• Kim’s Dream
  • Orlando R. Ravanera

While the Mindanao War, the second longest in the world, continues now and then without let-up which is being highlighted by Filipino suicidal bombers, unknown to many is another kind of “war” that is intensely raging that is proving to be the only road to peace because it is the ultimate offensive that uproots the causes of conflicts.

That “war” has many moves but carries only one name, “cooperativism.” Aptly described as the best “recruiter” of terrorists, poverty, gross inequity and social injustices breed violence, thus, these must be stopped.  And the best way of containing these extraordinary phenomena which are becoming ordinary is to make the people productive by developing fully their potentials and enhancing their skills through education.

Such was the spirit that drove former rebels headed by Mr. Diolito Sonido to lay down their arms in then war-torn Zamboanga to  dedicate their lives to liberate the poor from the clutches of ignorance and poverty through cooperative education.

In 2001, they established the Western Mindanao Cooperative College in Zamboanga City with only 49 students to begin with enrolled in technical courses. After 19 years of sheer hard work and with single-minded adherence to cooperative quality education, the college has now more than  5,000 enrollees in both professional and technical fields of education. The Cooperative College has served its mission very well in providing quality education to thousands of poor but deserving students and whose graduates are now front-lining the cause of uplifting the plight of the marginalized sectors in combating poverty in the war-torn region of Mindanao.

While cooperative education has found its mark to make life better for our poor but struggling people, the quest for peace is pursued in more ways than one as violence comes in many forms. Being politically and ideologically neutral, cooperatives have shown that all warring forces can come together in the spirit of unity. In fact in Mindanao, we have cooperatives of the military, of the MNLF, of MILF and cooperatives in the red areas. It is through cooperatives that they put their trust in the government as shown by the Binidayan Moro Liberation Front (MNLF) producers Cooperatives based in the far-flung mountainous area of Basak, Binidayan, Lanao del Sur.  The cooperative is now scaling heights as it is engaged into abaca and mushroom production and catering to nearby communities of its finished products

In Kora-kora, Munai, Lanao del Norte, some 15,000 MILF combatants of the North Western Mindanao Front with 5 division commanders and hundreds of front commanders under Kumander Bravo are now laying down their arms (but have not yet surrendered) to be organized into some 151 cooperatives. They are now shouting, “MGA PAGARI AKON, SAMA-SAMA NA TANU KOOPERATIBA. ISA LANG ANG AMING ARMAS NGAYON –KOOPERATIBA!

This amazing degelopment was followed by the MILF combatants of the North Eastern Mindanao Front from the Special Unit Task Group in Camp Argam, Lanao del Sur with some 1,500 combatants under the command of Sultan Abdul Amoran who is half Maranaw and half Higaonon.  They are now organized into IGPANAYADUG SA ABAGA TA BAYUG AGRICULTURE COOPERATIVE.

In Sibagat, Agusan Sur, no less than the amazing Chieftain of the 10,000-Manobo Tribe by the name of Datu Arnold Acebedo who was known before as Kumander Datu Subang of the NPA surrendered and are now organizing themselves into cooperatives. This is also true in Lingig, Surigao del Sur where the Manobo Cemuliwanon Agri Cooperative was organized with some 1,300 members, 300 of whom where former NPA combatants.

Indeed, the spirt of cooperativism shines through amidst the darkness of poverty and social injustices. Where the poor become the poorest especially the Indigenous Peoples because they are powerless to craft their own destiny; where massive hunger looms because of social injustice as the mode of production, ownership of basic utilities are controlled by the most influential capitalists in cohort with power-that-be as the economic dictatorship of the Oligarchs is grafted into the democratic representative assembly.  Indeed, Who controls? Who profits? Who benefits.

It was so amazing that no less than President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in his last SONA has underscored that the oligarchs should not be controlling water and electricity as these are means to life and must not be the subject of so much rakings by a few oligarchs Under the Present Dispensation, social change which has become so elusive all these years despite two-people power revolutions and 14 years of martial has now begun through COOPERATIVISM!

As exemplified by the cooperatives of former combatants, the quest for peace in Mindanao cannot be done through bullets and bombs but by harnessing the collective power of the poor and oppressed thru cooperativism.