Dr. Emmanuel M. Santiaguel: Chairman Par Excellence, Cooperative Revolutionary

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Friday, July 25, 2014


“FROM time to time there appear on the face of the earth, men of rare and consummate excellence who dazzle us by their virtue, and whose outstanding qualities shed a stupendous light. Like those extraordinary stars of whose origins we are ignorant, and of whose fate, once they are vanished, we know even less, such men have neither forebears nor descendants: they are the whole of their race.”

That man of excellence appeared in CDA as its new chairman on the 10th day of January 2011 and since then, things were not anymore the same to an agency created by no less than the 1987 Constitution to advance the growth of cooperatives as instrument of social justice, equity and sustainable development.

We are sad that he is leaving us after serving as chairman for just three and a half years but has brought cooperativism to greater heights, making waves of accomplishment in so short a time what any of his predecessors, who had served their full 6-year term as Chairman, had not achieved. He is the best Chairman CDA ever had.

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Who would imagine that during his short stint with CDA, the total members of the cooperatives nationwide which was only 7 million when he reported as Chair in January, 2011 would reach more than 13 million at the time that he is leaving as Chair?

Well, mainstreaming cooperativism to democratize wealth and power in a land dominated economically by a circle of a few elite, where big business controls the political life of the nation and in a country where vested interest and corruption reign supreme despite efforts to curb them, is a long and tedious road and the climb very steep.

Be that as it may, his intrepid spirit shines through in leading an office that is short of personnel, short of budget but oozing with determination to respond to the needs of the cooperatives and the challenges of the times, despite all the odds against him.

As his acting executive director for one and a half years, I was privy to his agony on the pressures to an office that seeks social transformation amidst the determination of the powers-that-be to maintain the status quo to perpetuate their vested interest.

Yes, the cooperative, being members-owned, value-based and sustainable, is the development model preferred by the people as it is the road toward inclusive growth in a country where 70 per cent of the GDP in 2012 was pocketed only by 50 families.

When there were attempts to take away that privilege of being tax-exempt enjoyed by the cooperatives, he stood his ground to protect that privilege despite the harsh words and humiliation from those in power. When he tried his very best to increase the budget of CDA so that it can prove equal to the task of serving the cooperatives, he didn’t get the much needed budget, no kindness on that, only unkind words. I know because I was there.

Yes, it goes without saying that it is the primary task of CDA to act on what are provided for in RA 9520, to fulfill the will of the member-consumers of utilities. But when rule of law goes against the interest of Cartels, guess who will prevail–much to the sleepless nights of the Chairman whose code of work ethics is the all-out promotion of cooperativism as called for by law, without fear or without favor.

Yes, he fought bravely for the cooperatives; he worked so hard to enhance quality programs and prompt services to the clientele, issuing circulars to be relevant to the call of the times. He transformed CDA to follow a culture of excellence, professionalism and integrity. In fact, the Central Office and all 15 CDA Regional Offices are now ISO Accredited.

What is in Dr. Emmanuel M. Santiaguel who is leaving an indelible mark, a legacy of a transformative leader?

It has been said that by the name alone, you will know him. The coming of a righteous and principled leader to CDA has long been foretold as he is named EMMANUEL or the biblical version of the One to come. His middle initial, Madlangbayan, is even more telling as his love for country manifested in his brand of cooperativism which is one to empower the people to be liberated from the shackle of poverty. His family name, Santiaguel, a combination of Santiago and San Miguel which proclaims his deep spirituality as he is deeply religious and God-fearing.

While our country reeks with transactional leaders and politicians, this man envisions to transform a highly stratified society, not through the fire-power of guns but by the strength of the human spirit founded on cooperation and service. His embodies the qualities of a statesman whose vision shapes the future.

We in the Cooperative Development Authority are fortunate to be led by one whom we consider, to borrow the poetic lines of Kahlil Gibran, “a noontide in our midst whose vision has given us dreams to dream. He is humble but firm, determined but calm.”

His brief stint with CDA has belied the notion that the bureaucracy is inept and corrupt that is destined to end up in the dustbin of history. In fact, by nurture and nature, he is the anti-thesis of that bureaucratic notion. A man of integrity and service-oriented, he exemplifies the Constitutional mandate that a “public office is a public trust.”

Just like his co-Caviteño Emilio Aguinaldo, Dr. Santiaguel is a revolutionary but not anymore fighting for freedom OF against colonial rule but freedom FROM poverty, hunger, corruption, apathy, inequity and social injustice. The Statesman that he is, the freedom fighter that he truly is, and the cooperative revolutionary that he exemplifies – we can only be proud of him, thus, we now come to give him our TRIBUTE, not without our love and not without our firm salute and warm embrace.

We love you Dr. Emmanuel M. Santiaguel!

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on July 25, 2014.

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