A Vision Beyond Sight
By : Orlan Ravanera Mindanao Today/08:09:42am 04/19/2021
Transformative Cooperatives for Peace
“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision,” this famous quote of Helen Keller, American author, political activist and lecturer is the truism of the life story of the 1st Lt. Jerome J. Jacuba PA who has lost sight during combat operations against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BI8FF) at Datu Salibo, Maguindanao on March 2, 2016. He lost his sight but he has seen the reality of the unseen that the way to end rebellion is not through guns or bullets but through COOPERATIVISM.
While 1st Lt. Jacuba was recuperating in the VLuna Hospital, no less than the Commander-In-Chief, President Rodrigo Duterte visited him and embraced him with tears in his eyes. Indeed, what greater love there is than a young brave soldier willing to give up his life so that others may live! Yes, he had lost his eyesight, but he can see and is now serving notice to one and all to stop the second longest war in the world – the Mindanao War. The 31-yr.old Jerome now oozes with a strong will and determination to bring peace in Mindanao thru coperativism, Beware of a young man with a strong will; as he passes-by, everyone will give way, bow down their heads in obedience. !
Last year, I toured him around Mindanao to touch base with Chieftains of the Indigenous People and in Marawi where he met former MILF combatants Here are some amazing stories on how peace is now unfolding in the land of the brave and the free.
In Camp Bilal, Kora-kora, Munai, Lanao del Norte, the 15,000 MILF combatants of the Northwestern Mindanao Front under Kumander Bravo (now Hon. Member of the Parliament Addullah Macapaar) with some 5 division commanders and hundreds of front commanders have recently organized themselves into some 150 cooperatives. They are now shouting, “MGA PAGARI AKON, SAMA-SAMA TANU SA KOOPERATIBA, ISA LANG ANG ARMAS NATIN NGAYON – KOOPERATIBA NA!”
Kumander Bravo narrated to me how brave they faced some 100,000 AFP combatants when then President Joseph Estrada launched an all-out-war against them. While they were only 15,000, but they controlled the “terrain,” the reason why they remained unconquered,.
They may have not yet surrendered, only decided to cease fire. Through their cooperatives, they are now passionately advancing cooperativism to fight the number one enemy of the country – poverty and social injustice. Kumander Bravo told me during my recent visit to Camp Bilal that despite the fact that they are living amidst the bounty of nature with thousands of hectares of coconut plantation but these are just bought at P5 per kilo. That’s the paradox! While coconut is a billion dollar industry but the farmers are the poorest of the poor. To liberate them from poverty, the Cooperative Development Authority has submitted a budgetary proposal to establish Coconut Center in Munai, Lanao del Norte that includes establishment of Coco Processing Plants, i.e., coco sugar, coco quire, coco vinegar and coco oil.
This miracle-like development has been followed by the organization of the North Eastern MILF Mindanao Front under the command of Sultan Abdul Amoran who is half-Maranaw-half-Higaonon, the commander of the Special Task Force with some 1,500 combatants. The membership composed of Maranaws and Higaonons from 4 provinces of Mindanao have more than 3,000 members. Their cooperative is the IGPANADAYUG SA ABAGA TA BAYUG (Protect Mindamora Falls). Mindamora Falls is so sacred to them which is now being tampered upon, being transformed into a tourist spot for money making by some local powers-that-be. This will show that cooperativism is not only to liberate the poor from poverty but more so, to protect God’s vanishing creation!
In Sibagat, Agusan del Sur, the Chieftain of the 10,000 Manobo Tribe by the name of Datu Arnold Acebedo who was known before as Kumander Datu Subang, former commander of the NPA did surrender, established the Greening School in Sibagat and is now frontlining cooperativism to protect the environment and to liberate the Manobo from the quagmire of poverty.
In Lingig, Surigao del Sur, the Indigenous People have organized themselves into the Manobo Cemulawanon Tribal Multi-Purpose Cooperative in Rajah Rabungsoan with thousands of members, 300 of whom were former members of the NPA. In a meeting with the Chairman, Datu Al Bansobre he informed me that two years ago, many have surrendered to no less than President Duterte and after that, decided to form themselves into cooperative to fight poverty and stop the massive exploitation of the natural resources. I was told that when the Picop Plant was closed in the ’80s in Lingig, many lost their jobs and became so poor and hungry that they opted to join the armed struggle. Now, they are forming cooperatives. Wow!
Indeed, by nature, nurture and by law, cooperatives are for social transformation as instruments for social justice, equity and economic development based on the truism that, “People United Can Never be Defeated,” even by those who are perpetuating the bonds of social injustice and oppression.
Today, 1st Lt. Jerome Jacuba is the chairman of the Wounded Soldiers Agri-Cooperatives with hundreds of members nation-wide who were disabled by war. They are now frontlining cooperativism as a means to peace!