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NATCCO Co-Founder Jailed by Martial Law Regime

Posted May 04, 2022


Find out from two still-living and one recently-departed pioneers how co-operative leaders did not agree to - but complied with - Martial Law. "The 1970s were turbulent years for cooperatives not only in Mindanao but in the country as a whole. This was because of the declaration of Martial Law in September 1972 and the attempt of government to control cooperatives across the board." Atty. Mordino Cua, NATCCO Co-Founder

Pioneer Leaders: Martial Law Reason Why NATCCO was Organized

The National Confederation of Cooperatives (NATCCO) was created in 1977 by co-op leaders to standardize the training of co-op leaders . . . and also to resist Martial Law.

President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law on September 21, 1972, a few months before elections in 1973 when his last term was to end.  Under the Martial Law regime, Marcos abolished the lawmaking agencies, the Senate and Congress, and Marcos himself took over and exercised legislative powers.  

One of the laws created by Marcos in 1973 was Presidential Decree 175 and Letter of Implementation 23 which launched the Samahang Nayon Program to complement the Agrarian Reform Program.  Like all the “government-driven and government-financed initiatives for cooperatives, the program crashed even before the end of the martial regime.

One of the reasons for the declaration of Martial Law was the rise of Communist groups, and one of the suspected groups were the cooperatives which recruited members in the countryside.

How did the Martial Law experiences of pioneers lead them to establish the NATCCO?

At the 45th Anniversary of the NATCCO Network on January 23, videos of testimonies of the “old-timers” Romulo Villamin and Cresente Paez giving their stories in 2017 were replayed at the online celebration.

Romulo Villamin was the first Chief Executive Officer of NATCCO from 1980 to 92, and Cresente Paez was CEO from 2004 to 2009. 


According to Villamin:

“(President Marcos decreed the creation of the) Samahang Nayon – a program of government to replace the cooperatives that were organized on a voluntary basis.  Marcos had a framework for development of cooperatives starting from the village to the national level

Marcos wanted all co-ops to re-register and follow that framework.

Fortunately, the co-ops at that time that were organized on a voluntary basis had already taken root all over the Philippines. 

Even if they were small, they were organized on a self-help basis, and therefore had strong foundations.

When the issue of the government came out aiming to replace all cooperatives and let them follow the framework of government, NATCCO was born as the voice of the voluntary sector.

I came in 1980 and I was tasked to coordinate the efforts of the centers.  The cause of NATCCO was to protect the independence of the “voluntary” sector, which was the real basis for growth, and not the government’s initiatives.

We were strong in defending the cause or independence of the private sector.  

We won the fight in a sense because even now, NATCCO still represents the voice of the voluntary sector.  Many of the leaders today were born during that time and continue to support the voluntary sector.”


This is the experience of Cresente Paez: 

Mordino Cua (one of the founders of NATCCO) was the person responsible, who provided my life direction.  I witnessed the five people meeting in Cebu City in Rajah Hotel – who established NATCCO.  I was the one who prepared the meeting. At that time, they were discussing two things: 

First, there was harassment during Martial Law, and we needed to have a bigger and stronger voice by unifying the five centers or federations (SPECC, VICTO, BCDC, TAGCODEC and  NORLU) 

I recall that when I was conducting meetings and seminars, there was always this military officer in uniform. 

On condition that there would be a Philippine Constabulary officer present.  We were only allowed to conduct seminars if there was the PC officer present.  

The concern was more on having a voice . . . Political action that we needed to unify the five centers

Second, we had to have a common ideological orientation.  MASS-SPECC was oriented in the German system.  There was closer coordination between Victo and SPECC, but VICTO’s orientation was more on the Canadian system.

The leaders felt that it was possible to understand the cooperative ideology, but it could be prostituted or diluted.  So we should all have the same orientation.

So the discussion focused on having a uniform curriculum . . . one standard of education and training.  

And that was the driving force why we had to put up NATCCO at that time.  It was repeated many times:  “Self-help plus mutual self-help   equals cooperative.”

It was a necessity that within NATCCO we develop the same culture.  The education going on in Mindanao should be the same education given in Luzon.  The only way was to set up NATCCO.


