Ravanera: Transformative cooperatives

Orlan R. Ravanera

TO 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 power revolutions. The structures and systems that are breeding poverty, gross inequities and social injustices have remained as formidable as ever.

Well known social scientists and nationalists have identified the flawed political system as the root cause of the problem, describing it as colonial and exclusive that is producing a highly skewed pyramidal socio-economic order where only a few hundred families aptly called oligarchs are in control.

On the economy, three questions loom: Who controls? Who decides? Who benefits?

Certainly, not the bulk of the people but a few elite controlling a cartelized economy anchored on the contemporaneous growth-centered development paradigm and where economic power begets political power. This truism mocks the fundamental constitutional declaration that “in a democratic and republican State, sovereignty resides with the people and all governmental powers emanate from them.”

The flawed political system which is both colonial and exclusive has caused the exploitation of the people and the massive plunder of ecological wealth. Philippine society is now characterized as ecologically fragile, rating the country as the top three hardest hit in the world by climate change where the occurrence of ecological disasters becoming a new normal. Philippine society has also been described as over-crowded, number twelve in the world in population. In the rural areas, four of five are living in poverty causing them to migrate to the urban centers.

Some 14 million Filipinos are described as unemployed or underemployed, the reason why some 6 thousand Filipinos are going abroad every day to find jobs in other countries. To date, there are now 10.5 million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

Amidst poverty, inequities, social injustices and ecological degradation looms violent extremism.

The imperative need to re-structure Philippine society has now come of age under the present dispensation calling for “Biyaya ng Pagbabago.” The revolution initiated by the National Democratic Front, after five decades, has struggled to make a dent as such revolutionary approach seems to be alien to the culture of the Filipinos whose mind-set has been captured by unbridled materialism and consumerism.

Unknown to many, there is now looming a countervailing force to rectify social wrongs by harnessing the collective power of the people, where those in the margins are now drawn into the mainstream of development processes.

It is the empowering and liberating path, addressing the root cause of poverty which is the powerlessness of the people to have access and control over their resources. This is well provided for by the 1987 Constitution that “the State shall advance cooperativism as instrument of social justice, equity and economic development.”

Yes, Cooperativism is the re-structuring tool because its DNA is one that is members-owned, value-based and sustainable. It is the one to dismantle the control of the oligarchs of the economy through legal and peaceful means. Its time-honored and universally-accepted cooperative principles zeroed-in on being democratic and inclusive to replace what is colonial and exclusive.

The 27,000 cooperatives in the Philippines with some 14 million members are now front-lining social transformation for people, planet, prosperity and peace. This is in consonance with the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals to stop poverty, hunger, social injustice, gross inequities, advance gender and development, protect the environment and the health of the people, among others.

Indeed, cooperatives are now scaling the heights becoming a beacon of light amidst the darkness of poverty and powerlessness.

Mabuhay ang kooperatiba!