On the afternoon of December 23, hundreds of residents of Barangay BF Homes went home from Parañaque City Hall happy and thankful after receiving Christmas gifts in the form of consumable goods from former Barangay BF Homes chairwoman and former City Councilor Florencia “Beng” Amurao.
Specifically, Amurao confirmed to me that there were more than four hundred (400+) recipients of goods who each got bags of goods. The said bags (which contained fiesta ham, condensed milk, canned meat and others) were carefully distributed by her staff in coordination with the City Government.
This is not the first time Beng Amurao gave back to the residents of her barangay many of which have known her personally since her days as a kagawad (councilor) and as captain. For many years, I personally witnessed her Amurao’s annual Christmas gift-giving. There were times the gift-giving was done at a family-controlled property along Aguirre Avenue inside BF Homes subdivision and, these past few years, was done at the grounds of City Hall just steps outside the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) office at the ground floor.
From what I observed, I can say clearly that Beng Amurao has a heart of compassion, service and care for the people of Barangay BF Homes and her extensive track record of public service through the decades (which include legislation approved, projects fulfilled and much more) prove it. Even though she served for three consecutive terms as a City Councilor (2007-2016) serving a lot more people around the city, Amurao never forgot her community. Since leaving the City Council, she has been assisting the mayor’s office on projects related to her barangay.
Will she run again for public office in the near future? Nobody knows yet but what is clear is that the year 2022 will have the next local elections (specifically the city-level) as well as the next barangay elections.
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“We have complied with all the requirements needed. These include the opening of bank account, doing the fidelity bonding, making the three-year plan, the annual investment plan, and the annual budget for 2019,” BFSK chairperson Tumang said. “We now have our independence using the SK funds. Already we have started disbursing the SK budget since this past August.”
The BFSK head added that, right now, they are waiting for the mandatory training that the DILG and the NYC are supposed to organize. The training is designed to provide guidance to all SK units about utilizing the SK funds properly and in accordance to existing laws.
As Tumang told me previously, more projects and activities will be organized by the BFSK in the near future now that they have achieve independence from the barangay and now have access to the SK funds.
Speaking of activities in Barangay BF Homes in Parañaque City, there will be a seminar on pregnancy and HIV/AIDS on September 28 and the 3rd quarter Waste-for-Rice activity on September 29. Tumang announced these on September 14.
The technical stuff
In the order of the DILG, it was stated that JMC Number 1 (Series of 2019) provides guidelines on the appropriation, release, planning and budgeting process for the SK funds.
Jonathan E. Malaya, who serves as the Undersecretary and Spokesperson of the DILG, stated that pending the issuance of the Commission on Audit (COA)’s guidelines on SK financial transactions, the SK may start using their budgets “provided they comply with the requirements of the DBM-DILG-NYC Joint Memorandum Circular.”
“The development agenda for the youth sector cannot be further delayed. SK officials in every locality should now get the ball rolling so that they can already carry out projects that are meant to promote the interests and welfare of the youth,” Malaya said.
The spokesperson added that there is no need to wait for the COA guidelines because the commission has given the SK the green light to use their funds in accordance to JMC Number 1 which in itself details the procedures on how they can disburse their respective budgets.
In order for SK funds to be disbursed, a current bank account under the name of the SK must be opened (by the SK chairperson specifically) in a government-owned bank, apply for fidelity bonding (with the SK chairperson and the SK treasurer as the accountable officials), and a 3-year rolling plan called the Comprehensive Barangay Youth Development Plan (CBYDP) must be formulated.
Beyond these, SK officials are required to undergo training programs conducted by the DILG, NYC, and the authorized training providers in accordance with DILG Memorandum Circular No. 2018-48, as well as continuing training programs on the Government Procurement Reform Act, Manual on Financial Transactions of the SK, the proper utilization of SK fund, the accounting and auditing rules and regulations and any other relevant trainings which will help them carry out their functions effectively and efficiently.
When it comes to the funding, 10% of the general fund of barangays shall be set aside for the Sangguniang Kabataan which shall be appropriated in lump sum and distributed solely for youth development and empowerment purposes in accordance to the SK Reform Act.
The law further states that the SK shall have financial independence in its operations, disbursements and encashment of their fund, income and expenditures.
Meet Barangay BF Homes SK Chairperson Mariel Tumang
For much of the day on June 30, 2019, the Sangguniang Kabataan of Barangay BF Homes (BFSK) led by its chairperson Mariel Angela Tumang visited different developing communities of Barangay BF Homes in Parañaque City and implemented their special project called Waste Wise for Rice.
The project emphasized the trading in of Eco Bricks for kilograms of rice grain. According to chairperson Tumang, local community residents each hand over to them the Eco Brick(s) (plastic bottle containing wrappings of snack products) and in return the SK gives out a kilogram of rice grain. Tumang and her kagawads (youth councilors) Alma Galindo, Roselyn Regis, Jerry Dalmero, Kelly Haboc, Irene Juanico, Anne Gabrielle Corre, Stephanie Sebullen worked hard that day.
According to the Facebook page of the BFSK, the SK collected 900 Eco Bricks and they released over 900 kilograms of rice grain. The SK emphasized that their June 30 project was environment-friendly and a good provider of food for the residents. Here in the Philippines, rice is staple food.
Before that special project happened, I got to interview BFSK chairperson Tumang (who is also the Vice President of the Parañaque SK Federation) and here is my exclusive feature of her for you all.
Who is Mariel Tumang?
Mariel Angela Tumang was born in the late 1990s. She recently graduated at the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA with a BS in Accountancy. Her entry into the Sangguniang Kabataan of Barangay BF Homes came at a time when the SK got reformed. In short, she and her fellow councilors are pioneers for Barangay BF Homes under the new SK system.
