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Jul 17

The ruins of Lebanon

The dilemmas faced by Filipinos in Lebanon are severe; evacuation plans seem to be stymied -but 500 Filipinos have been evacuated (Toots Ople breaks down the number of Filipinos potentially involved in what happens). The President is trying wheedle oil out of Colonel Qaddafi.

Once again the blogosphere and online news proves its importance -and mettle- in global crisis situations such as the one unfolding in the Middle East.

Pajamas Media and The Truth Laid Bear both have a flurry of roundups on the situation. A reader kindly points to an article in The Observer, on how troubling the situation in the Middle East is becoming; another extremely unsettling analysis on what’s going on is in Vital Perspective:

The problem is this: While Syria does not want to get hit and will not make overt moves, so long as the Syrians cannot guarantee supplies will not reach Hezbollah or that Hezbollah won’t be given sanctuary in Syria, Israel cannot complete its mission of shattering Hezbollah and withdrawing. They could be drawn into an Iraq-like situation that they absolutely don’t want. Israel is torn. On the one hand, it wants to crush Hezbollah, and that requires total isolation. On the other hand, it does not want the Syrian regime to fall. What comes after would be much worse from Israel’s point of view.

This is the inherent problem built into Israel’s strategy, and what gives Hezbollah some hope. If Israel does not attack Syria, Hezbollah could well survive Israel’s attack by moving across the border. No matter how many roads are destroyed, Israel won’t be able to prevent major Hezbollah formations moving across the border. If they do attack Syria and crush al Assad’s government, Hezbollah could come out of this stronger than ever.

The Arab News newspaper, in its editorial, presents its view on the Lebanese government’s dilemma. Mike Cohen points to alarming statements by Newt Gingrich and former PM Mahathir of Malaysia -it’s World War III!

The Papal Nuncio lays out the Vatican position on killings: stop them! There’s that other problem, simony.

An analysis of the political psychology of Thaksin: eerily reminiscent of someone here at home.

A thought-provoking special report in The Manila Times on whether automating vote-counting will really deter fraud.

The Smithsonian Institution is in trouble: lacking money, is it having to sell its soul to corporations?. The tact and diplomacy of Prince Philip. Did you know Art Bell is living in Makati?

In the punditocracy, my column for today is Prima donna monologues.

Bong Austero has a sobering column on how those who run educational institutions aren’t just managers, but custodians of tradition and culture (and how the latter responsibility is dangerously being ignored).

Amando Doronila says the bishops have uh, skirted issues they should have confronted. Dan Mariano focuses on bishops accused of taking bribes.

Efren Danao suggests, if executive and other officials can be subjected to investigations by the Ombudsman, then members of Congress should be investigated, too.

A trial balloon? The hitherto-moribund idea of Congress holding a constituent assembly is revived, and here are Rita Linda Jimeno’s calculations:

The House, through Speaker Jose de Venecia, contends that since the Constitution is silent on whether or not the Senate and House of Representatives should vote separately to attain a vote of three-fourths, then it means that the number of congressmen, which is 236, should be added up to the number of senators, currently 23, to come up with a sum of 259. The three-fourths of this sum, the speaker says, is 194—the number needed for the two Chambers, taken as one, to comprise a constituent assembly that will propose revisions or amendments to the Constitution in a plebiscite. He therefore believes that if the required number of 194 is obtained even in the House alone, the constituent assembly will be deemed constituted and, amendments or revisions in the Constitution may then be proposed to the people.

Alas, the the Senate sees otherwise; so Jimeno quotes a retired judge:

Justice Mendoza strongly criticized this view … First, he said, the Senate’s view has reduced the amendment process to an ordinary legislative process of passing laws, which would, in effect, be a legislated form of Charter Change. This interpretation, Justice Mendoza said, blithely ignores the fact that ours is a rigid Constitution, which means that it cannot be amended by the ordinary process of legislation.

Second, he continued, the Senate interpretation is inconsistent with the pattern of other provisions of the Constitution… which suggests that when performing nonlegislative functions, the two houses must meet in joint session and then vote separately or, sometimes, jointly.

Among the instances when the two Chambers meet in a joint session to act on nonlegislative tasks are: When Congress declares a state of war; or when it confirms the President’s nomination of a member of the Senate or the House to be vice president of the Philippines, in the event of vacancy in that office; or when it sits as a Board to canvass the votes for President and Vice President and declares the winners.

In fact, the good justice added, when Congress decides to revoke the President’s declaration of Martial Law or suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, not only must the two Chambers meet in a joint session, but they must likewise vote jointly as well.

