• Kim’s Dream
  • Orlando R. Ravanera

An in-depth social analysis amidst the onslaught of Covid-19 will manifest more horrible scenario than the pandemic be it on the climate change aspect or on the decline of social justice which the cooperatives must reflect upon. This is so because the Philippine Cooperative Code of 2008 (RA 9520) clearly states the policy of the State on Cooperatives, which is, “to foster the creation and growth of cooperatives as practical vehicle of promoting self-reliance and harnessing PEOPLE POWER towards the attainment of economic development and SOCIAL JUSTICE.”

This piece of legislation hits the core of the problem in contemporaneous Philippine society which is social injustice that breeds hunger and poverty in a land oozing with human and ecological resources.  Social injustice presents itself in the life of the people in many ways.

Social injustice is where a few who are rich have much too much and the many who are poor have much too little. Social injustice is where the farmers do not own the land they are tilling; and if they do, do not control the mode of production and the marketing of their products. This truism is even more glaring in the life of the peasantry, who all these years, has been tied-up to conventional agriculture that banks on the heavy use of chemicals to grow so-called HYVs (high yielding varieties).  This brand of farming has impoverished those who do the back-breaking job of farming under the excruciating heat of the sun while enriching big agri-business corporations.  Worse, the country has become the dumping ground of toxic chemicals which are already banned in other countries.

It is quite a paradox that this agricultural country doesn’t even have food security despite years of brandishing all kind of modern agricultural technologies.

Why will the farmers in Mindanao not be poor? Based on Studies, a bag of Ammonium Sulfate which is bought at P100 in Ukraine is being sold in Mindanao at P1,000 to P1,500 because everything sold in this country, from fertilizer to tractor, passes at least 5 to 7 marketing layers.  How can they gain when their produce is bought at a very low price as they are victims of oppressive marketing system.  Isn’t that social injustice?

Social injustice is very glaring in the life of the eleven (11) million member-consumers of so-called Electric Cooperatives (ECs) in this country as these ECs are cooperatives in name only, based on a landmark decision by the Supreme Court in the case Philreca vs. Department of Finance.  All these years, the member-consumers are paying for two items in their monthly billings which are, amortization of loans and re-investment.  Such payments should form part of their share capital which when consolidated will reach a gargantuan amount of more than one trillion pesos. Computations would disclose that for being a member in the past 50 or 60 years, each member-consumer should already have contributed about P50,000 as his/her capital contribution, yet, until now, the same has not been recognized as such. Worse, no recording has been done.  This has been the subject of a class suit filed by the member-consumers in the Supreme Court.

Social injustice has been and is being committed against our Indigenous People.  Once upon a time, they were in control of the natural resource in this beautiful but broken island of Mindanao.  At present, according to the Study of the Development Academy of the Philippines,  70% of the choicest of lands are in the hands of Trans-National Corporations as plantations.  As if that is not yet enough, more foreign corporations in cohort with power-that-be are coming in converting the remaining ancestral lands as plantations for bio-fuel.

This truism is reinforced by the exploitation done by a foreign firm called Agumil when in 2007 came to Palawan and convinced some 15 cooperatives mostly of the Indigenous People in Aborlan to change their crops including coconut trees and forestland, transforming some 10,000 hectares to palm oil plantation.  They were told that by such transformation of the land into palm plantation, they will become millionaires. The IPs cooperatives were so convinced and even borrowed more than 200 million pesos from the Land Bank. After 13 years, they are now millionaires in debt; worse, they are hungry as they cannot eat palm oil and are not profiting with the foreign firm in control.  Yes, “Agumil came with nothing, but it left with everything at the expense of the poor farmers,” based on the research study by CDA. What could be a greater social injustice than what Agumil has done?

Social injustice in all its forms must now be stopped.  By nature, nurture and by law, cooperatives are the ones to countervail against social injustices and to harness the people’s collective power to rectify social wrongs.  Thus, the struggle for social justice now looms.

As it is from the sweat of their brows that the land is made productive, the farmers must own the land they are tilling through agrarian reform.  But agrarian reform will not be successful unless the beneficiaries are organized into cooperatives for them to have access and control over their newly acquired land and the much needed support services.

Through their cooperatives, the farmers must have control over the mode of production by shifting towards sustainable agriculture. To unfetter themselves from conventional agriculture, they are now manufacturing their own organic fertilizer. To debunk the oppressive marketing system, their cooperatives are now into cooperative marketing to erase the many marketing layers.

There is now a very strong advocacy to convert the so-called ECs into genuine cooperatives where ownership and management will be democratized not beholden to any cartel or super-agency of government. This is based on the philosophy that is anchored on the universal purpose of property that if you are the user, then you must be the owner because electricity has become a basic need, like food, water and air. No less than our beloved President has emphasized such truism last year when he stated that “water is a means to life and must not be under the control of a firm..” (As articulated by the President’s Spokesperson then.) Indeed,  no one should profit from the use of these fundamental needs as these are means to life.

The Lumads are now organizing themselves into cooperatives so that they can have access and control over their resources.  This is based on the truism that the natives of ecologically-rich Mindanao are poor because they are powerless to have access and control over their resources.  Hopefully, through their cooperatives they will be able to harness PEOPLE POWER to achieve SOCIAL JUSTICE to free themselves from the quagmire of poverty.  Cooperatives are the last bastion of democracy for social justice through peaceful and legal means.

Indeed, social change has been so elusive all these years despite 14 years of martial law and two people-powered revolutions. The systems and structures breeding social injustice and poverty are as formidable as ever. BUT NOT ANYMORE UNDER THE PRESENT DISPENSATION of PRESIDENT MAYOR RODRIGO DUTERTE!  Through cooperativism, we can now effect social change through TRANSFORMATIVE COOPERATIVES FOR PEOPLE, PLANET, PROSPERITY AND PEACE!