AS WE celebrate our Independence Day, let us remember the protracted historical armed struggle of our forefathers when a few brave men and women had organized resistance against colonial rule, firmly believing that “the people united can never be defeated.”
Nothing could be sweeter in the history of a nation than unfettering the people from external forces who would dare impose their will as masters subjugating their peons, stripping a nation of its dignity, making a mockery of the people’s ability to govern themselves and to craft their own destiny.
No way could such subjugation continue. Such arrogance of having colonial masters dominating a people violated the very essence of man or woman for whom God created in His likeness and image. It would just be a matter of time when such cruel societal order would be dismantled by freedom-loving people.
It is indeed great to be unfettered from the tentacles of direct oppression to savor the freedom of sovereignty, freedom of expression, of seeking redress to grievances, freedom of assembly, of privacy, of mobility and what have you.
However, there are conditions which are also limiting, if not depriving, a nation of its liberty.
Poverty, for example, doesn’t only strip a person of his humanity; it imprisons him to a life of hunger and ignorance. That even if we already have regained our freedom to choose our public officials during elections, but still such cannot be fully exercised.
As former US Secretary of State Henry Kissenger would aptly put it, “you deprive one of his right to food and you control his mind.” The last elections could attest to that. Yes, we have the freedom to choose our leaders, but votes have been bought, media have been used for so much self-promotion and self-gratification, religions were used to endorse candidates, in effect, that freedom to choose has been mocked. What freedom are we talking about?
To liberate the people from the vicious cycle of poverty, from hunger, from ignorance, is now the urgent call of the times so as to win back the essence of the blessings of independence. For indeed, a nation-state may be independent in form but not in substance as it may be under the overwhelming influence of another, in more ways than one, to make it, in effect, not absolutely independent. Thus, we need a new breed of freedom fighters to wage war not anymore against external forces but struggling themselves from the bondage of poverty, social injustice, inequities, violent extremism, climate change and ecological degradation.
These new freedom fighters come from all walks of life: the Indigenous People, the ecological people (famers & fisherfolks), workers, drivers, vendors, micro entrepreneurs, the youth, senior citizens, former combatants of Moro National Liberation Front and New People’s Armies, the handicapped, the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized. They have one thing in common: they all collectively adhere to the tenets of cooperativism to combat the number one enemy of the country which is dehumanizing poverty worsened by gross inequities and social injustices.
Today, these new freedom fighters come from the 17,854 cooperatives with some 10.4 million members coming together as one development force to liberate the poor and the oppressed from the quagmire of poverty.
Cooperativism to empower the poor and to draw those in the margins into the mainstream of development process has indeed come of age. After the Edsa Revolution, the constitutionalists of the 1987 Constitution had provided for in Article XII, Sec. XV, “to promote the viability and growth of cooperatives as instruments of equity, social justice and economic development.”
It was then the time of cronyism and the only countervailing force is people power, this time, by harnessing the people’s collective power and potentials through cooperativism in a highly skewed societal order run by oligarchs and cartel. The office created by the 1987 Constitution to do this function is no less than the Cooperative Development Authority to correct social wrongs, inequities and social injustices.
Indeed, social injustice looms in a country with farmers tilling the land not their own and if they own the land, they don’t control the mode of production and marketing. It is very glaring in the life of 11 million member-consumer-owners of so-called Electric Cooperatives whose capital shares have not been recognized all these years. It is also shown by the oppressive marketing system as all products sold in the Philippines are passing at least 5 marketing layers, that a Lipitor pill bought in New Delhi, India at 30 centavos is being sold in SM at P50 per pill or a bag of fertilizer (Ammonium Sulfate) bought in Ukraine at P50 is sold in Mindanao at P1,500, to the detriment of the poor farmers.
It is only by correcting these social wrongs can we really claim that the Philippines is an independent country worthy of our celebration!
Unless these social wrongs are rectified where the poor and the marginalized are enjoying FRREDOM FROM SOCIAL INEQUITIES, INJUSTICES and POVERTY, genuine FREEDOM remains an illusion!