imyeyes-banner-sqIn My EyesBy Edward B. Antonio

IN MY EYES: A Sangguniang Kabataan election story

The Commission on Elections is set to administer the incoming elections of barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) officers this May 14, fellas.

But Mang Maing says only the moneyed win. He also adds that those who win are politically backed-up by corrupt politicians, corrupt electorates and the candidates’ equally corrupt parents and relatives.

But things are different now,” I said. “The Comelec has set strict guidelines to make the SK elections fair and square to all candidates.”

Aw, maybe this time, but last time, it was not so,” he said.

Mang Maing’s niece was one of the victims in an SK election several years ago. Mang Maing’s story is a proof that many SK electorates are slowly going with the flow of corruption which is currently the trend in Philippine settings during elections.

Mang Maing’s niece, Aira, was once a student leader. With her charisma, brilliant ideas and her ability to poll other student leaders, she could easily organize community services and school programs to benefit her fellow students. A prolific writer, articulate and persuasive speaker, multi-awarded mathematician and a seasoned student leader in high school, she was ripe for SK chairmanship in her barangay the last SK elections.

Aira was endorsed by her classmates, her teachers and her student council adviser. Her endorsers said her ability to lead her peers in her barangay would be one big step she could do to transfer her knowledge from school governance to SK governance.

And so, she filed her candidacy.

She was filled with enthusiasm. She carried in her bag a truckload of programs and activities contained in a workplan that would make the youth a busy and a working force for the development of her barangay. She had workplans in sports, community services, peer tutoring and counseling, environmental protection, anti-drug and smoking program, program to honor parents and working barangay officials and a networking plan to tap the help of other government agencies and NGOs.

But she forgot one thing. She didn’t belong to a well-to-do family.

Her mother was a struggling government employee who worked hand in hand with his farmer husband to finance their 4 children studying at the same time: 2 in college, 1 in high school and 1 in elementary. Indeed, they were trying times for the family, but Aira was determined to work for her village once elected.

Then, another student filed his candidacy with the prodding of his wealthy parents and their relatives.

Bonnie’s family owned wide farmlands and a big grocery store. In other words, Bonnie belonged to a well-to-do clan.

But Bonnie was a problem student in school. He belonged to one of those lower sections notorious for bullying. He had poor reading and comprehension ability but was popular with the boys who frequented the computer shops and billiard halls.

During the campaign, the two candidates were presented by the barangay council in a night of forum attended by the SK electorates. Aira presented her workplan in a wonderful speech. She answered all questions precisely and offered herself as an alternative to arouse the interest of her peers in barangay service. Her brilliance caught the attention of one of the visitors. The visitor belonged to the academe in a prestigious school in Manila who happened to be there. He was then visiting his sick mother.

We need young people like you,” he said while shaking her hand.

On the other hand, Bonnie delivered an awkward speech, reading his notes and coached by his parents behind his back. When he could no longer stand the pressure, he stopped, scratching his head. He boycotted the open forum portion saying he had a headache.

But Bonnie’s parents went to work. During the last days of the campaign, they hosted several parties. Snacks for electorates were free. They hired campaigners. They mobilized their relatives to campaign for Bonnie. Some said they also secretly distributed “envelopes” to the voters. The night prior to election day, they hosted a lavish dinner for all electorates. Beer and liquor flooded. It was a boisterous night of gluttony and loud videoke singing. The party lasted until 3:00 the following morning.

Bonnie won in that SK elections, but that’s the end of his activity. He was only SK chairman in words. He had no definite workplan to work for. He became a puppet member of the barangay council and eventually, he stopped attending the meetings.

Aira vowed to continue her studies. She wanted to become a lawyer and a politician.

I have seen how politics corrupted our land,” she said. “I am determined to change that.”

Aira graduated cum laude (Political Science) and is now taking up Bachelor of Laws. She is determined to pursue her dream of helping her village and her town someday and to effect that change she failed to do many years ago.

Mang Maing said Bonnie failed to finish a college degree. He later married a local lass who left him after 3 years for irresponsibility and drunkenness. They had 2 kids.

Mang Maing’s story of his niece, Aira, is a perfect example of corrupting our youth leaders by using money and influence to catapult incompetent and non-working SK chairmen.

But puera de los buenos, there are rotten eggs as there are good eggs out there,” Mang Maing said.

Will history repeat itself in Aira’s barangay and in all Philippine barangays, fellas?

“That remains to be seen,” Mang Maing said.