Phoenix Rising

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The flame of hope in the hearts of young Filipinos’ struggle to remain ablaze amidst the issues on youth involvement that try to douse its light. In a survey released by the youthpolicy.org, 62% of the Filipino youth admit that they seldom take initiatives in nation building and 39.9% claim that they never even vote during elections.

Indeed, as the burning passion of our young people is being reduced to mere embers, we are called to reform our current constitution and welcome changes that would strengthen the representation of the youth in our government.

Unfortunately, young Filipinos themselves have little trust on the very people who represent them. When young people hear the name “Sangguniang Kabataan (SK),” they don’t think about the vast efforts of the organization in nation building, youth development, and political awareness. No, the name has become synonymous to beauty pageants, sports leagues and dance contests.

In fact, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles called out to the organization in 2019, saying, “All SK governments must do more than organize beauty contests in light of real problems confronting their generation.” How can we ignite the passion of our young nation builders if they themselves are wary of their own representatives?

Truly, it is not enough for the youth to be represented. They have to be represented well. Most local governments loosen their grip after electing SK officials and providing them with sufficient funds, not knowing that the most critical part comes after. It’s guiding them through the process that is often overlooked.

In 2017, Atty. Ferdinand Panes, director of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in Iloilo city states that SK funds are underutilized. In average, only 30-40% of SK funds are being utilized, and there are those whose utilization is only 9%.

If anything, these statistics show that our young leaders need proper guidance and support. They may be brimming with potential but it would all be useless if this potential is not directed into the right places. Thus, this is where the role of local governments and the call for a constitutional reform are most fundamental.

Currently, we bank on RA 8044 or the Youth in Nation Building Act to encourage the youth to participate in political issues. However, there are not enough laws to support its implementation in the grassroots level. Long gone should be the days wherein we settle for shallow activities branded as “campaigns for youth involvement.”

With this, local governments must nurture the young leaders under their care and properly guide them to the right way of spending their funds and initiating productive programs. They should provide workshops and seminars for elected SK leaders in order to educate them on how to properly advocate their causes especially during the current pandemic conditions. Youth involvement would only be possible if young Filipinos trust their leaders enough to speak for them and represent them.

In their vulnerable state, young people are susceptible to all kinds of outward influence. Their feeble hands may tremble at the thought of the gargantuan responsibility. Thus, it is necessary to uphold laws that would be their stronghold as they carry the future of our country.

Right now, maybe all that we can see are the sparks where there was once a burning zeal. In addition, the challenges brought about by the pandemic had slowed down the effort to re-ignite the embers of youth development in the Philippines.

Nevertheless, at rock bottom, we have no other way to go but upwards. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, let us pave the way to a better constitution that would well represent the ability of our young nation builders to rekindle the flame of their enthusiasm to be at the forefront of the initiatives in fostering youth leadership for a better Philippines.

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