the duty to echo
all training he/she received to all SK councilors. Study findings show the need for SK
councilors to gain information and skills SK chairpersons learn through ISKOLAR
and other training workshops.
Development of a voter’s education program for KK and SK candidates, to be
conducted by outgoing SK officials prior to general SK elections. Educating the youth
on the roles they can play as Filipino citizens in ensuring good governance can raise
their interest in participation, as well as empower them. This necessitates a change in
Section 426 of LGC by adding, ”…conduct voter’s education activities prior to the
next Sangguniang Kabataan elections” to the functions of barangay SK councils. In
particular, it is recommended that the outgoing SK be mandated to remain in office
for one month along with the incumbent SK Council in an advisory capacity. This
will ensure the smooth turnover of responsibilities.
g. Development and delivery of orientation and/or leadership and citizenship training
modules for the KK and other children’s associations. The orientation should deal
with SK functions and responsibilities, their roles, expectations of elected officials
and the local situation of children and youth in the community. Other modules can
focus on basic laws and children’s rights, identifying problems, planning, prioritizing,
and implementing projects. The DILG could develop modules while other national
agencies or NGOs could provide training. KK members and other young people
should receive orientation/training prior to the SK election.
Development of a training program for barangay officials and DILG field officers on
working more effectively with the SK. The suggested training program for adult
officials could include the following matters:
• Children’s rights and children’s/young people’s participation;
• Child and young people-friendly methods and processes;
• SK functions and responsibilities;
• Adult officials’ roles in SK processes. For barangay officials, this includes
important roles in reviewing the SK’s Development Plan and budget, requiring
the submission of SK accomplishment reports, and imposing sanctions on nonperforming SK officials.
For DILG officers, this includes capacity-building, monitoring and evaluation,
and networking.
4. Ensure democratic, participatory, non-partisan, community-based and child-friendly
Survey results show SK processes are hampered because of the lack of participation of the youth,
intervention of partisan politics, and non-democratic and non-child-friendly processes. Partisan
politics influences the election process greatly, and may breed nonperforming SK councils.
The following are examples of specific recommendations that can ensure democratic,
participatory, non-partisan, and child-friendly processes:
• Adjust the age bracket for KK members to 15-21 years old. This allows young people
belonging to a wider age bracket to participate in SK activities, vote in SK elections,
and take part in the KK assemblies and consultations. Thus, Section 6 of RA 9164 can
be amended to read:
“SEC. 424. Katipunan ng Kabataan. The Katipunan ng Kabataan shall be composed of
all citizens of the Philippines actually residing in the barangay for at least six (6)
months, who are fifteen (15) but less than twenty-two (22) years of age, and who are
duly registered in the list of the Sangguniang Kabataan or in the official barangay list
in the custody of the barangay secretary.”
• Adjust the age bracket for SK officials to 18-21 years old. Compared to adolescents,
young adults are generally more concerned about social involvement, are more
systematic in approaching problems, and are more adept at applying acquired
knowledge. Thus, the recommended adjustment could ensure that the youth eligible for
SK positions are already prepared to hold public office.
Therefore, Section 7 of RA 9164 can be changed to:
“SEC. 428. Qualifications. – An elective official of the Sangguniang Kabataan must be
a Filipino citizen, a qualified voter of the Katipunan ng Kabataan, a resident of the
barangay for at least one (1) year immediately prior to election, at least eighteen (18)
years but less than twentytwo (22) years of age on the day of the election, able to read
and write Filipino, English, or the local dialect, and must not have been convicted of
any crime involving moral turpitude.”
Changing the age bracket, however, is no assurance that all SK councils will be able to perform
their duties and responsibilities well. Other changes should accompany these adjustments to
enable and maximize the youth to participate to the maximum extent of their evolving capacities.
Another possible qualification is for SK candidates to come from KK or any duly registered
youth organization.
• Strengthen KK groups in each barangay. Members must clearly understand the
objectives and have a plan of activities. The KK should also be registered at the
municipal/city level as a recognized organization so members can take part in elections.
