Friday, July 19, 2019

Ravanera: Cooperativism to rectify societal dysfunctions

WE ARE all acutely aware of the dysfunctions of the prevailing economic model causing social injustice and dehumanization. Everywhere in the world today -- inequality, economic and financial instability, crisis in democracy, decline in social justice, increase in climate disturbances and even violent extremism are some phenomena that unfortunately are becoming ordinary. We must find a way to get out from such dysfunctions as it is the pressing duty of the cooperatives to act now.

But no correct action can be done in social transformation unless we Filipinos are conscienticized on the contemporaneous social realities besetting Philippine society. Only then can genuine social change be had when the right questions are raised.

Indeed, one’s transformation may produce a saint but has no effect in society unless oppressive structures and systems are changed. This was aptly elaborated by the late Archbishop of El Salvador, His Eminence Oscar Romero. “When I gave food to the poor, they called me a saint, when I asked why they are poor, they called me communist.” The good Archbishop kept on asking that question to somehow enhance his constituency’s social consciousness to struggle against oppressive rule prevailing then in his country. He had to be silenced through the barrel of a gun while he was celebrating a mass early morning.

To begin such conscientization process, perhaps we can first ask, why was there massive plunder of our natural resources?

A century ago, three-fourths of the Philippines were wooded with some 17 million hectares of natural or dipterocarp forest. Today, only half a million hectares are left. As our dipterocarp forest goes, so goes our mega-diversity, the richest on earth, composed of billions of living organisms, many of which have become extinct even before being discovered. God, the Creator, may be so displeased because as a consequence, thousands have died due to ecological disasters -- the Philippines being the third worst-hit country in the world in term of ecological tragedies.

The few powerful loggers, many of whom were elected to key positions because of their tremendous rakings that were used to buy votes, have created a strong cabal of vested interest including those mandated to enforce the environmental laws.

Our once rich vast agricultural lands have become addicted to chemical-dependent conventional agriculture that is only successful in polluting our watersheds and in further impoverishing the peasantry as big corporations have robbed the rural communities of farming. I recently discovered that of the 14 pesticides and herbicides that these corporations are applying, 8 are already banned in other countries. In fact, in Puerto Rico, these corporations are being charged in court for harming the health of the people.

Our marine ecosystems fare no better as fishing communities continue to suffer from high poverty-gap ratio as the bays’ ecological integrity is fast vanishing due to the destruction of mangroves and coral reefs as only five percent is in excellent condition. Massive siltation and pollution are giving final death blows to the marine and fishery life.

A study has shown that almost 70 percent of the ecological people (farmers, fisherfolk and indigenous people) are below poverty line because of the destruction of the ecosystems aggravated by social injustices.

Today, social injustice is very glaring in the life of the eleven million member-owners (MCOs) of so-called Electric Cooperatives (ECs) as these ECs are cooperatives in name only. Based on a landmark decision of the Supreme Court in the case Philreca vs. Department of Finance. Until now, the 11 million MCOs’ capital shares amounting to 500 billion pesos have not been recognized and accounted for which I suppose is massive and syndicated Estafa. In the monthly billings being paid by the MCOs, two items -- amortization of loans and reinvestment -- which they have been paying for the last 50 years must be considered their capital shares but until now are not recognized. Indeed, this social wrong should be rectified but many of the so-called cooperative leaders in the country are dancing to the tune of the energy cartel who wants to control these so-called ECs to perpetuate their greed.

Let us all be reminded that the highest law of the land, in Article XII, Section 15 of the 1987 Constitution, states that the viability and growth of the cooperatives must be promoted to advance equity, social justice and economic development.

Cooperativism is the righteous path, not armed struggle, to correct social wrongs because it is the one to harness the collective power of the people for the much needed social transformation! It is indeed the people because we firmly believe that in a Republican and Democratic State, sovereignty lies with the people and all governmental powers emanate from them!


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