Orlando R. Ravanera

“Sa bawat henerasyon, may rebolusyon. Rebolusyong kooperatiba, ngayon na! Isulong ang kooperatiba!”

This call is not just rhetorical; it is now the call of the times and gaining headways.  In Agusan del Sur, a top commander of the New People’s Army, Arnold Acebedo known as Datu Subang, the chieftain of 10,000 strong Manobo Tribe, surrendered then formed themselves into a cooperative and built a school on National Greening Program, stopped illegal logging, heal the blighted land back to life, improved the quality of life of the indigeous People and became a national awardee as outstanding environmentalist. He belongs now to a new breed of freedom fighters not anymore through armed struggle but by harnessing the collective power of the poor and the vulnerable through cooperativism! Wow, so amazing!!!

In Korakora, Munai, Lanao del Norte, the top kumander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front by the name of Abdullah Macapaar known as Kumander Bravo, the top commander of the MILF North Western Mindanao Command with some 10,000 members including some 5 division commanders and hundreds of front commanders have ceased their war of liberation and are now frontlining cooperativism as the instrument to uproot the root causes of war which are poverty, gross inequities and social injustice. They were organized recently into more than one hundred cooperatives and shouting as we met recently, “AllahuAkbar!” (God is Great), the slogan that they used at the height of war before but now out of their passionate desire to defeat poverty.  What could be more amazing than that?!! That amazing transformative warrior has been appointed as an honorable member of the Parliament of the Bangsa Moro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Indeed, cooperativism has become the liberating force to replace armed struggle knowing that the most painful and bitterest aspect of social change is when one Filipino kills another Filipino.  This time, cooperativism is one to transform a highly skewed pyramidal societal order in a legal and peaceful manner as instrument of social justice, equity and economic development.

To put such revolution in its proper context, let us revisit history. A century or so ago, our forefathers had waged a revolution to dismantle the oppressive colonial rule then. Today, we need another revolution with the same intensity to break the vicious cycle of poverty.

We need a revolution that counts on the strength of the human spirit to prevail against the onslaught of greed, social injustices and poverty that de-humanizes the dignity of person. One that reinforces the democratic structures rather than dismantling them.

The urgent call of a cooperative revolution is more glaring in the island of Mindanao where poverty looms amidst plenty. The island, aptly called “food basket” of the nation, oozes with rich natural resources, very rich in mineral deposits with land suitable for agriculture. Indeed, it is where you find thousands of hectares of pineapple, banana, palm oil, rubber and industrial trees.

But these resources are for exports to serve the consumerist lifestyle of the people in the North. Whatever precious dollars the country earns are readily returned in payment of our burgeoning foreign debt.

So rich yet so poor. That is the paradox that is Mindanao where bounty and poverty meet, where hope and despair loom where light and darkness fight and where sovereignty and a new kind of colonialism clash.

At the center of the contradiction lies Mindanao agriculture, the focus of two conflicting paradigms. One side is the dominant market –oriented industrial agriculture pursued by the agri-business sector. Their drive is to promote conventional agriculture which Is anchored on promoting cash crops to satisfy the market, increase production though chemical farming using high yielding varieties including genetic modified organisms.

On the other hand is the alternative paradigm promoted by civil society and the small farming communities which is anchored on the principles and practices of sustainable agriculture that trust on the innate processes of nature.

They believe that farming must belong to the communities; that the people should combat their own poverty by having access to and control of land and resources including appropriate technologies which must restore the land degraded by agriculture industry.

How can these contradictions be resolved? Who will rectify the paradox?

History tells us that wrongs and social injustices can only be rectified by the people themselves when they take responsibilities for their communities and take the future into their own hand.  Cooperativism is the path towards capability-building and empowerment. It is the sole remedial measure to put those in the margins into the mainstream of development processes. Through their cooperatives, people are enhancing their human capital, and in effect, nurture their ecological wealth.

That is why, advancing cooperativism, means working for social transformation based on justice, equity and sustainability. It is a kind of revolution that is peaceful, yet, forceful, that relies on the collective strength of the people.

It can be likened to the Gandhian approach of Satyagraha, meaning, loveforce. Through love, unity and spirit service which is the essence of cooperativism, the people will finally prevail!

Let us therefore wage a cooperative revolution for people, planet, prosperity and peace – all for the greater glory of the Unseen Being, the Light, Love and the All-knowing Who is in the core of all beings that lives, moves and breathes!