Archive for the ‘Economy’ Category


In my previous article, I vowed to present detailed arguments to prove my thesis that the assassination of Vice Mayor Alexander Tomawis, who previously served as Mayor of the Municipality of Barira for three terms, was also the end of the processes of democratization in the troubled province of Maguindanao.

But as I subject the life of Alex Tomawis to deeper retrospection, it dawned on me that to measure his social significance using as a benchmark the stalled “processes of democratization” in the Municipality of Barira could logically result to the trivialization of his achievement and his dream for the Iranuns, and rest of Mindanao.

The cause that Alex Tomawis gallantly fought for his constituencies, during his life time, pierces deep into the core of the problem that besets the Bangsamoro Homeland for so many decades.

His was a battle to end the isolationist character of local governance in Maguindanao and the rest of the Island, with the Municipality of Barira and the two other municipalities comprising the Iranun Development Council (IDC) as venues of apprenticeship for democratic Moro governance.

Alex Tomawis believed then that, unless a type of governance that totally deprives the Moro masses any access to the processes of decision-making and secludes them wholly from any mechanism that provides opportunities for the people’s meaningful exercise of economic power, lasting peace in Maguindanao and the rest of the Island can never be attained.

His was a new type of a social revolution that intends to transfer political and economic power into the base of society by empowering the masses to optimize the untapped power of their rationality to take hold of their resources, decide for the processes of their becoming, and to freely chart their own destiny.

This is not as simple as we think it is, in the first blush. I know that Alex had realized this as he harped for his last breath after his fragile body was riddled with bullets. For the well-entrenched political warlords in Maguindanao, his is a revolutionary proposition for it intends to totally dismantle a social system and traditional practices that afford them unbridled political and economic power and benefits.

Thus, for the Moro Elite of Maguindanao, a person who works to transform this status quo is flirting with death. Alex Tomawis did, and so, as destined for one who bravely treads into this dangerous ground, is now “resting” in his grave, with his unfulfilled dream and unfinished revolution.

Tom Villarin, an Akbayan nominee who authored many occasional papers for Mindanao and who had long been in the forefront of the struggle for peace and development in this troubled Island, is mourning the untimely death of Vice Mayor Tomawis the way Mark Anthony did to Caesar. This is for a reason.

Above all else, Tom knows every facet of Alex Tomawis’ political exploits and perfectly appreciates every bit of his dream for his people. Tom knows how the fire burns in the heart of Alex Tomawis every time the fires of unrest visit the homeland of the Iranuns. His dream for his people is too noble to be forgotten.

I accompany Tom in his drive to immortalize the dreams of Alex Tomawis, so his people may be able to pick up the torch where he left it and to continue with his difficult journey … and so that he may not die in vain.

Like Tom, I was also privileged to be with this man, Alex, as he reels towards a dream of attaining development and meaningful peace in the municipality of Barira and its the adjoining localities, which constantly serve as a theater of war in the mainland of Mindanao. It was by working with Alex that I came to fully know the character of a man who would soon become a hero for the Iranuns.

I did not have the opportunity to see him beginning in the middle part of 2004 when I was forced by circumstances to voluntarily leave Akbayan and its development networks to undergo the painful processes of self-rectification and reinvention.

Although, I confess that there were times when I was tempted to text him for help when I was soaked in crippling poverty, the kind that almost shattered my family and snatched away my sanity. But, after I weighed things judiciously, I held myself against the temptation to preserve whatever “good impression” he had then on me.

Now that I begin to celebrate my success, and my feat, in preserving the unity of my family amid the cascading misfortunes, Alex Tomawis ended his story. It is also a pity that, at the very same time when I am about to rise from the rubbles and restore my social significance and my dream, he perished.

I happened to head a team of development planners which supervised a six-day practicum for the trainees in participatory development planning in the Municipality of Barira sometime in 2003. One night, while we were in a deep sleep, a loud explosion thundered. Still in half-sleep and trembling furiously, I quickly moved to bury my head on the cemented corner of the municipality (I am a born coward). A few seconds after that, Alex came to me laughing. Then, in a very assuring voice, he told me: “Ben, this is my place. We are safe here.” Embarrassed, I slept my whole night out, with his words serving as my comforting mantle.

Alex was right in embracing a thought that he was safe in the place of his birth and in the bosom of his people. However, he failed to perceive that he could be unsafe in a “safer” place, but away from the people for whose welfare and interest he eventually offered his life.

Previously, I made a solemn vow not to stop writing about Alex Tomawis until justice is served to him, to his family and to his people. But today I pledge to continue writing about this great man for a greater purpose, that is, to immortalize his deeds and his dreams for the glory of successor-generations.

