ARTICLE 12 of the 1987 Constitution provides that we must promote the viability and growth of cooperatives as instruments of social justice, equity and economic development. That is how important cooperatives are in a country where social injustice looms in so many ways. Are we now ready to prove equal to that mandate as called for by no less than the highest law of the land?

Before we can promote social justice, let us reflect for a while and know the horrible “faces” of social injustices in the life of the workers, farmers, indigenous peoples, fisherfolk and the common “tao” in a country that declares in the Fundamental Law (Art. II, Sec. 10) that, “The state shall promote social justice in all phases of national development.”

The workers are producers of the wealth of the nation, yet, they live in dire poverty. In fact, they are living in droves, as if jumping from a “sinking ship”, to find jobs in foreign lands, leaving their love ones behind at so much social cost.

Food comes from their farms but the dining tables of farmers fall short of it, tilling lands not their own and if they do, tied-up to costly seeds and technologies that adhere to conventional agriculture which is beyond their control. They sell their products under the mercy of “compradors,” following an oppressive marketing system that makes their farming non-viable. Aptly described as “unsung heroes” and the “backbone” of the country, yet, they wallow inside the vicious cycle of poverty. What makes it more painful is that there are agricultural programs designed to somehow alleviate their economic difficulties to increase their productivity (i.e. financial assistance for farm inputs and post-harvest facilities), yet, could not reach them as these are trapped in pockets of those who cannot moderate their greed.

How about our indigenous peoples? Well, they have become “squatters” in their own native land as the ancestral land which their forefathers had occupied for hundreds of years are now converted into massive plantations. These are “blessed lands” of our indigenous peoples and these are the choicest of land. According to a Study of the Development Academy of the Philippines, some 63% of Mindanao is now under the control of Trans-National Corporations (TNCs) and our IPs find themselves farming marginalized and highly steep mountainous areas. “Gamay langngatulod, angkabawmoligidna.”

The “blessed lands” have ceased to be so because these lands, where plantations have loomed, reek poisons, having been bombarded for several decades with multifarious toxic chemicals, 8 of which are already banned internationally (based on the examined samples of water, air and soil in Davao.) Certainly, these chemicals are carcinogenic, the reason why cancer has become a common disease of the Mindanawons.

As far as fisherfolk, they are the ones catching fish, yet their children are hungry as malnutrition is highest in the coastal communities. This is so because the grandeur of the Philippine bays is now fast disappearing as they undergo progressive state of impairment and with it. The marginalization of the coastal populace. Unlike when fish would literally jump into their “banca,” fish now can hardly be caught.

Why? What are the fatal blows causing the death of the once mighty marine and fishery ecosystem? Well, the bays are treated as waste pits. First is industrial pollution. Chemical waste from industries and factories are dumped in the bays. Other silent killers are the internationally banned chemical fertilizers and insecticides which are heavily used in surrounding plantations.

These non-biodegradable, petroleum-based agriculture inputs are washed from the soil into rivers and into the sea, entering food chain and polluting the watersheds. I am very certain that these toxic chemicals are already in our water system, in the water that we drink or bath and water we use for cooking. Other countries have banned these chemicals, why these are being used by big plantations? Are we Filipinos guinea pigs? It is about time that we stop these plantations. For heavily using these toxic chemicals that have harmed the health of the people, some of these plantations are barred to operate in their own respective countries. That is the reason why they are operating (and expanding at that!) here in the Philippines particularly in Mindanao. What a tragedy! Gumisingnapotayo!

All told, the above-cited realities are some of the horrors of social injustices that have been rammed down the throats of our oppressed but struggling people. Apparently, the victims include the ecosystems that provide the life-support systems to our ecological people in defiance of the Constitutional Principle (Art. II. Sec. 16) that, “The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.”

Unless we rectify such, there can be no genuine development. Only mal-development that sacrifices the people and development to the altar of greed and profit!