Kooperatiba: Patuloy na Nag-aangat ng Kabuhayan ng ating mga Mamamayan

Sabay na isang napakalaking karangalan at napakahalagang tungkulin para sa akin, bilang inyong halal na Senador, at bilang Bise-Tagapangulo ng Komite ng Kooperatiba at Tagapangulo ng Komite ng Lokal na Pamahalaan sa Senado, ang makasama kayong lahat ngayon sa “Gawad Parangal sa mga Natatanging Kooperatiba ng Taong 2014”, na idinaraos ng ating Pamahalaang Lalawigan ng Bulakan sa kanyang Buwan ng Kooperatiba at Pangangalakal!

We are here not only to simply extol the twelve (12) outstanding cooperatives in the Province of Bulacan for 2014, on the occasion of Bulacan’s Cooperatives and Enterprise Month. By and through their example that we showcase today, this event also serves as a fitting occasion for the people of Bulacan to recognize and reacquaint themselves with the socio-economic value and importance of cooperatives in our lives as citizens.

Indeed, the Constitution and our laws recognize the potential of cooperatives as engines of economic growth for the people and our country. In fact, they are no different from other business organizations, such as corporations and partnerships, in that they were envisioned and designed to operate for purposes of financial and economic gain.

However, certain principles uniquely set cooperatives apart from other business organizations:

1) Principle of self-reliance and self-help, whereby the members are themselves both the capital contributors, the patrons/clients/customers, and the very beneficiaries of the services and income of the cooperative;

2) Principles of openness, voluntarism and personal and democratic control, as embodied in the one-member, one¬-vote, non-discrimination, and lower quorum rules;

3) Concern for the community or “social responsibility”. Please note that with cooperatives, social responsibility is mandated by law, unlike in corporations, partnerships, or even sole proprietorships, where social responsibility is but a moral obligation.

4) Lastly, Social justice, which is the end-all and be-all of all the underlying principles of cooperatives, and which is mandated by no less than our Constitution.

These principles substantially distinguish cooperatives from other business organizations. These same principles should then guide our understanding and our treatment of cooperatives. More importantly, these principles should primordially control and influence the way that our government attempts to regulate our cooperatives.

Let us focus on the most important principle of social justice. The principle of social justice is self-evident, and lies in this single most important legal consequence under the law: the grant of tax incentives and other favorable terms and conditions upon cooperatives.

Under the Cooperative Act, registered cooperatives that transact and deal exclusively with their own members are not “subject to any taxes and fees imposed under the internal revenue laws and other tax laws”. This is couched in very clear language, and there is no room for other interpretation.

Whereas, registered cooperatives that transact or deal with non-members or to the general public are granted limited tax exemption and other privileges, the extent of which is determined whether their “accumulated reserves and undivided net savings” go beyond P10,000,000.00 or not.

As you all know, the matter of tax incentives is being administered by our mighty Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) o ang Kawanihan ng Rentas Internas. The current practice is that before cooperatives can avail of the tax exemptions under the law, they must first be issued a Certificate of Tax Exemption (CTE) by the BIR. But before that, they must first secure a Certificate of Good Standing (CGS) from the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA), subject of course to prior and faithful submission of certain documentary requirements by the cooperatives.

I may not totally agree with the way BIR administers these tax incentives, but, anyway, that is the current practice.

Paumanhin na lamang po kung maghahayag ako ng aking totoong saloobin sa bagay na ito. Sa paningin ko at ng mga nasa cooperative sector, hindi maganda ang sitwasyon ngayon sa pagtrato sa sektor ng kooperatiba dito sa ating lipunan.
First of all, there are about 23,600 cooperatives registered now with the CDA, 91% of which are from the micro, small and medium categories. Just 9% of them are large cooperatives. Tapos, ang nabigyan ng Certificate of Good Standing ng CDA ay 11,600 lamang. Pero ang pinakamasaklap sa lahat, 6,295 lamang ang mga nabigyan ng Certificate of Tax Exemption ng ating BIR.

Kung mapapansin natin, mababa na nga ang bilang ng mga registered cooperatives, mas mababa pang lalo ang nabigyan ng Certificate of Good Standing ng CDA. Tapos, lalo pang mas kakaunti ang mga nabigyan ng BIR ng Certificate of Tax Exemption. This all means that our registered cooperatives get significantly reduced by 50% at every important milestone in their quest for tax-exempt status.

Ikumpara natin sa mga korporasyon at mga partnerships. Alam n’yo ba na merong mahigit na 460,000 na aktibong korporasyon na nakatala ngayon sa SEC; samantalang mahigit 92,000 naman ang registered partnerships?

If you ask me, this is not a good sign if we take into account the social justice objectives mandated by the Constitution and the Cooperative Code. To put it another way, the cooperative movement is not being sufficiently nurtured and effectively developed, contrary to the intent of the law. In fact, no less than the CDA has made the stark observation that our cooperative sector remains “under-developed”.

