• Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro
  • 5 Feb 2020

I“Before when I had eyes, I did not see. Now that I am blind, I can see that the war in Mindanao cannot be won through guns and bombs but by uprooting the root causes of war which is poverty and social injustice. Such can only be done when people harness their collective power through cooperativism.”

N 2015, the United Nations came up with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to stop poverty, hunger, inequities, social injustice and to promote the integrity of the environment, health, peace, among others. Such pronouncement came in these contemporaneous times in a world where everywhere, there is widespread poverty, deep inequality, decline in social justice, crisis in democracy, ecological turbulence due to climate change and violent extremism are phenomena which are disturbingly becoming ordinary realties. What was so amazing was these 17 SDGs carried the theme: “Transformative Cooperatives for People, Planet, Prosperity and Peace.”

Some 18,000 cooperatives nationwide with about 11 million members have good stories to tell on how they are rectifying social wrongs by democratizing wealth and power in a highly skewed societal order. Indeed, they have drawn the marginalized sectors into the mainstream of development processes and becoming a countervailing force against poverty, social injustice, climate change and violent extremism.

Indeed, these cooperatives are advancing shifts in paradigms in a world where there is so much veneration of the profit motive that has captured the mind of all institutions, universities and even religious groups and denigration of spiritual values. They are exemplifying to the highest degree the essence of cooperativism which is value-based and principle-driven, members-owned and sustainability. Here are some of amazing stories of love and compassion which is so amazing in a world that is so enamored in self-promotion, externalities and trivialities.

The Wounded Soldiers Agricultural Cooperative whose members are brave soldiers who had been wounded and incapacitated for fighting in the raging war in Mindanao had shown that there is no greater love there is than these soldiers who were willing to die so that others may live. Some are either blind, armless, or legless but they don’t lose hope. They are now cooperativized and are becoming productive through their cooperative. How did this happen? This miraculous turn around to a new life of hope came about because of the love and compassion shown by a big cooperative, the Most Holy Rosary Multi-Purpose Cooperative, that had no second thought in donating an amount of one million five hundred thousand pesos so that the wounded soldiers can own, operate and manage a Training Center in a 5-hectare lot in Nasugbu, Batangas.

In my talk to the donors especially the Chair of the Most Holy Rosary MPC, Maria Theresa Pacatang and the General Manager, Joselita Cardona, these cooperative leaders are really oozing with compassion. Indeed, it is the mindset of these leaders that one must pay less attention to one’s own cravings and more responsibilities toward others. Through that path not only will society thrive but the compassionate individual will thrive as well.

Indeed, such principle of the cooperatives like major religious tradition bid special attention to the poor. Jesus’ teachings then pay particular attention to the poor, notably in His teaching that he who feeds the hungry, clothes the naked and cares for the sick, serves the Lord. In Islam, one of the five pillars of faith is charity. For Buddha, the aim of life was escape from suffering by ridding the mind of illusions. Buddha warned individuals to beware of their cravings for sensory delights and material possessions. These are traps that are bound to disappoint. For Buddha as for Confucius and Aristotle, our material desires are poor guides to our long term happiness. For the Cooperatives, compassion, service and loving the least of our brethren are the true path to long-term well-being, well exemplified by the Most Holy Rosary MPC.

Indeed, the cooperatives have passed the dark leeway and passages of the mind and they have come to the core of their being where they touched base with the principle that generates, orchestrates and organizes the activity of the mind and body. Through that principle called cooperativism, they have seen the light, love and knowingness that are the natural processes of that universal principle. Yes peace has come through cooperativism as advanced by no less than our beloved President as a countervailing force against insurgency and violent extremism. US President Trump should learn from him.

This truism was well articulated by no less than that Chairman of the Wounded Soldiers Agricultural Cooperatives, a 31yr. old 1st Lieutenant Jerome Jacuba who was embraced by no less than our beloved President, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte when His Excellency visited Jerome in V. Luna Hospital where he was confined on August 2,2016. That time, Jerome was already totally blind due to a bomb explosion in a war in Mindanao where he gallantly fought. Chair Jerome said in his acceptance speech, “Before when I had eyes, I did not see. Now that I am blind, I can see that the war in Mindanao cannot be won through guns and bombs but by uprooting the root causes of war which is poverty and social injustice. Such can only be done when people harness their collective power through cooperativism.” Then together we shouted: ‘KOOPERATIBISMO LABAN SA TERORISMO! KOOP LABAN SA MANANAKOP!

Then it came to pass, ceasefire came next! The top commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Commander Bravo who is now an Honorable Member of the Parliament of the Bangsa Moro named Abdullah Macapaar with some five top Division Commanders and hundreds of front commanders did cease fire and the 10,000 MILF combatants have been recently organized into some 150 cooperatives by the Cooperative Development Authority. Soon, a Coconut Center to help the thousands of poor Moro farmers will be established to liberate the poor farmers from the quagmire of poverty to finally end the Mindanao War which is the second longest war in the world. Indeed, while the coconut industry is a billion dollar industry but the coconut farmers are the poorest of the poor because they cannot go in to value chain.

What is even more amazing is the story of the Chieftain of the 10,000-member Manobo Tribe in Agusan Sur by the name of Arnold Acebedo Alyas Datu Subang, a former NPA Commander who surrendered. Through cooperativism, he is now liberating his people from the quagmire of poverty and rehabilitating the impaired ecosystem by establishing the National Greening School and becoming an Outstanding Environmentalist of the Year.

These wonderful stories are now reverberating throughout the land, not only in the Philippines but throughout the world. Such is the finding of a Research Study conducted recently by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) headed by Dr. Judith Hermanson, the Chair of the USAID Cooperative Development Council. It was one of the findings that where there are cooperatives, the quality of life in the communities is better and that the members of the cooperatives enjoy a better economic life than the non-members. It finally concluded that the Philippines is the cooperative leader in Asia and the Pacific.

All for People, Planet, Prosperity and Peace through Transformative Cooperativism – all for the greater glory of God! Indeed, people empowerment through cooperativism, the liberating force has finally come!