“Come senators, congressmen/ Please heed the call/ Don’t stand in the doorway/ Don’t block up the hall/ For he that gets hurt/ Will be he who has stalled/ There’s a battle outside/ And it is ragin’/ It will soon shake you windows/ And rattle you walls/ For the times they are a changin’”

These are some lines from the song, “The Times They Are A-Changin’,”popularized by Bob Dylan, an American folk singer, who together with anti-war activists spearheaded a movement to stop USA’s imperialistic engagement in Vietnam in the 60’s. Who would believe that after six decades, the song would still be very relevant, this time however, it is one to remind our legislators to take heed the call of the people in Mindanao for self determination.

Our firm salute to our Senators especially the iconic senator from Mindanao who is not only passionately championing the cause of cooperativism but to once and for all stop the war in Mindanao which has become the second longest war in the world. We in the Cooperative Movement with some 14 million members throughout the Philippines are so amazed on the performance of Senator Juan Miguel “Migs” Zubiri who has continually manifested without let-up the “fire in his heart” and with that transformative spirit in advancingcooperativism as the beacon of light amidst the darkness of poverty and conflict.
In so many meetings in the Senate that I attended, I did witness how he is championing the cause of cooperativism as instrument of social justice that’s why cooperatives’ tax exemption privilege has been successfully retained. As aptly stated, “Give notice to a young man with fire in his heart and is possessed with a determined will because everyone will give way as he passes by.”

Lately, Senator Migs has authored and introduced Senate Bill No. 1646, An Act providing for the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro (BBL) and abolishing the autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao. In that hearing, I expressed our full support which is also the position of the cooperative movement. Why must we support the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro?

“Hunger is highest in Mindanao,” as disclosed by the Social Weather Stations. This is a glaring paradox as Mindanao is decidedly the nation’s “food basket”. Yes, so rich yet so poor, that’s paradoxical in an island oozing with ecological resources, having high contribution to the country’s gross value added in agricultural, forests and fisheries.

Paradoxically, amidst the bounty lies so much poverty where 11 of the top 20 poorest provinces in the country are found. All the six regions in Mindanao suffer high poverty gap ratios and severity indices than the rest of the country. The poor in Mindanao are the poorest throughout the nation. Now that Mindanao has become vulnerable to violent extremism, these contradictions must be resolved.

How can these contradictions be resolved? No other way but to recognize the Mindanaoans’ right to self-determination.

The right to self-determination of the people in the land of the brave and the free is what the BBL is zeroing in. It will promote a political system that is both inclusive and democratic, a paradigm shift from what has been aptly described as exclusive and colonial.

It has indeed dawned upon us this truism. Aptly described as the best “recruiter” of terrorist, poverty and social injustice breed violence. Poverty can only be stopped by making the people productive through people empowerment thru cooperativism.

We can therefore conclude that through BBL and cooperativism, we can finally find peace in Mindanao. The best person to make that trail-blazing move is one who is championing cooperativism and peace in Mindanao, Senator Migs. Indeed, for the times they are a changin’ and that time has come for the long awaited peace in Mindanao.