House bills reforming SK, banning reappointments to JBC approved (Business Mirror (Philippines))

THE House of Representatives recently approved on third and final reading the measure instituting reforms in the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) to make it more responsive to the needs of the youth sector and the bill banning the reappointment of a regular member of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) who has already served a full term.

House Bill 6043, or the proposed Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Act, seeks to amend certain sections of Republic Act 7160, or the Local Government Code of 1991, by increasing the age requirement of SK members from 15 to 18 to 21 years of age.

The measure also requires elective or appointed officials of the SK to be at least 18 years of age but not more than 21 on the day of the election. It allows the SK officials who reach the age of 21 to finish their terms.

It also provides that the Sangguniang Barangay shall appropriate the SK fund in lump sum to be disbursed solely for youth development and empowerment purposes.

The bill also provides that the 10-percent SK share in barangay funds shall be released provided that the request for such release is supported by an SK resolution and a project proposal duly approved by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

The bill includes provisions on the grounds for suspension and removal of SK officials from public office, changing the period of the meetings of the Katipunan ng Kabataan from at least once every three months to once every six months, and prohibiting the election or appointment of SK officials who have a relative in elected public office within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity. In addition, the measure institutionalizes the observance of the Buwan ng Kabataan, during which local officials shall conduct activities with the participation of the youth.

It mandates the conduct of leadership trainings and seminars for SK members to be managed jointly by the Local Government Academy of the Philippines and the DILG, and establishes an SK Capability Building Fund to support the mandatory trainings and seminars on leadership and program development.

Liberal Party (LP) Rep. Alfredo D. Vargas III of Quezon City, one of the authors of the measure, said the progressive reform in the current youth representation would ensure that the spirit of volunteerism will be strengthened and the youth will be insulated from the perils of traditional politics.

Vargas said that the bill aims to strengthen SK by reorienting youth participation in governance toward meaningful volunteerism and by shielding them from partisan politics.

Meanwhile, House Bill 6040, which the House has also passed, disqualifies a regular member of the JBC from being reappointed to the same position in any capacity once said member has served the full term of office. The disqualification shall also apply to any person who has been appointed and has served the unexpired portion of at least two years of the term of office of a regular member who has ceased to become one by reason of death, incapacity or resignation.

LP Rep. Francis Gerald A. Abaya of Cavite City, one of the authors of the measure, said the bill seeks to ban reappointments to the JBC to avoid the possibility of instances where its members, in their desire to be reappointed to the Council, succumb to pressure from the Executive branch to nominate individuals based on political considerations, instead of their actual merits and qualifications, seriously undermining the quality of judicial appointments and the independence of the judiciary as a whole.

Abaya said the measure shall enhance the independence of the Judiciary by insulating it from political pressure.

One of the key provisions of the bill enumerates the regular members of the JBC as provided under Art. VIII, Section 8 (2) of the 1987 Constitution, who shall be appointed by the President for a term of four (4) years with the consent of the Commission on Appointments.

The regular members are as follows: (a) representative of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP); (b) professor of Law; (c) a retired Member of the Supreme Court, and (d) representative of the Private Sector.