This puts into perspective the case of Attorney Mordino Cua, Director of the SPECC and later one of the founders of NATCCO.

In his memoirs, “My Cooperative Journey,” published just a few years before his passing in 2010, Cua related how he was arrested by the Martial Law regime on trumped up charges of malversation of funds donated by a German organization to a co-operative.

Cua wrote: “The 1970s were turbulent years for cooperatives because of the declaration of Martial Law and the attempt of government to control cooperatives across the board.  The Regime believed the Samahang Nayon way was ‘the only way,’ and the government required all existing cooperatives to re-register and re-organize themselves according to the SM design . . . but the private sector remained determined and strong in the face of authoritarian pressures and harassment.”

Then in 1974, the Regime organized a four day conference attended by delegates from all over the country. I was elected First Vice President of what would be the Cooperative Union of the Philippines (CUP).  

SPECC continued organizing cooperatives in Mindanao, conducting pre-membership education seminars.  We were continuously followed, questioned and sometimes stopped by the military.  The pressure was on.

The Martial Law Regime prohibited cooperatives from receiving technical or financial assistance from any foreign or local institutions without clearance and prohibited as well from engaging in insurance or mutual business without authority.  This even when the Cooperative Life Insurance and Mutual Benefit Association (CLIMBS) was already three years old.

“Also in 1974, I suffered a stroke but the pressures from the government only increased and turned into personal harassment almost from the start of my illness.”

“I was arrested in Cagayan de Oro on November 1, 1975 and flown to Camp Crame.  Arrested with me were Bienvenido Ferrer Jr. and Ricardo Arbodadura and Viola Casino, treasurers and cashiers of SPECC.”

The Martial Law Regime requested SPECC for financial figures from 1970 to 1975 “containing amounts and dates of any and all donations, grants, and technical, material and/or financial assistance.”

Audits were done.  Cua was expelled from the SPECC Board.

 However, all suspicions of wrongdoing were quelled when the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation (FESF), the German NGO that funded the scholarships for Mindanao co-operators, issued a statement certifying that SPECC, with Cua as Chairman, has had “no financial or administrative accountability to the Foundation arising from the execution of projects jointly undertaken . . . and that this relationship has been most pleasant and rewarding.”

Eventually, in 1977, leaders of five co-op federations met in Cebu City to establish the NATCCO Network.  The five federations were SPECC, Visayas Cooperative Training Center (VICTO), Bicol Cooperative Training Center (BCTC), Tagalog Cooperative Training Center (TAGCOTEC), and Northern Luzon Cooperative Development Center (NORLUCEDEC).

At the General Assembly of SPECC in 1980, Cua addressed the co-op leaders: “Today, we have reason to celebrate because we are finally able to hold a meeting of members without any fear or compulsion from any source.  Five years ago, a big gathering such as this was full of uncertainties, fears . . .”

Former CDA Chief Orlando Ravanera wrote a tribute to Cua in the Sunstar: “Thanks to his fighting spirit, undaunted all these years despite the many travails he had encountered, including his arrest and incarceration during the dark days of Martial Law for insulating cooperatives against political interventions by the cohorts of the dictatorship.”

Business Weekly Mindanao posted a tribute as well: “Cua was imprisoned in 1975 because of his obstinate refusal to abandon the recognized basic democratic principle that infuses cooperatives whereby every member has the right to be heard and to participate in the decision making processes. Such principle was, however, the very antithesis of martial rule.”

With the 1987 Constitution requiring government support for cooperatives, in 1989 to 1990 Cua collaborated with Sen. Aquilino Pimentel on the Cooperative Code of the Philippines (RA 6938) and the Cooperative Development Authority Act (RA 6939) that governed cooperatives in the country for 20 years.  In 2007, Cua’s son, Rep. Gil Cua of COOP-NATCCO Partylist helped draft the Cooperative Code of 2008 which was passed into law in February 2009.


  • cooperatives Martial Law
  • Cresente Paez
  • Matial Law
  • Modino Cua
  • NATCCO during Martial Law
  • NATCCO History
  • Romulo Villamin

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