To put things in perspective, the SK or youth council was a decades-old system in Philippine society that, from its 1975 beginning, developed a poor reputation. Critics called the SK a system that politicizes young people, a failure on implementing youth development programs, a breeding ground for corruption and the like. People who don’t believe in the SK stressed that young people are not ready for early public service and that they are better off focusing on their academics. Also it did not help under the original SK system that youth leaders who were not even of legal age (below 18) got to sign contracts between their council and other organizations.
In early 2016, Congress approved Republic Act Number 10742 which was called the Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Law. It saw some notable changes like raising the age of the council to 18-24 years-old (versus the previous 15-17) and implementing an anti-political dynasty rule.
This brings me back to Tumang and her kagawads.
In the summer of 2018, a team of youth candidates under the umbrella of former Barangay BF Homes chairperson Florencia “Beng” Amurao was formed and Tumang was the candidate for BFSK chairperson. As it was the first SK election in some years, as well as the first-ever election under the reformed SK system, there was hesitation along the way for Tumang.
“Actually, I did not want to join the election because for me, politics is dirty,” Tumang said. “My friends inspired me especially Tita Beng (Amurao). My mother worked for her previously. Tita Beng said she wanted me to be her group’s candidate for SK chairperson and I said that I was still studying and was unsure about the idea of running in the election. After some more talk, I got inspired a lot and decided to run.”
When I asked her if she had thought about uplifting the status of young people of the many communities of Barangay BF Homes as part of her decision to run, she confirmed that it was indeed her intention all along. She also had insight.
“Before entering the SK, I was a student leader and during my days at Masville National High School I was the SSG president. I also received an award for leadership of students when I graduated high school. I was also a Girl Scout and along the way we got trained with leadership skills and values. A lot of my friends told me I have leadership skills,” she said.
In the reformed SK election for Barangay BF Homes, Tumang and her teammates under the Team Amurao banner ran against their counterparts from the group of then Kagawad Paolo Marquez. As the competition between the two teams was intense, the campaigning was, unsurprisingly, very challenging.
“It was really hard for me personally for I was not really an outgoing person. I spent my time mostly at school and at home. We were somewhat known in Masville but not that much in other communities of the barangay,” Tumang recalled. “At the same time, I took summer classes along the way which was a requirement at school. I had to skip some classes just to campaign. When I was able to attend to both (campaign and class), there were days we went house-to-house campaigning in the morning, then I go school in the after and attend campaign meetings in the evening.”
All the pain, the lack of sleep and hard efforts to win the voters’ trust ultimately paid off for Tumang as she defeated her election rival Aira Besana (Team Marquez) for the BFSK chairperson post gathering a total 2,672 votes. The seven SK kagawad posts were split between Team Amurao and Team Marquez candidates.
“I was so glad and I cried when I learned that I won the SK chairperson position. My friends and family really supported me during the COMELEC counting of the votes. It was a nerve-wrecking experience and many of us, including my teammates, stayed at the Phase 1 gym for a very long time without any sleep,” she recalled.
Since taking office as chairperson of the Barangay BF Homes youth council on June 30, 2018, she and her councilors organized several projects and activities on developing youth of the local communities despite the fact that they lacked funds. Along the way, she and her councilors participated in some seminars and out-of-town activities related to youth development and leadership development. Of course, leading the BFSK made life more challenging for her since she was still finishing her studies.
“It’s really difficult,” Tumang remarked on balancing her personal life with academics and SK duty. “There were times I really cried because I could not manage my time. When we started, we lacked direction on what to do so I asked my mother for guidance since she served as a staffer of the barangay before.”
Tumang added that being a student and an elected youth leader forced her to make hard decisions when barangay matters conflicted with her academics. While missing out on class was costly, being absent from a youth council meeting or session would mean getting left behind on the latest developments.
On the aspect of legislation, Tumang serves as the presiding officer of the youth council. She coordinates with the SK secretary over the agenda for each session which is held only once a month. Already some resolutions have been approved by the BFSK most notably their budget which is in the millions of pesos.
As the reformed SK was so new, Tumang and her kagawads started without a real budget at all and had to depend on the barangay’s youth development fund. Along the way, they had to make hard adjustments by learning the processes, learning how to do proper reports, practice of ethics, and more.
As of this year, the BFSK is inching closer to completing the system for the receiving and releasing of funds that are needed to realize their youth development projects. Tumang and her team had visited the banks, coordinated with the barangay and secure several requirements. They were delayed somewhat because of an election ban related to the May 2019 national and local elections.
While there were lots of hassles and challenges, Tumang still is focused on serving the youth of Barangay BF Homes and with what the BFSK has achieved so far. She and her kagawads are striving to do much more to make progressive and positive impact on developing the local youth.
“The feeling is so pleasant whenever I see someone smile as a result of the projects we at the SK have accomplished,” she said with a smile.
Message to the Readers
“I wish to share to you all that the Sangguniang Kabataan is really a good thing because we can talk to youth who are naturally hesitant to communicate with older people or share their concerns. Young people are always struggling with some sort of personal or social problems of their own as they grow up. From peer pressure, to insecurity, mental problems and suicidal thoughts, the youth are struggling and they need help. We are willing to help them. Here in BF, we are very willing to help implement the very promising programs from Barangay BF Homes chairman Paolo Marquez designed for the youth. Problematic youth are very welcome to visit barangay hall for assistance and we are very willing to provide it. The BFSK is caring and we aim to develop local youth socially, academically and morally. With seminars, outreach and enlightening group discussions already done, the reformed SK system is truly about nurturing youth and it is no longer limited to organizing sports events.”