The Facebook Post
A Facebook friend using the name Koop Kapatid, whose real name I knew when I guested in his TV Sa Radyo Program over DZRD 981 – Sonshine Radio Dagupan last November 8, 2014, tagged me in his Facebook post on the plight of the Cooperative Development Officers in the various local government units from the municipality (town), city and province (county or prefecture) of the Philippines.
In a nutshell, he lamented the fact that, more often than not, the Local Chief Executives (LCEs) put little, if not none at all, premium on cooperative development in their governance agenda as evidenced by the: 1. Non-appointment of Local Cooperative Development Officers (LCDOs) and; 2. Lack of support to existing “designated” LCDO as shown by the lack or absence of budgetary support thereby denying the subject designated and doubly dedicated personnel to perform his duties and functions. He even branded such unsupportive LCEs as persons who “see no cooperative, hear no cooperative and speak no cooperative.” I emphasized the word “designated” because I have still to receive any single report about an “appointed” LCDO receiving minimal support from his/her respective LCE.
In the concluding part of his post, he raised five (5) important points to ponder, wherein, I was tempted to comment immediately but chose to back off as I deem it a subject of interest worthy of a full blog post.
I deem it necessary to present my ideas on the matter in my capacity as a local government employee, a Master in Public Management degree graduate major in Local Government and Regional Administration from the national university of the country and the current Chairman of the Mindanao Alliance of Self-Help Societies-Southern Philippines Educational Cooperative Center (MASS-SPECC), the largest federation of cooperatives in Mindanao Island, Philippines as well as a former member of the Board of Directors of the National Confederation of Cooperatives (NATCCO Network), the biggest cooperative federation of the country.
Below is my point-by-point discussion about the matters he posited:
1. Is this NORMAL for an LGU LCE in their exercise of prerogative?
Answer: As landmark legislation, Republic Act No. 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code (LGC) of 1991, introduced sweeping changes in the Philippines’ political processes. The Code transferred substantial powers, functions and responsibilities from the national government to the local government units (LGUs), allowing the impetus for change and development to originate from the local communities. It redirected the country’s development thrusts and encouraged a shift from nationally to locally-driven strategies. Furthermore, it transferred the responsibilities for the delivery of basic services to the LGUs, including appropriate personnel, assets, equipment, programs and projects.
The LGC drastically shifted power from the central government to the local governments, the most prominent of which is on revenue generation and resource application. Most importantly, all local government units, at the instance of the Local Chief Executive, are empowered to create their own departments and offices based on the principle of affordability and actual need.
Hence, armed with the mandate of his/her constituency, it is just normal for the Local Chief Executive to perform his/her duties and functions and plans/implements programs and projects and exercises his/her prerogatives which he/she deem to be palatable to the electorate who shall evaluate his/her performance in the next elections.
2. Is this not alarming for the Country, since this appears to be some isolated but very disheartening, therefore MUST IT PREVAIL?
Answer: The LCE’s neglect for cooperative development is truly alarming and would eventually slow down some more the already snail-paced march of the Philippine cooperative movement towards the attainment of its vision and mission. But candidly, given the prevailing political environment in the country, the said situation shall continue to prevail in the next years to come unless concrete steps to remedy the problem shall be done.
3. Is this not known by our Premiere COOPERATIVE LEADERS?
Answer: I was privileged to work closely with the late Congressman Guillermo Cua of the Coop NATCCO Partylist and I knew for the fact how he, upon the recommendation of the cooperative federation leaders, worked heaven and earth for the passage of the House Bill he filed to amend the Local Government Code by re-classifying the position of Local Cooperative Development Officer (LCDO) from optional to mandatory being one of his pet bills aside from the amendment of the Cooperative Code of the Philippines. I was a living witness how he, even at the terminal stage of his life, fought hard and successfully pushed for the enactment of the Philippine Cooperative Code of 2008. Nevertheless, he died without seeing the day that his pet LCDO bill would be enacted into law. Former Congressman Jose Ping-ay and the incumbent Congressmen Cresente Paez and Anthony Bravo of the Coop NATCCO Partylist took turns in re re-filing the said bill and it is now going through the legislative mill.
