FOR those who have dreamt, advocated, struggled and even died for it, social change has been so elusive all these years despite 14 years of Martial Law and two people-powered revolutions.

The structures and systems that are breeding poverty and oppression are still as formidable as ever.

Not anymore! When the new dispensation came into being last year, the re-structuring has begun.

On the 4th day of office and by virtue of Executive Order No. 1, the Cooperative Development Authority, an office that is mandated by the highest law of the land to advance the viability and growth of cooperatives as instruments of social justice, equity and sustainable economic development has been returned to the Office of the President where it rightfully belongs.

By that act alone, CDA can do its fundamental task of mobilizing and transforming cooperatives to change a highly skewed pyramidal societal order where only a few oligarchs are in control.

The CDA together with eleven offices have been put under the Office of the Cabinet Secretary headed by Sec. Leoncio Evasco Jr. who have exemplified to the highest degree an amazing pro-people leadership with a strong nationalist mindset that gives high adherence to empowering the poor and the marginalized sectors so that they can be drawn into the mainstream of development processes.

Just recently, Sec. Evasco called upon the CDA and the NCIP (National Commission on Indigenous Peoples) together with the Office of the Cabinet Secretary to sign a Memorandum of Agreement to cooperativize the Lumads, the most oppressed in Philippine Society.

Yes they were once the masters of the land that no one owned because private ownership was not in their language as such was founded on a strong belief that no one can own land which outlast him.

For thousands of years, they had lived abundantly in a land oozing with ecological resources in the spirit of sharing and service to one another. Then came the colonizers bringing their version of flawed lifestyle that is founded on the material pursuit of instant wealth and power and everything was not the same again.

From being land-rich, they are now land poor. When I was editor of our school organ in college, I wrote a story of the Higaonons in Panalsalan, Maramag, Bukidnon whose barrio was turned into a ranch by a rich and powerful Congressman then from the Visayas.

The barrio was enclosed by 6 feet tall barb wires and the people were living with cattle that were eating their crops and even entering the elementary schools and chapel. Out of desperation, a family committed suicide. That was how oppressed our tribal groups were then. Their oppression came in many forms.

The loggers have erased the forests which are their “pharmacy” and the source of their food. The root cause of poverty is their powerlessness to have access and control over their resources.

As a counter measure, the Lumads must be empowered by harnessing their collective potentials through cooperativism. Don’t you know that our tribal groups in Dalwangan and Maramag, Bukidnon are producing coffee (Robusta and Arabica) which was recently adjudged in Seattle, USA as the best coffee in the world?

The 26,600 cooperatives with some 14 million members are very supportive of the new dispensation’s Biyaya ng Pagbabago Program. Thousands of them will be going to the launching in Freedom Park, Davao City to meet no less than their beloved President to tell His Excellency how they have become “transformative” for people, planet, prosperity and peace.

Yes, the 26 types of cooperatives have good stories to tell how they have been liberated from the quagmire of poverty be they farmers, fisherfolks, workers, women, persons with disabilities and even former combatants who have left armed struggle to now peacefully work for social justice and equity through cooperativism.

Indeed, a strong army can conquer a kingdom but that the strongest army in the world cannot stop an idea whose time has come. The most awaited social change has come through Biyaya ng Pagbabago. No force on earth can stop it now.