Let’s face it. With Congress in recess until nearly the end of the month, there won’t be any concrete new developments relating to the possible postponement of the 2016 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections. At most, there is the call of the National Youth Commission to de-couple the two elections, which they theorize would mean that the SK would push through, despite the postponement of the Barangay polls.

I’ve heard that this approach has its adherents in Congress, as well as its share of disagree-ers. In any case, we’ll all have a lot more clarity on how things will eventually shake out, after the State of the Nation Address. I’m fairly certain that the more than 20.7 million qualified SK voters are going to be crossing their fingers until then. It’s a shame if they’re disappointed.

You can argue all you want that the SK system is flawed and all of that, but wasn’t that precisely the reason the SK elections were
postponed in 2013? Back then, the argument was that the SK needed an intervention to rid it of the problems that weighed it down: allegations of corruption, the obvious bent toward dynastism and the general perception that the elected SK officials simply weren’t doing anything significant.

Republic Act 10742 was that intervention, enacted precisely to address these problems. And the good news is, even just a cursory reading of this SK Reform Act of 2015 promises great things. It expands the membership of the SK electorate to include everyone from the age of 15 to 30, thereby vastly increasing the number of stakeholders in the outcome of the elections and—perhaps more important—in the performance of the elected SK officials.

It also mandates the creation of Local Youth Development Councils (LYDCs), created for the express purpose of assisting in the planning and implementation of plans and programs of the SK. This sort of support and oversight mechanism used to be something that the barangay officials were expected to provide. But with the SK and barangay officials often coming to a cozy accommodation—due in no small part to familial ties—any “support and oversight” quickly became merely illusory. Multilateral LYDC’s, on the other hand, together with the Reform Act’s antidynasty provision, will most probably eliminate much of this chumminess and so increase the focus on actual, meaningful, performance.

And the youth of this country—millennials, if you like—are perfectly capable of achieving tangible and impactful work. For all their annoying affectations (well, annoying to old fogeys like me anyway)—team-this, team-that; the all too liberal sprinkling of po and opo in their sentences, often for passive-aggressive effect; calling everyone ate or kuya and so on—millennials simply cannot be accused of apathy (the way us Gen-Xers often were).

For the most part, millennials display high levels of social awareness and participatory zeal, fueled most likely by social media. Also because of social media, millennials often demonstrate a startling degree of openness to new ideas and concepts, often displaying inspiring audacity in how quickly they adapt to new conditions and situations. You and I might disagree with the wisdom of Yolo, but what is that if not a creed of boldness, no matter how misguided it often turns out to be?

But most of all, the youth of today are retaining their sense of wonder and sunny optimism for much longer than those of us from older generations retained our idealism. Imagine what these millennials can do, if they were simply given the opportunity; imagine what we, as a nation, would lose if they were not.

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The longest serving Spokesperson of the Commission on Elections, James Jimenez is the Director of that institution's Education and Information Department. He used to be the Chairperson of the student COMELEC of the University of Santo Tomas. He is a firm believer in the ability of social media to empower voters, and in the capacity of empowered voters to shape a better future.