• Kim’s Dream
  • Orlando R. Ravanera

POVERTY. Social Injustice. Gross Inequities. Political patronage. Veneration to profit motive. Religious apathy. Denigration of spirituality.

These are the roots of the war in Mindanao that must be uprooted not through bloodshed but by the strength of the human spirit in cooperation, love and service to one another irrespective of creed, race, class, gender, ideology and color.

No less than His Holiness Pope Francis gave a categorical statement on the imperative need to debunk social disparities that are putting the humanity in disarray. He said, “It bids us all to break the bonds of social injustice and oppression that give rise to glaring and scandalous social inequities.”

Breaking these “bonds of social injustice and oppression”  through a war that has been going on for decades is never the solution; on the contrary, it has even worsened the economic condition of the inhabitants in this beautiful but broken island of Mindanao as hundreds of thousands of our people have already been displaced.

How do we then break these “bonds of social injustice and oppression?”

It is the contention of social scientists and development experts that social injustices that consign the people in the quagmire of poverty is rooted in the powerlessness or the disempowerment of the people and as a countervailing measure, the people must be empowered to have access and control over their resources and utilities.

People empowerment is easier said than done. Empowering the marginalized sectors calls for harnessing their collective power, pooling whatever meager resources they have and enhancing their collective consciousness. It has dawned upon them a social realization that it is only through their oneness and vigilance that critical issues can be resolved. Yes, social transformation can only be had if they put the future into their hands to craft their own destiny. No Caesar. No Politician. No leader coming as a savior like a knight in a shining armor transform for them a highly skewed pyramidal societal and economic order.

These “leaders” cannot carry their cause; worse, these politicians have become beholden to big businesses, which have financed their candidacy in a country whose candidates seeking local or national positions cannot win if they have no money.

Today, the awakening process has begun. Enough is enough! Know that social transformation has now begun under the present dispensation of President Rodrigo Duterte through cooperativism.

In Camp Bilal, Kora-kora, Munai, Lanao del Norte, the 15,000 MILF combatants of the Northwestern Mindanao Front under Kumander Bravo (now Hon. Member of the Parliament Addullah Macapaar)  with some 5 division commanders and hundreds of front commanders have recently organized themselves into some 150 cooperatives.  They are now shouting, “MGA PAGARI AKON, SAMA-SAMA TANU SA KOOPERATIBA, ISA LANG ANG ARMAS NATIN NGAYON – KOOPERATIBA NA!”

They may have not yet surrendered, only decided to cease fire. Through their cooperatives, they are now passionately advancing cooperativism to fight the number one enemy of the country – poverty and social injustice. Kumander Bravo told me during my recent visit to Camp Bilal that despite the fact that they are living amidst the bounty of nature with thousands of hectares of coconut plantation but these are just bought at P5 per kilo.  That’s the paradox! While coconut is a billion dollar industry but the farmers are the poorest of the poor. To liberate them from poverty, the Cooperative Development Authority has submitted a budgetary proposal to establish Coconut Center in Munai, Lanao del Norte that includes establishment of Coco Processing Plants, i.e., coco sugar, coco quire, coco vinegar and coco oil.

This miracle-like development has been followed by the organization of the North Eastern MILF Mindanao Front under the command of Sultan Abdul Amoran who is half-Maranaw-half-Higaonon, the commander of the Special Task Force with some 1,500 combatants. The membership composed of Maranaws and Higaonons from 4 provinces of Mindanao have more than 3,000 members. Their cooperative is the IGPANADAYUG SA ABAGA TA BAYUG (Protect Mindamora Falls). Mindamora Falls is so sacred to them which is now being  tampered upon, being transformed into a tourist spot for money making by some local powers-that-be. This will show that cooperativism is not only to liberate the poor from poverty but more so, to protect God’s vanishing creation!

In Sibagat, Agusan del Sur, the Chieftain of the 10,000 Manobo Tribe by the name of Datu Arnold Acebedo who was known before as Kumander Datu Subang, former commander of the NPA did surrender, established the Greening School in Sibagat and is now frontlining cooperativism to protect the environment and to liberate the Manobo from the quagmire of poverty.

In Lingig, Surigao del Sur, the Indigenous People have organized themselves into the Manobo Cemulawanon Tribal Multi-Purpose Cooperative  in Rajah Rabungsoan with thousands of members, 300 of whom were former members of the NPA. In a meeting with the Chairman, Datu Al Bansobre he informed me that two years ago, many have surrendered to no less than President Duterte and after that, decided to form themselves into cooperative to fight poverty and stop the massive exploitation of the natural resources. I was told that when the Picop Plant was closed in the ’80s in Lingig, many lost their jobs and became so poor and hungry that they opted to join the armed struggle. Now, they are forming cooperatives.  Wow!

Indeed, by nature, nurture and by law, cooperatives are for social transformation as instruments for social justice, equity and economic development based on the truism that, “People United Can Never be Defeated,” even by those who are perpetuating the bonds of social injustice and oppression.

Let us learn the lesson from the Bishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador. He once said, “When I gave food to the hungry, they called me a saint; when I asked why the poor are hungry, they called me a communist.” Well, for asking such question, he was shot one early morning while celebrating Mass. Perhaps, we must question why only 50 families pocketed 70 percent of the GDP in 2012?