On SK absenteeism

At the risk of being suspected once more by Del, a valued blog follower I have not met, as a propagandist of the Fariñases, let me say that I only have respect for my congressman, Rodolfo Fariñas, And this respect extends to his adorable kids.

In the months leading to the 2010 elections, then serving as panelist in a debate-forum participated in by congressional candidates in Ilocos Norte’s first district, I noted that while Fariñas had views totally different from mine regarding two issues I deemed important, namely the Reproductive Health Bill and the abolition of the Sangguniang Kabataan, his brilliance and eloquence make it impossible to ignore his views. Surely, this bar topnotcher, unlike Iskul Bukol alumnus and Philippine Senator Tito Sotto, has a brilliant mind.

Recent developments, however, lead me to write, yet again, about the Sangguniang Kabataan which, incidentally, is headed here in this province by JR (Rodolfo Jr), one of the congressman’s lovely kids.

Based on a report filed by The Ilocos Times staff reporter Leilanie Adriano, JR, the incumbent SK Ilocos Norte Federated president and ex-officio provincial board member, as in the cases of previous youth officials before him, has recorded the most number of absences at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan sessions.

Every Monday afternoon, the young Fariñas’ seat and table at the back row of the session hall is unoccupied, and based on records of the provincial board’s secretariat, the young Farinas has been absent for 42 sessions since he assumed his post in February 2011. The board’s attendance record shows that Farinas has a total of 42 absences (official leaves of absences) and two missed sessions while on official business. Having attended only 38 sessions, he has been more not there than there.

Still according to Leilanie’s report, on several occasions wherein JR was present, like on August 28, his latest attendance at the provincial board, he stayed only for a few minutes and left the session hall while other board members were deliberating for the passage of draft provincial ordinances and resolutions scheduled in the agenda.

Leilanie’s research reveals that, to date, Farinas has so far sponsored at least 12 provincial resolutions, all endorsements for the conversion of roads in various municipalities of the first district of Ilocos Norte, his father’s turf.

JR’s chronic absences prompted Vice Governor Angelo Marcos Barba, the board’s presiding officer, to soon hold a meeting to tackle about Farinas’ absences. “The law is the law. We will adhere to our local government code and act on it,” Barba reportedly said shortly after noticing Farinas’ absence during the September 3 regular session.

However, in the case of the Sangguniang Kabataan, Cong. Farinas, when asked by reporters in his press conference at the Laoag City hall on the same day, argued that the SK is different as they have “autonomy” as provided in their constitution and by-laws. While acknowledging that there is a ground to remove an absentee member of the Sanggunian, Fariñas, who has one of the best attendance records in Congress (a perfect attendance in 2010, only seven absences in 2011), said “this doesn’t apply to the SK as they are merely ex-officio members.”

“The Sangguniang Panlalawigan can only remove regular members, the elected councilors. The SK has its own by-laws. My son is 16 years old. Ana’t trabahona nga SK president ket agbasa met Manila? (What work can he do as SK president when he is studying in Manila?) He is even a minor, he cannot decide without my permission,” the older Fariñas, whose two other sons have likewise previously served as SK Federated presidents of Ilocos Norte and Laoag City, said on record.

The congressman underscored that only the SK members themselves, if they want to, can remove him. “Not even the president or the office of the Department of Interior and Local Government can remove an SK official because it is a violation of their autonomy,” he added.

While referring to the Ilocos Norte board led by the vice governor, Farinas quipped, “Dida koma ammo’t ar-aramidenda no awan tay barok? As youth representative, saling-pusa da lang dagita” (Won’t they know what to do without my son? As youth representatives, they (the SK) are just saling pusa), he said.

Personally, dear karikna, I do not push for JR’s removal from office, and I am not even amenable of having him punished for prioritizing his A.B. Sociology studies at the University of Sto. Tomas in Manila. Indeed, it should make us all proud that this young Ilocano is doing well as a college student and also as a talent of ABS-CBN’s Star Magic.

Still, I am reviving my plea for the abolition of the Sangguniang Kabataan, and the Congressman’s passionate defense of his son may have just strengthened this cause. Continue reading “On SK absenteeism”