Indeed, there are two things in life which all of us cannot escape from: death and taxes. Death is our marriage to eternity where a humble but firm cooperative leader is now – Felicidad L. Ruiz, a cooperative champion par excellence, who had leaped to the Great Beyond on October 30, 2019. Taxation is a fundamental power of the State that all must follow as tax is the lifeblood of the nation – yet, the cooperatives are tax exempt and such highest privilege had been well pronounced in a landmark Supreme Court Decision because of the firm stand of Madam Fely, the General Manager of DCCCO (Dumaguete Cathedral Credit Cooperative),
It that case of DCCCO vs. the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) which was then so persistent in taxing DCCCO and even winning in the lower courts, the Supreme Court had categorically pronounced that DCCCO should not be taxed, stating that, “while the power to tax is very strong fundamental power of the State but such power must bow down to the principle of social justice.”
DCCCO under the leadership of Madam Fely has been compliant in all undertakings and requirements of the Cooperative Development Authority especially in the use of surplus (not profits). One hundred percent (100%) or the maximum utilization/remittance of Community Development Fund (CDF) and Cooperative Educational Training Fund (CETF) for sustainable programs/projects in consonance with actualizing the 6th and 7th Cooperative Principles and Value of “Cooperation Among Cooperatives” and “Concern for the Community” – had shown that there is no need for cooperatives to be taxed as these allocation of surplus to improve the quality of life of the poor communities, i.e,, feeding the malnourished children, providing medical services to the indigent patients, providing scholarships to poor students, etc. – are by themselves more than taxation.
Indeed, cooperatives are tax exempt but they are tax-makers. A great portion of the surplus goes back to the poor members in the form of patronage refund or interest on capital. As the members are earning, they are not exempted from paying their individual income taxes. Too, because of the cooperatives, they are able to borrow funds to put up their individual livelihood projects, i.e., “karenderya” to those women who know how to cook or jeepneys or “motorelas” for men who know how to drive.
These are indirectly creating employment providing livelihood opportunities to the jobless which when consolidated will be about two (2) million jobs, based on the data bank of CDA. Directly employed by the more than 18,000 cooperatives nationwide is about 500,000 officers, staff and personnel. In a country where 6,000 Filipinos are leaving every day to work in other countries leaving their respective families behind, the employment contribution of the cooperatives is just amazing.
Indeed, the blooming of the flowers may be very beautiful but such pales in comparison to the blooming of the cooperatives. This truism has been reinforced by a recent study conducted by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). No less than the head of the USAID’s Overseas Cooperative Development Council (OCDC) Dr. Judith Hermanson, Ph.D. together with key staff, has met me recently to present a Report on the 3-month Study showing in their conclusions that “where there are cooperatives, the quality of life in the communities is better” and that the “Philippines is the Cooperative Leader in Asia and the Pacific.” Indeed, based on that Study, Transformative Cooperatives are the ones to rectify the dysfunctions of the present economic model which has benefited only one per cent (1%) of the world’s total population as the DNA of the cooperativism is PROSPERITY FOR ALL as it is members-owned, value-based and principles driven and sustainable.
In a land where 73% of the economy is controlled by the Oligarchs and Cartels manifesting gross inequalities and the decline in social justice, indeed that historic Tax Exemption case championed by Madam Fely, that was a battle pursued as a test case for and in behalf of the entire cooperative movement and no doubt, the cooperatives won as per Supreme Court decision dated January 22, 2010 – when the more than 10 million cooperative members nationwide rejoiced! That historic decision had put to fruition the 10-year struggle and advocacy of Madam Fely and getting the much sought justice from no less than the highest court. Now that you had left us our beloved champion, we can only bow down our heads to express our utmost gratitude. We now must understand the truism that a cooperative without advocacy is like a night without stars. Now that the cooperatives are again being taxed as big business are now apparently threatened as the cooperatives are harnessing their collective potential to rectify social wrongs as the Filipino people are now being awakened by our beloved President, let notice be served to one and all, that the cooperativism in this country has proven to be the countervailing force against poverty, social inequity, social injustice, ecological turbulence due to climate change and against violent extremism. Totoo po talaga, “Kooperatibismo laban sa terorismo,” yan po ngayon ang panawagan sa isang bayan na meron ng mga Filipino Suicidal bombers.
For those who have dreamt, struggled, advocated and even died for it, social change has been so elusive all these years despite 14 years of martial law and two-people power revolutions. The systems and structures breeding poverty are still as formidable as ever. But NOT ANYMORE under the present dispensation and people empowerment through cooperativism is now the path under the leadership of our beloved President.
Don’t you know that we have now some 53 cooperatives whose members were former combatants of the Moro National Liberation Fronts? Many were organized during the heights of the “Marawi Seige” and are now implementing livelihood projects. Don’t you know that some former commanders of the New People’s Army had already surrendered like Datu Subang in Surigao del Sur who is the chieftain of the 10,000-member Manobo Tribe? Together with TESDA and CDA, both offices have signed Memo of Agreement (MOA) to capacitate the surrenderees, to start a new life based on social justice through cooperativism. Please refrain from taxing them “baka bumalik sila sa dati.” Even the people with disabilities are now organized into cooperatives and are serving in the “blind massage” parlors in big malls. Tax mo kooperatiba nila? Wag! From liabilities of society before, they are now assets.
Indeed, when economic dictatorship of the oligarchs is grafted in the democratic government, the outcome is the toxic growth of poverty, ecological turbulence due to climate change and violent extremism. Our ecological resources had been plundered no end as GAIA (mother Earth) has no more “lungs” (Where have all our 17 million of dipterocarp forest gone?); No more “veins” as 15 or the 25 major rivers in the country are dead while 10 of the 13 major bays are now biologically dead, to the detriment of our ecological people.
The only countervailing force is the harnessing of the collective power of the people through cooperativism whose spirit has been gallantly advanced by Madam Fely.
As the remains of our beloved cooperative champion will soon be buried, what comes to my mind is the 12th stanza of the 17th century poem written by Thomas Grey in a Country Churchyard, to quote: “Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid, some heart once pregnant with celestial fire, hands that the rod of empire might have sway’d, or walked to ecstasy the living lyre.”
To our beloved Madam Felicidad Ruiz, you had lived with us with that “celestial fire” as a cooperative leader par excellence for 43 years, creating a big breakthrough when DCCCO won over miraculously in the attempt to diminish the spirit of cooperativism which has now come of age as a transformative leading edge for a transformative future for people, planet, prosperity and peace, where ever you are, now with us, then with the stars and in the loving embrace of the Supreme Being, you must “walk to ecstasy the living lyre,” – with our firm salute, warm embrace and deepest love – DAGHANG SALAMAT for your amazing life in the Cooperative Movement! Don’t worry, we will continue your fight and advocacy – all for the greater Glory of God.
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