Cooperatives exist with the desire of people to mutually undertake certain activities. It supports the adage that “no man is an island”. As a way of sustaining cooperatives, members must gather together thru the conduct of general assembly meeting. This is the time to agree on certain issues based on the provisions of their respective by-laws, policies, and development programs. The current pandemic affected this long-time honored cooperative practice of members getting together. Several queries of certain primary cooperatives regarding the conduct of general assembly meeting and the term of office of elected officers reached us through electronic messages.
Fully aware on the significance of members’ participation in cooperative undertakings, I fully subscribe to the idea that general assembly must be conducted annually. It is one way of pooling people together to transact business and chart the direction of their respective cooperatives being the highest body in the cooperative structure. General assembly meeting sustains the connection between members, officers and staff as a collective body that constitute the pillars of the cooperative. Without such opportunity to gather as one, transaction is limited on an individual basis that may be contrary to the essence of cooperative principles especially democratic member control.
Anchored on the Omnibus Guidelines on the Implementation of the Community Quarantine in the Philippines with Amendments as of August 2, 2020, the CDA issued Memorandum Circular Number 2020-19 related to the conduct of general assembly meetings of cooperatives. Allow me to lift some of the highlights of the issuance that may guide the public especially cooperative members.
XXX ”For the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, all types and categories of cooperatives are hereby advised of the new guidelines in the conduct of their general assembly meetings, as follows: 1. The conduct of the annual general assembly meetings and elections of cooperative officers of electric cooperatives (ECs) for the year 2020 are hereby cancelled; 2. Other types and categories of cooperatives shall have the following options: a. Cancel the conduct of the general assembly (GA) meeting for the year 2020, provided that the following requirements are complied with: a.1 inform the general membership of the cancellation of the GA; and a.2 submit to the Authority a board resolution approving the cancellation of the GA, together with a letter signed by the Chairperson or General Manager stating the reason/s why they opted not to conduct the GA meeting. These documents shall be sent by email to the email address of the CDA Central Office or the Regional Office having jurisdiction over the cooperative. b. Proceed with the conduct of the GA meeting, on or before September 30, 2020, through any of the following modes: b.1. Videoconferencing for cooperatives allowed under MC Nos. 2020-10 and 2020-12. b.2. Physical Attendance in the conduct of GA meetings for cooperatives whose areas are under the Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ), provided that they comply with the Omnibus Guidelines of the IATF. Officers who will not be able to attend physically during the holding of GA meetings because of the restrictions imposed by the Omnibus Guidelines may participate through videoconferencing.
Strict compliance with the standard health protocols, such as sanitation of the venue, chairs, tables or microphones, wearing of face masks, hand sanitizing and social distancing of participants, must be ensured during the conduct of physical attendance of GA meetings. Moreover, the number of participants shall be limited to 50% of the seating or venue capacity. 3. For cooperatives whose GA meetings are to be cancelled, the funds allocated for the purpose may be used in their operations as additional working capital. 4. Incumbent officers shall serve on a hold-over capacity until the conduct of the next regular GA meeting and election of officers. 5. In order to retain the one-half plus one of the set of the members of the board of directors’ term of office as set forth in its By-laws, the cooperative shall have the following options: a. All elected officers whose original term of office ends on CY 2021 shall have an extension of one (1) year of service; or b. The one-half plus one set of the members of the board who shall obtain the highest number of votes in the election to be conducted for CY 2021 shall serve for two (2) years and the remaining half of the elected directors shall serve for one (1) year. Options may vary depending on the provisions stated in the By-laws of the cooperative or in accordance with its approved policies, election rules and guidelines.”
In view of the above, it was observed that some cooperatives complied with such directive with the submission of notice of cancellation of general assembly meeting. I hope that this reiteration can reach more cooperatives to guide them on their actions as resilient enterprises coping with the challenges of COVID-19.
Thank you and Happy Cooperative and Indigenous Month Celebration!