4. Can this not be “a very good test case” for our Coop Partylist? Entertaining a query or investigation in aid-of-legislation …. as to determine the defects of the system, the process and the framework?
Answer: The Congressional oversight powers done through supervision, scrutiny and investigation, which is also known as “inquiry in aid of legislation” is undertaken by Congress to enhance its understanding of, and influence over, the implementation of legislation it has enacted. In the instant case, the loophole in the Local Government Code earlier mentioned is being used as an excuse by many Local Chief Executives to disregard cooperative development in their governance agenda. Hence, unless such loophole is plugged by Congress by enacting the long overdue amendment making the Local Development Officer position as “mandatory,” the Coop NATCCO Partylist representatives, or any legislator for that matter, would be facing the dilemma to call for an investigation on such subject as there is still no legislation being enacted to that effect.
5. Can there be sanctions as can be provided under the Law?
Answer: Nothing in the Local Government Code of 1991 can we found even a single provision slapping sanctions to Local Chief Executives for failure to give priority to programs and projects undertaken by offices whose head occupy an “optional position.”
Counter Inquiry and Insights
Now that I had answered the queries in my own little way, I deem it just and proper to raise these questions: 1. Is the plight of the Local Cooperative Development Officers a hopeless case? 2. If so, what need to be done?
Being a person endowed with the gift of perseverance and enthusiasm, I would say with certainty that there is still plenty of hope in the case at hand. But, I do not see the solution coming from the unsupportive politicians, who comprise the bulk of the incumbent local and national officials, but from the cooperators themselves.
As a backgrounder, I would like to quote parts of my Acceptance Speech as Chairman of the Board of Directors of MASS-SPECC Cooperative Development Center during the Officers’ Oath Taking Ceremonies held last July 12, 2014 at the Malberry Suites, Cagayan de Oro City:
Stanley Karnow, an American journalist and historian, wrote in his 1989 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “In Our Image, America’s Empire in the Philippines,” that: “Despite its modern trappings…the Philippines was still a feudal society dominated by an oligarchy of rich dynasties, which had evolved from one of the world’s longest continuous spans of Western colonial rule.” Karnow added that the United States had perpetuated the power of the Filipino upper class.
And so today, despite the growth of the Philippine economy by 7.2 % in 2013, prosperity is hardly felt by the ordinary Filipinos as only the ones belonging to the rich dynasties are laughing at the bank. So, what shall we do to remedy the situation?
In the early part of the 19th century, Karl Marx had called to eliminate the oligarchs as monsters of capitalism through a bloody revolution, after which, a higher form of society, which he called “communism,” shall prevail. But, Dr. William King from England, in espousing the ideas of Robert Owen, also said that: “The key to economic prosperity is to store up enough capital to get control over our own labor, and then, possessing both labor and capital, we will be able to do without the capitalist altogether.” In effect, he saw capitalism as about to give way to a higher stage of “Co-operation.”
Truly, the co-operative economy is very much vibrant in so many countries in the world but sadly, it is not in the Philippines for the main reason that their cooperative system is integrated/consolidated but ours is atomized. While the oligarchs here in our country are working as one, we are individually operating on our own. The best way therefore to achieve inclusive growth in the Philippines is to compete squarely with the oligarchs through a system of consolidated “co-operation.”
To the question on what need to be done, I say with great certainty that the Filipino cooperators need to implement a two-pronged approach. At the local level, the cooperative leaders and members, with the active participation and support of the Local Cooperative Development Officers, need to strengthen some more their primary cooperatives and bond together to make their institutions relevant to their respective localities especially the local political leaders.
Most importantly, at the national level, we need to have a consolidated co-operation in the Philippines and unleash the potentials of strength in numbers… that kind of force so powerful for the powers that be to resist… that kind of avalanche that would propel the Philippine Cooperative movement to its rightful place as the acknowledged leader in economic, social and environmental sustainability; the business model preferred by people and; the fastest growing form of enterprise in the country in 2020.