THERE is no question on the truism that for those who have dreamt, advocated, struggled and even died for it, social change has been so elusive all these years despite 14 years of Martial Law and two people-powered revolutions. The structures and systems that are breeding poverty are still as formidable as ever. BUT NOT ANYMORE!

Under the new dispensation, the 26,600 cooperatives with some 14 million members nation-wide are becoming transformative and are advancing Biyaya ng Pagbabago as they are now harnessing their collective potentials, energies and experiences not only to combat poverty but uproot its causes such as social injustices, gross inequities and powerlessness and thus, effecting social transformation. This is the raizon d’ etre of the cooperatives by nature, nurture and by law as expressed in the Constitution, that is, as “instruments of social justice, equity and sustainable development.”

Why is this so? Well it is “Res IpsaLoquitor” (the thing speaks for itself). Who decides? Who controls? Who benefits? from development? Well, apparently, not the bulk of the people but a few cartels, conglomerates and monopolies in a highly skewed societal order where only some 300 families have the stranglehold of the economy. As poverty waggles its ugly head, we must take heed of the warning that “if a few elite has much too much and the manty who are poor have much too little, we are facing circumstances horrible even to contemplate.”

Through transformative cooperatives, we have to democratize wealth and power through legal and peaceful means and never through armed struggle or violent extremism. In fact, this is now becoming the order of the day. Many former combatants be from the New People’s Army or the Moro National Liberation Front are forming themselves to become transformative cooperatives for people, planet, prosperity and peace.

Yes, cooperatives are not just ordinary people’s movement for change because they are not a kind that suddenly looms to respond to pressing issues and then vanish in the corridor of time when the passions die down. It is not one that belongs to that Shakespearian lamentation, “out, out brief candle; life is just a walking shadow, a poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.”

Cooperatives are never transactional; they are transformative that put power where it rightfully belongs, that is with the people. This is in tune with the Constitutional mandate that “as a republican and democratic state, sovereignty resides with the people and all governmental authorities emanate from them.”

They are now up the task of advocating for the much needed paradigm shift that will liberate the people from the quagmire of poverty. As poverty is rooted in their lack of power to have access and control over their resources and utilities, cooperativism is the empowering path in crafting their own destiny.

Yes, cooperatives are putting the marginalized sectors into the mainstream of development processes. The landless farmers are now owning the land through their agrarian reform beneficiary cooperativesand the poor tillers are being released from the quagmire of poverty as they are now debunking conventional agricultural to shift to sustainable agriculture, controlling the mode of production and marketing. Before, everyone profited from farming except the farmers but not anymore because of the much needed paradigm shift where the farmers are now empowered through cooperativism.

The cooperatives of the consumers are now rectifying the oppressive marketing system as the multiple marketing layers are now being cut down to one or two. We all know that everything that is sold in this country from needle to tractor passes at least 5 to 7 marketing layers at the expense of the consumers. Lipitor that is just sold in India at only thirty centavos is being sold in the Philippine pharmacies at P50 and a bag of fertilizer (ammonium sulfate) bought in Ukraine at P100 is being sold in Mindanao at P2,000?

Too, our country has become a dumping ground of finished products and a source of cheap raw materials that’s why we have never become industrialized where the economy is controlled by cartels with so much rakings. Let us remember that a country that is consuming what it is not producing will always be penalized by slow growth. The cooperatives now are becoming a countervailing force producing high quality products following value-chain approach.

Yes, a strong army can conquer a kingdom but the strongest army in the world cannot stop an idea whose time has come. That’s cooperativism exemplifying PAGLILINGKOD AT PAGMAMAHAL!