Bakit ganun? What is the reason for this perception?
Could it be that cooperatives are really not a viable and profitable economic option? Remember, cooperatives have been granted tax exemption privileges by law, whereas, corporations and partnerships generally don’t have such privileges.

Could it be that there may be an inherent flaw in our system that tends to undermine and discourage the formation and operation of cooperatives as business organizations?

I am inclined to believe the latter as the real cause of the “under-development” of our cooperative movement.

If social justice is the main principle that underlies and drives the entire cooperative movement, then it follows that our law on cooperatives, Republic Act No. 9520, or the Philippine Cooperative Code of 2008, is a species of SOCIAL LEGISLATION.

And being a social legislation, then the Cooperative Code should always be interpreted LIBERALLY in favor of cooperatives, and STRICTLY against the government.

Ibig sabihin, dapat balansehin natin ang ating pagnanais na mangolekta ng buwis at ang ating pagpapalago at pagpapatibay ng ating mga Kooperatiba. Sabi nga ng ating Saligang Batas, dapat “EQUITABLE” ang ating sistema ng pagbubuwis.

Our system of taxation should aid in the promotion and growth of our cooperatives, and should not be stunt and arrest their development. In the cooperative sector, the power to tax should NOT be used as a “POWER TO DESTROY”, and the government should NOT “kill the goose that lays the golden eggs”, to borrow the familiar words of our Supreme Court.

Sa palagay ko, ito ang pinakamahalagang isyu na dapat nating masolusyunan sa lalong madaling panahon, kung tunay nating gustong palaguin ang ating mga kooperatiba. At makakaasa kayo sa tulong ng inyong lingkod upang mabigyan ito ng lunas, siyempre, kasama at katuwang din natin ang Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) at ang ating mga lokal na pamahalaan. Sa katunayan, ito mismo ang ating ginagawa sa Senado: inaayos natin ang sistema at pinapaganda pa natin lalo ang ating Cooperative Code. Kasama natin ang CDA at ang BIR sa mga usapin na ito!

Indeed, there is validity in the CDA’s observation that the law could be exploited by unscrupulous cooperatives to enter through the “backdoor of the business of tax exemptions”. In addition, just recently in the Senate, we have uncovered the modus operandi of some criminal minds using farmers’ cooperatives as “fronts” in order to import rice and other agricultural products; in short, committing the act of technical smuggling.

But then again, these are not sufficient reasons to altogether tighten our regulation of cooperatives, to the point of their asphyxiation and total prohibition.

This poses as a continuing challenge to our regulator—the CDA—to improve our overall system and prevent the recurrence of this very unpleasant and regrettable scenario, and to avoid even the slightest blemish on our cooperative sector.

To end, let me remind everybody that the Philippine cooperative movement’s survival depends on how our entire system makes of it. On the citizen’s level, the Filipino, it depends on whether cooperatives genuinely remain to be a viable, practical and a profitable socio-economic venture in their eyes! Bakit nga ba natin pagkakaabalahang bumuo at maging miyembro ng isang kooperatiba, kung hindi naman ito makakatulong sa ating kabuhayan at kasaganahan?

Fortunately, we have before us our twelve (12) outstanding cooperatives of the Province of Bulacan, which serve as our models and inspiration to continually strengthen and fortify our belief in the socio-economic potential of cooperatives. If we can only replicate their exemplary efforts and accomplishments in the Province and throughout the country, we can be certain that the Philippine cooperative sector will continue survive and thrive. Then, our countrymen will be strongly convinced that cooperatives truly remain as worthwhile means of achieving and boosting economic self-sufficiency, thus contributing to local and national development!

Sayang, at walang kinatawan ang BIR sa ating pagtitipon ngayon! Kung sa bagay, mabuti na rin na wala ang BIR, kundi, baka naman kasabay ng Award o Plaque na ibibigay sa ating mga outstanding cooperatives, ay iabot na rin ng BIR ang kanilang “Letter of Authority” o “Subpoena” para sa mga natatanging kooperatibang ito! Kawawa naman ang ating mga kooperatiba; masisira lamang ang kanilang araw! Sayang naman ang kanilang moment!

Pero maganda rin naman sana kung nandito ang BIR, kung ang kanilang tunay na pakay ay upang iabot ang pinaka-inaasam na “Certificate of Tax Exemption”! Nothing could be a more meaningful and heartwarming token of appreciation for our outstanding cooperatives than that!

So, I congratulate the 12 outstanding cooperatives of the Province of Bulacan! Sana maging inspirasyon kayong lahat sa ating mga kababayan, at sana dumami pa at lumakas ang inyong hanay!

Hanggang dito na lamang po! Maraming salamat sa pagkumbida ninyo sa inyong lingkod!

Mabuhay ang mga kooperatiba sa Lalawigan ng Bulacan, lalung-lalo na ang labindalawang (12) huwarang mga kooperatiba na ating pinarangalan ngayon!

Mabuhay ang Lalawigan ng Bulacan!

Maraming, maraming salamat po!

Muli po, magandang hapon sa inyong lahat!

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