Members of other children’s organizations should also be encouraged to register to
participate in the SK elections. This process will also help increase the awareness on
KK at the community level.
• The number of elected SK kagawads (councilors) may be reduced from seven to three.
There have been reports of non-performing SK kagawads and SK Councils that
function with only three active members. The SK Council can be streamlined to include
one chairperson and three kagawads who would perform specific duties (e.g., secretary,
treasurer, liaison officer). Due to the reduced number of SK officials, all SK members
may sit during Barangay Council meetings so that the youth representatives would not
be intimidated. The SK representatives to local government councils at the municipal
and city levels can also be increased to two; at the provincial level, depending on the
number of districts, an SK representing a district can sit at the Provincial Board.
• SK officials could be excused from classes to attend council meetings. The age bracket
of 18-21, the recommended age for SK officials, and the current age bracket of 15-18,
are when most young people are enrolled in school. To enable SK officials to fulfill
their responsibilities in school and in SK, they should be excused from classes during
barangay or LGU council meetings. SK officials should also be given the opportunity
to make up for academic lessons or work missed.
• Add a provision in LGC that will safeguard SK councils’ access to funds for approved
projects. Financial autonomy is an issue that the SK has been pushing for many years
now. However, as a government organization, the SK’s financial activities must
undergo the same rigorous checks and balances other political bodies go through. An
additional safety net is needed to guard against barangay captains and treasurers who
refuse to release SK funds despite an approved budget plan. The provision could read:
“As a signatory to the voucher, the Punong Barangay’s signing of the voucher should
be ministerial provided that the SK Development Plan/budget plan has been approved.”
• SK Federations should assess the situation of children and the youth in their areas of
jurisdiction. SK Federations in cities and municipalities, through participative methods,
should produce a situational analysis of the youth in their areas. This can be done by
selecting certain key informants from the youth and adult sectors (e.g. members of the
City/Municipal Council for the Protection of Children, NGOs/people’s organizations,
members of youth organizations, KK members and concerned adult and children
residents) to participate in discussions that deal with the needs, problems, concerns and
interests of the youth in their area. A documentation of this situational analysis should
be distributed to the barangay SK councils and other concerned agencies, and submitted
to higher federations. Higher federations (Provincial, Regional, and National
Federations) should compile these situational analyses submitted by SK at the
city/municipal level until they reach the national level. These can aid in the creation of
an assessment on the national youth situation that could be used as a guideline for
programs and policies.
• Registration schedules and venues should be more accessible to young people.
Legislators should consider the accessibility of registration venues and schedules to
young people. This would allow more young people to participate in SK elections,
thereby enabling the SK to have a greater impact due to the increased participation of
young people in the process. There can be a memorandum of agreement between the
COMELEC and the SK, directing the Election Officer to coordinate with the incumbent
Barangay and SK Councils to set up registration stations in areas where young people
congregate. If necessary and feasible, they should also hold registration sessions during
weekends or after school/office hours.
• SK elections should be held during summer, separately from the barangay elections.
Holding SK elections during summer would increase the chances of the youth’s
involvement in elections. Separating SK elections from barangay elections would also
lead to non-partisan elections. Amendments should be made on RA 9164 so SK
elections can be held during the summer vacation (between March and June).
5. Enforcement of existing policies
Some weaknesses of the SK are directly linked to inconsistent enforcement of policies. The
following are recommendations on strengthening enforcement of oft-violated policies:
• The Board of Election Supervisors (BES) should monitor SK Federation elections at all
levels more strictly. Irregularities, such as the conduct of elections without prior
completion of ISKOLAR training, should be considered a failure of the elections. BES
should also ensure the fair, non-partisan conduct of SK Federation elections in
accordance with the Omnibus Election Code. They should be vigilant in preventing the
commission of any of the prohibited acts described in Article XXII, Section 261 of the
Omnibus Election Code, particularly vote buying and selling and the exertion of undue
influence over voters (e.g., ‘housing’ or ‘hamletting’).
