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Featured Stories

Anak ng Jueteng

by Sheila S. Coronel
Like Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been accused of accepting money from illegal gambling.

Jekyll-and-Hyde Campaign

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Alongside the official Arroyo campaign was a parallel structure that operated secretly and with little accountability.

Presidential Makeover
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A foreign PR firm is re-engineering Mrs. Arroyo’s image.

Running on Taxpayers’ Money
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Billions of pesos in government funds were used to pump prime Arroyo’s candidacy.

The Man Who Would be President
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SOS: System Under Stress
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Can Congress be trusted to hold a credible impeachment trial and to change the constitution?

Lights, Camera, Impeachment!
by Alecks P. Pabico
The impeachment proceedings should be the best show in town, but so far, it’s been a sleeper.

For Visayans, The Center Does Not Hold
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The Moro People Can Be a Part of a Plural Society Without Losing Their Identity
by Omar Solitario Ali

The Time for Federalism is Now
by Rey Magno Teves

"When the Wheels of History Turn, You Hardly Expect the World to Turn Upside Down”
by Ed Lingao

“I Was at Edsa Out of Pure Disgust”
by Mylene Lising

Finding Spaces
by Katrina Stuart Santiago
They are the hi-tech generation, at ease with technology but otherwise lost when it comes to dealing with the complexities of a globalized world.

So Young and So Trapo
by Avigail Olarte
The Sangguniang Kabataan, training ground of future leaders, has fallen into the grip of traditional politics.

Teen and Tipsy
by Vinia Datinguinoo
More and more adolescent girls are drinking alcohol.

Perils of Generation Sex
by Cheryl Chan
Filipino women are having sex earlier, but are seldom aware of the risks, including sexually transmitted diseases.

The Business of Beauty
by Cheryl Chan
Shampoos, skin whiteners, and assorted other beauty products find a ready market among young women.

Machos in the Mirror
by Dean Francis Alfar
Filipino men are spending millions to look—and feel—good.

Male and Vain
Photos by Jose Enrique Soriano
Men are lining up to get facials, foot scrubs, and even dips in bathtubs filled with rose petals.

Growing Up Female and Muslim
by Samira Gutoc
Moro women still value religion and tradition, but are also responding to the challenges of modernity.

Virtually Yours
by Alecks P. Pabico
Technology has redefined the barkada.
So Young and So Trapo

The Sangguniang Kabataan, training ground of future leaders, has fallen into the grip of traditional politics.


HE WAS the man who would be president, or so Romanne Posadas thought at age 10, when he walked up to his father and asked what it would take to be one. Good-looking, bright, and highly ambitious, he was the personification of Joseph the Dreamer, who as a boy knew he would one day be king.

Years later, Posadas took the first step toward his dream. He won as Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) chairman in his barangay, the largest in the town of Urbiztondo, Pangasinan. So glorious was his victory that one of the first things he did afterward was to hold a great feast for the people who had helped him clinch it.

Gusto ko (dati) sikat ako (I wanted to be famous),” Posadas, now 26, says with a wicked smile. A homeroom president from grade one and an excellent orator, he was “the perfect candidate.” But Posadas quickly adds that he also had a desire to serve, figuring he had talents he could use to help others.

Like most greenhorn politicians, the newly elected Posadas worked enthusiastically and delivered the kind of projects expected of him: sportsfests, fiestas, and barangay beautification. He was particularly proud of the basketball court that was built on his first year. But it was also this project that introduced to another kind of “reward”—10 percent from the contract price that, a barangay councilor told him, represented his part in awarding the deal to a contractor the councilors had recommended.

The unexpected windfall must have been most welcome because succeeding projects found Posadas anxiously waiting for the “SOP,” also known as standard operating procedure or rebates or kickbacks. “Kinain ako ng sistema (I was devoured by the system),” he now says with a sad, strained voice. “We were exposed to the wrong kind of politics at a very young age.”