Solving the rice puzzle

Posted: June 17, 2008 in Economy

The much-ballyhooed rice crisis has thrown the entire nation into growing panic. Strangely enough, whenever national government officials publicly guarantee sufficiency of rice supply, the more that the people become panicky.

Thus, it appears that the problem is not really the rice crisis but the crisis of credibility; but, that is another story.

Whatever it is, the truth remains that the people had already become frantic and the chills engulf the whole country; Socsksargen is no exception.

Local NFA authorities quickly allayed the people’s fear by publicly showing the gigantic piles of rice in various warehouses located within Socsksargen.

The city government, headed by City Mayor Pedro B. Acharon, Jr., after series of consultation with various stakeholders, effected the immediate ocular inspections of warehouses to deter possible rice hoarding.

Congresswoman Darlene R. Antonino-Custodio wasted no time in linking with various entities, public and private, to get assurance of adequate rice supply for her district, if the rice crisis bursts into alarming proportion.

Sarangani Governor Migs Dominguez publicly came out to deny that there is such crisis and made public assurance that, if indeed there is, the province has had enough foods to feed its people.

Lastly, South Cotabato Governor Daisy Avance-Fuentes twitted Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for deliberately creating an artificial rice crisis to deviate the people’s attention away from the controversial ZTE-NBN deal.

Artificial or not, the rice crisis, or the serious fears for it, is shaking the foundation of our society. Every well-meaning citizen has the duty, then, to help solve the puzzle that warps the many issues surrounding this problem.

The food debate in this country has been raging for so many years now. The bone of contention is always between food security and access to foods.

Food access, unlike the food security framework, is a concept that does not impose self-sufficiency in foods as the indispensable task of the domestic agricultural industry. In fact, under this concept, agricultural lands could be used for non-food ventures under a climate that guarantees unhampered importation of food products.

As it turns out, if the rice crisis is true, the government has seriously erred in making food access as a national framework concerning the country’s food industry.

Again, granting arguendo that it is true, the rice crisis should have been abated had the government nurtured the country’s domestic agricultural industry so as to make it wholly responsive to the food needs of its population.

If the crisis really exists, the whole nation suffers the brunt of the government’s policy to put our domestic food industry under the stranglehold of foreign powers. We will not even be surprised if our country will soon emerge to be a hapless puppet of food-producing nations, like Japan, China, the US and, even, Vietnam.

After all, a government that cannot afford to feed its people can easily submit to the whims and caprices of nations that provide foods to its constituencies; lest, it falls victim to the savage fury of its hungry people.

Sadly, the rice crisis, if true, is not simply a mistake in government policy. We suspect that the making of this crisis is a part of an old plot to liberalize the country’s agricultural industry, in consonance with the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank (IMF/WB).

The World Trade Organization (WTO), for its part, tried to forge a consensus for the liberalization of our agricultural industry during its ministerial meetings in Seattle and Hong Kong but the move was aborted when the people became uncontrollably riotous.

Today, it is becoming clear – and this is our dominant thesis – that the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime had deliberately created this artificial rice crisis to please the United States which is now suffering from an economic recession. Providing the US vast markets for its rice surplus will help enliven its national economy.

Lastly, if Gloria thinks that she had succeeded in her scheme to defraud the people, she is mistaken. She had actually treaded on dangerous ground by making this sensitive political commodity as an object for her playing footsie with vested interest groups.

For all we know, this can still become her administration’s tipping point!

Idiotization of cooperatives

Posted: May 17, 2008 in Economy

Our harsh commentaries could generate collective anger amongst the present crop of cooperative leaders and functionaries. We are glad if it would!

Anger, as in the classic Benhur movie, has a liberating element. We are so sure that, as collective anger eventually explodes into a heated public debate, the city’s cooperative movement would be liberated from the stranglehold of social contortionists, posturing as cooperative advocates.

Really, the social beehive should be made to burst in wild abandon, now. The city government is footing a tremendous amount of public energy and resources for the gigantic national summit of cooperative leaders by October, this year. We should not allow these resources to go to waste.

Rough commentaries serve as painful stings that help people arrive at an important realization. We can only hope that this realization could put an end to the ongoing idiotization of cooperative principles in the city.

The sprouting of company-based cooperatives as a dominant trend in the cooperative movement is not, at all, perplexing. Ours are annoying only because they are wholly isolationists.

Theoretically, when they do not work in alliance with the toiling masses, company-based cooperatives worsen the imbalance among key social forces, which the cooperative movement is supposed to correct.

