Earlier this year, I have met four friends coming from different localities here in the Province of Negros Oriental. Surprisingly, each of them is a Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) Chairman in their respective barangays. One of them even spearheads all SK Chairmen in their municipality. They are part of the group whom Dr. Jose Rizal calls the hope of our nation.
I’ve heard of how they have achieved victory. Unfortunately, they all have a common denominator. They won the elections because they purchased the votes of all their constituents. I am well aware that the country is the haven of nail-crooked politicians and that buying of votes is not new to us, but learning that even youth leaders are practicing this kind of wicked doings made me think twice.
I’ve learned that the SK gets the 10 percent of the barangay’s annual Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA). Let’s say for example, a certain barangay has an annual IRA of 20 million, 10 percent of that IRA which is 2 million goes to the SK Funds. Quite big isn’t it?
Here’s more. When a certain project is implemented, the government officials, whether the mayor, the barangay captain, or the SK chairman, and his councils receive 20 percent commission of the entire amount of the project cost; another 20 percent goes to the contractor; and another 6 percent goes to the government tax.
For example, if the project costs 5 million, 1 million goes to the barangay chairman and his councils (he needs to share his blessings to cover him up, so that he will appear “transparent”); another 1 million goes to the contractor; 5 percent goes to the VAT and 1 percent for the withholding tax. All in all, these shares would reach 2.3 million pesos, leaving only 2.7 million or a mere 50 percent of the total project cost for the project’s implementation.
That’s a lot of money. No wonder the youngsters of today are hot-contesting this side of political arena. No wonder they are investing too much money on winning because they knew that once they win, they hit jackpot.
There is something wrong with Philippine politics and that includes most of the SK officials all over the country. They are practicing the art of corruption at a very young age. During the SK elections a year ago, I was a witness to how the youth candidates spent large amounts of money for food and beverages, campaign posters, and vehicles and gasoline for their campaign. Apart from that, they also spent a large portion of their money for vote-buying that ranges from P100-1000 per voter; some candidates would even go as much as 5,000 depending on the heat of the elections.
The disease of vote-buying as well as vote-selling has definitely affected the youth. And if Dr. Jose P. Rizal is still alive today, he will surely be very disappointed to the outcome of his undying hope—“Ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan.”