As the breeding ground for the next generation of leaders, the Sangguniang Kabataan was supposed to be an instrument for moral recovery. But the early assimilation of young, idealistic aspirants like Posadas into traditional politics has led many to conclude that SK is failing miserably in fulfilling that vision. Instead of creating a new breed of politicians, the SK seems to have fallen into the grip of traditional politics, complete with patronage, corruption, and inefficiency.

As the country reels from a political crisis that is threatening the credibility of key institutions, the SK hardly offers a beacon of hope. Instead, what should ideally have been a portent of a brighter political future has wound up reflecting almost everything that is wrong with Philippine politics.

There are those who say that could only be expected of a body patterned after the Kabataang Barangay (KB), a brainchild of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos. The KB was meant to counter the growing popularity of the Left among the youth but soon became a tool to perpetuate the Marcos regime and deprive his enemies of recruits. But those who created the SK years later apparently saw something in the KB structure that made them appropriate it for the new youth organization. That wasn’t what made it open to corruption, though. Rather, it was the new components that exposed the Sangguniang Kabataan to the possible penetration of trapo ways.

IT TOOK six years after the fall of Marcos before the KB was revived under a new name, the Sangguniang Kabataan, and only after the creation of the Local Government Code made such a resurrection possible. Like in the case of the KB, the law allowed the elected SK chair in each barangay to sit as an ex-officio member of the council, affording him or her the power to legislate. The same would follow for the elected SK federation president in a town or city (as councilor) and in a province (as board member).

This one seat, which meant one vote, made the young ex-officio lawmakers “potent conduits of power.” But there was more: under the new law, the SK heads would receive regular compensation and allowances. And at the barangay level, the SK representative would have the discretion on how to spend the organization’s 10-percent share from the general fund for youth-related projects and programs.

That discretion has since been abused. Just this summer, in a barangay in an eastern Metro Manila city, a local official says the SK spent its P2.2-million budget in a barangay-wide sportsfest that cost them P1 million in uniforms alone and P500,000 in referee’s fees. The barangay captain and the SK chair, he says, wanted such an elaborate event that they paid for the uniforms of over 2,000 players and even of the cheerleading competition contestants.

A supplier says he sold each basketball uniform to the barangay for P450 even if he could have settled ordinarily for P350. He says he had to factor in the cut of the SK chair and the whole barangay council. “In each project in this barangay, whether the money came from the SK fund or not, the whole council gets its share,” says the supplier. “So if it’s worth P100,000, they divide the P10,000 among themselves.”

Another supplier, who has sold sports and office equipment to the six barangays of the same city, says SK officials have been receiving kickbacks from projects since she began doing business there in 1999. The cuts start at 10 percent; not one SK official has turned down his or her share in all six barangays, says the supplier. One particular SK chair—a 19-year-old—has even gained notoriety for demanding SOPs in advance. Says the supplier: “We give it after the barangay has paid us, not before. Pero makapal talaga mukha nito (But this one is really something else). Yet since we also want to continue doing business with them, we have to do what they want.” The supplier adds that the share in SOPs had even caused a dispute in the SK council; apparently, the chair had not been giving the other members their own share.

Overall, the amounts involved are staggering. This year alone, P2.9 billion went to SK funds, representing 10 percent of the total Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) distributed among the 41,885 barangays across the country. With SOPs said to range from 10 to 20 percent, a total of P290 million to P580 million could be ending up as mere grease money for young politicos throughout the country.

That’s the big picture. Yet even the amount of money entrusted to each SK is nothing to scoff at. Aside from its percentage from a barangay’s IRA, an SK’s money pot also includes the group’s share of the taxes and dues collected in a barangay. In rich and commercial areas in Metro Manila, an SK’s annual budget could even run into several million pesos.

Table 1: Barangays in Makati with the Largest General Fund

Source: City Budget Office, Makati
(IRA + taxes, dues, and fees)
(10-percent share)
Bel-Air Village
San Lorenzo Village
Forbes Park
Urdaneta Village
Dasmariñas Village

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