• COMELEC should investigate any offenses allegedly committed during SK Federation
• Mandatory attendance of SK chairpersons at ISKOLAR training should be enforced
more strictly • Non-performing SK members should be identified and monitored and
given appropriate intervention. There are specific guidelines in the SK Constitution and
By-Laws that deal with non-performing SK members but SK federations were reluctant
to intervene in such cases. Thus, there is a need for DILG support to identify and
monitor non-performing SK members and give special re-orientation programs for
them to fulfill their functions. Giving incentives to productive SK members would also
encourage members to perform better. The NYC already has this incentive program and
should coordinate with SK federations to promote high-quality performance.
Consideration should also be given to SK members in 4th to 5th class municipalities
where barangay funds are less but SK members are able to accomplish relevant
• Monitor Barangay Captains to prevent them from abusing supervisory powers over SK.
Several SK councils complain that their barangay captains refuse to sign vouchers for
the SK to access funds despite having approved budget plans or SK Development
Plans. Other SK councils reported barangay captains who tap into SK funds for non-SK
-Assessment endSK elections
Although barangay politics and the SK in particular are supposed to be non-partisan, it is often
said that the SK has become a training ground for so-called “trapolitos,”13 who are learning the
ropes of wheeling and dealing in politics from their elders. More often than not, the ability of a
local SK council to implement projects depends on their ability to foster good relations with
barangay officials and local ward leaders. In some places, SK representatives are children or
relatives of established politicians who are being groomed for higher office. This is how
politicized the situation has become on the ground.
Implementation is another problem. Due to the fiscal crisis of the national government, the
barangay elections slated for 2005 have been postponed indefinitely. Costs are certainly a
consideration here. The last synchronized barangay and SK elections of 2002 cost the Philippine
government 461 Million Pesos (about US$8.5 million) to staff 192,109 polling precincts
nationwide. It is also in the interest of incumbent officials to retain the present set of barangay
and SK officials, which make up their loyal, well-oiled machinery for the next elections.
These machinations are no secret. There have been numerous legislative proposals to abolish the
SK altogether. However, some progressive groups feel uneasy about such moves. Comments
Trapo, in Filipino political parlance, refers to traditional politicians who use patronage politics to further their
self-serving goals. It literally means dishrag. A trapolito, as a diminutive, therefore refers to a “little trapo.”
Akbayan Youth leader Jonas Bagas: “Corruption and incompetence in the Sangguniang
Kabataan is not a function of age. It is a product of patronage politics and the absence of
transparency and accountability in the use of public funds. Abolishing the SK is a knee-jerk
reaction that would not only fail to address corruption at the barangay-level, but would also deny
the Filipino youth political representation in an arena so crucial to their rights and welfare.”
On October 29, 2007, Synchronized Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections
were held based on the newly amended Republic Act No. 9340, approved on September 22, 2005
by the 13th Congress of the Philippines. The 14th Congress of the Philippines tried twice to reset
the Barangay and SK Elections instead to May 2008 so the elections could be trial for the
computerization of elections following Republic Act No. 9369, also known as Amending the
Election Modernization Act but were unsuccessful since the Senate rejected the proposed bill.
The elections were held in the country's 41,995 barangays and contested 41,995 posts for the
Barangay Chairman also known as the Punong Barangay also for the SK Chairman and 293,965
posts for the Members of the Sangguniang Barangay also known as the Barangay Kagawad also
for the Members of the Katipunan ng mga Kabataan also known as the SK Kagawad.
Table 8. Number Of Established And Clustered Precincts And Registered Voters
For October 29, 2007 Barangay and SK Elections (As of 11 October 2007)
Number of Number of Number of
Number of
Barangays Establishe
d Precincts
Voters 2007
Number of
Precincts Voters 2007
SOURCE: COMELEC’s Election Records and Statistics Department (ERSD)
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