Martial law coops

By: Malou Guanzon Apalisok March 02,2016 - 10:00 PM

The 30th anniversary observance of the EDSA People Power revolution has come and gone and as a media practitioner for almost four decades, I can say that this year’s political verbiage in remembrance of the 1986 bloodless revolution is quite intense or even vitriolic.

EDSA Day will always be remembered in the context of martial law but after the ouster of Marcos followed by political and economic stability, there was a time when I thought we were transitioning from bashing the Marcos dictatorship to psychological healing through a more solemn and less forbidding language.

I guess that becomes irrelevant in an election season where Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr, son of the former dictator has emerged as a strong contender for the vice presidency.   Bongbong is reportedly doing well in popularity surveys, a close second to the frontrunner in the Veep race, Sen. Francis Chiz Escudero.

Some sectors say there is malice in the way the martial law stories are being squeezed out of its last ounce of political gain, but there is no other way a Marcos can handle these issues, except frontally and yes, allow people to decide freely because they are not ignorant of what’s happening in the country 30 years after EDSA.

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I have been writing pieces about EDSA and the martial law period each time these milestones are observed but this year, I will take a vacation from revisiting what happened in EDSA and Marcos’ presidential  decree 1081.

Instead, I will pay tribute to a sector, which despite its major contributions to the national economy and human development does not get the importance it deserves from political leaders.

The growth of Philippine cooperatives is traced to the period leading to the declaration of martial law, from the early 60s to the 70s when the chasm between the rich and the poor became so wide that it bred insurgency in the countryside.

However, the Catholic Church in the Philippines managed to derail the underground movement by staying close to the people through social action work which taught them practical values.    Our country owes the Scarborough Missionaries of Canada for planting the seeds of co-operativism in Hinundayan, Southern Leyte in the early 60s.

The Scarborough Fathers set up parish-based coops through the “Saving Souls the Credit Union Way” campaign.  From Hinundayan it was replicated in neighboring towns where poverty was very widespread and appalling.

The coops in Southern Leyte enabled Church social action workers in Cebu to extend education seminars to poor communities, usually held in open areas and under close surveillance of the military.

This space would be enough to capture the grit and sacrifice of the co-op pioneers in the Visayas and Mindanao. Suffice it to say that the social action work of the Church flourished until it turned into a cooperative training center called Visayas Cooperative Training Organization VICTO.

Despite restrictions imposed by the military dictatorship, VICTO was able to organize 4 co-operatives which today stand out for their diversity and remarkable performance.

The martial law co-ops are the Cebu CFI Community Cooperative, which the late CFI Judge Esperanza Inday Fiel Garcia founded in the early 70s. The coop was born out of her sympathy for fellow court workers who were indebted almost beyond redemption to usurious lenders.

Another coop which VICTO founded in the martial law period is the Guadalupe Community Cooperative which was aimed to attract public school teachers.  The social action work of the Church in the coop movement later found its way in Cordova town – in the community of fisherfolk who are now proud owners of a thriving, open type cooperative called Cordova Multi-Purpose Cooperative.

Last but not the least is the Cebu People’s Multi-Purpose Cooperative or People’s Coop for short.   To the surprise of many who thought that Cebu People’s Coop was destined to fail because it opened itself to community members who don’t have regular income, the Coop is vindicated today as it prepares for its 43rd annual general assembly AGA.

Early this week, I had an engaging conversation with coop CEO Macario “Yoyong” Quevedo, who told me over the TV advocacy show, “Co-op TV” that the martial law coop is very strong and robust.

From a struggling organization with a meager capital of over P2,000 put up by 27 people who didn’t know anything about savings and credit, today the coop has assets of P929 million and more than 48,000 regular members.

The coop maintains 17 branches around the city and province and is one of the very first to adopt the representative style of convening annual general assemblies.

Getting one-half plus one of total membership for an annual gathering is a king size headache for big coops and many have since transitioned to the representative style of voting after the Cooperative Development Authority came up with a policy direction for coops to follow.

Cebu People’s Coop has blazed the trail in this field and I think they have bragging rights each time they hold their AGA.

In March 13, Cebu People’s Coop will host its annual event in the SM Trade Hall with Sen. Cynthia Villar gracing the celebration.


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TAGS: EDSA, EDSA People Power, People Power, revolution, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

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