This inequity is further worsened by the total absence of sustainable cooperatives involving forces of production in our basic communities. The usury, comprador or middlemen system that plunges our basic communities into the brink of abject poverty is yet to be confronted.

In some workplaces, in Dolefil for instance, cooperatives are used as union-busting instruments; thus, swaying the power pendulum infavor of management. One cooperative is even used to scheme against the ancestral lands of the Lumads in Barangays Sinawal and San Jose, at the expense of the environment and their rich cultural heritage.

These cooperatives also act, at the same time, as labor agencies that serve as “middlepersons” for the workers’ sweat and blood.

This is a travesty of cooperative principle. When the artisanship of human hands caused the creation of goods, the workers invested part of their beings in such goods and, so, they cease to be purely material. On such goods, the workers had built their dreams; from them they breathe and within them lurks their very souls.

Lastly, this is the most alarming trend in the cooperative movement: the forces of corporate capital also organize themselves into cooperatives to avail of statutory tax privileges granted to cooperatives for the purpose of amassing huge profits.

Again, this makes a mockery of the cooperative movement because it promotes the evil that it wants to annihilate.

We hope that the forthcoming national cooperative summit could pierce the last nail into the coffin of pseudo-cooperatives.

Fortress of Genuine Cooperatives

Posted: May 10, 2008 in Economy

The city government, under the auspices of City Mayor Pedro B. Acharon, Jr., is hosting a national cooperative summit by October, this year. About 5,000 participants from every nook and cranny of the country are expected to attend this gigantic gathering of cooperative leaders.

As it appears, preparatory work pieces are now falling on their right places at the right time. In fact, on April 2, 2008, the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) among stakeholders for this national undertaking was already undertaken at KCC Mall in General Santos City.

Indeed, this nationwide summit deserves our all-out support. For its part, this corner would contribute to the success of this summit by heightening public discourses on cooperativism, in its bid to crystallize cooperative-related issues.

There has been no serious attempt in the past to subject the cooperative movement to judicious social assessment and this is probably the reason for its continuing bastardization.

Thus, as we all wait for the summit this coming October, we find it fit to engage in the continuing distillation of cooperative issues, hoping that we can help build strong fortress for the growth of genuine cooperatives.

So, let us begin this task by, first, clarifying the cooperative’s theoretical framework.

Cooperatives, by nature, serve to counterpose the prevailing capitalist system, regarded as the cause for the continuing destitution and disempowerment of the larger section of society. Their primary purpose is to effect society’s immediate humanization and, finally, to facilitate its eventual transformation.

Towards this end, the paramount concern of cooperatives is to help usher the country’s transition from its present liberal capitalist state to social democracy and to lead the nation during the precarious period of social reconstruction.

Thus, cooperatives are not regarded merely as business ventures, with a socialized system of ownership and democratic decision-making, but they are largely social movements with indispensable transformative agenda. And they should be so; lest, they give imprimatur to their own destitution and, in the end, write their own obituary.

Cooperatives wither away under a capitalist environment, like we have in this country. Cooperativism is a social concept that finds its nurturance under the system of social democracy, which is mainly characterized by mixed economy but with social ownership of the means of production as the dominant principle defining property relations.

Cooperativism, therefore, is an ideology that propagates participatory democracy as a system for political decision-making; stewardship as a system of property ownership; and collectivism as an operative culture. Thus, we cannot advocate cooperativism while, at the same time, defend, or being complacent against, capitalism as an economic system.

Cooperativism and capitalism, like oil and water, do not mix.

Social democracy is a fertile ground on which cooperatives take their roots, grow and mature. It is also on this ground where they take a leading role in the shaping of the nation’s future.

Under social democracy, the role of corporate capital in the overall economy is sidelined and it is forced to conform to the stringent ethics of a humanist system which considers social justice as an overarching goal.

As previously posited, cooperatives cannot subsist under a social system whereby the ownership of private property is lodged on the state which is controlled by a monolithic political party.

In the Philippine setting, cooperatives are considered by extremist revolutionary forces as reformist projects that delay the success of the revolution.

Viewed at different perspective, under the present neo-liberal global order, cooperatives are destined to be bulldozed by tsunami-like fury of corporate capital.

Therefore, unless the cooperatives contribute to the overall struggle for system change, they cannot honesty justify their touted claim that they are working for “social justice and genuine development.”

Let us summarize. Cooperatives travel along the center of the political spectrum; they are neither left nor right. They are but a happy combine of humanely efficacious elements from both the left and right. Therefore, they are neither capitalists nor communists.

Cooperatives, therefore, operate outside the realms of capitalism and communist-inspired socialism because they both share a common undesirable character which the cooperative movement considers as an aberration – crass materialism.