Given all these provisions in the Constitution, Justice Mendoza said there is no reason why the same requirement and procedure should not be applied in determining the manner of sitting and voting of the two houses when Congress acts as a constituent assembly. Indeed, he added, citing the case of Javellana vs Comelec (21 SCRA 774) “Senators and members of the House of Representatives act, not as members of Congress, but as component elements of a constituent assembly.”

The Polo Club as heritage site. The Pope’s opinions on music and liturgy (as to be expected from a classical pianist).

In the blogosphere, buzz on Bolante continues. Uniffors says the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles is hiding something; an OFW Living in Hong Kong tackles the theory that detaining Bolante in America is a good thing for the Palace; Coffee With Amee points out that Bolante’s visa cancellation is no minor matter, and while the full info isn’t out, something serious must be afoot! Ellen Tordesillas also thinks the Bolante affair is going to get more serious as time passes.

Personally: this is a hot, hot story for enterprising Filipino-Americans in the West Coast. Will they manage to hunt down the leads?

Ricky Carandang has been doing research on the internal dynamics of the Philippine episcopate. The factions seem to be as follows: doing the lobbying for the Palace, Archbishop Diosdado Talamayan of Tuguegarao; against the Palace, a group clustered around Archbishop Oscar Cruz. Mongster’s Nest blogs about a bishop’s account of what took place during the CBCP meeting.

Iloilo City Boy puts forward why wages in this country are so low.

Ethan Zuckerman has a fascinating entry on how the internet is growing, and how the idea of the “digital divide” is giving way to the concept of “digital opportunity.”

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  1. cvj

    Lately, I also have had intermittent problems accessing Manolo’s (and Ellen’s) blog.

    On the newer thread, Carl has a more sinister take on Israel’s motivation for setting back Beirut at least 20 years. That did not occur to me, but it seems to be consistent with the facts. With that in mind, their attack of Lebanon’s core infrastructure no longer seems that puzzling.

  2. mrabello

    yep…I’ve also seen the use of the tag “zionist” and imputes on Israel more long-term ulterior motives behind its actions in southern Lebanon.

    Expansionist designs?

    Why would Israel want to do that? It would be foolish and indefensible.

    What would it gain?

    I have heard the zionist tag used many times by its sworn enemies…enemies that have vowed to destroy Israel.

    Perhaps Israel is the way it is because of these enemies..?

  3. anna de brux

    Mrabello,

    Agree they are the way they are because of their enemies and like you, I don’t believe they have expansionist ambitions or that it’s in their agenda at all – much too unrealistic.

    The issue today is their invasion of a sovereign nation and the collateral damage stemming from their overkill over the capture of two Israeli soldiers. The world is forgetting that there are thousands of Arab and Hezbollah prisoners of war in Israeli prisons too. The two abducted Israeli soldiers are meant for prisoner swap.

    Am not saying that Hezbollahs aren’t in the wrong. To me both the Israelis and the Hezbollahs are guilty of blatant disregard for innocent lives in the conflict. They should be tried for war crimes when this is over.

    I believe, however, the Israelis have a higher degree of guilt than the Hezbollahs in the current scheme of things.

  4. mrabello

    hmm…I could easily as well say that Iran, Syria and the Hez’s have the higher degree.

    I do agree with you that both sides ahould be made to account for any atrocities as a result of the conflict.

    Well, I guess coming up with Security Council Resolutions like 1559 are useless unless parties can be made to adhere.

  5. mrabello

    Funny how Fouad Lahoud, Lebanon’s president(said to be pro-Syrian) is warning Israel that the Lebanese army will engage the IDF forces fighting basically a guerilla war alongside Hezbollah if Israel were to launch a full-scale invasion.

    Yet..they are unable..more like unwilling perhaps?…to control Hezbollah and enforce UN resolution 1559.

    In other words, better for the Lebanese army to face Israel in in battle than to risk civilwar with Hezbollah.

    Nothing wrong with that picture?

    If it is an issue of sovereignty and Israel should be reprimanded for violating Lebanon’s sovereignty…where is the Lebanese government’s sovereignty over Hezbollah?

    Should we then consider Hezbollah’s abductions does have the imprimatur of President Lahoud and his government?

  6. cvj

    mrabello, try to put things into perspective. If you were Lebanese, having witnessed a foreign army:

    (1) kill 300 Lebanese civilians (one-third of which are children) in two weeks,
    (2) destroy billions of dollars worth of infrastructure that has just been rebuilt after 15+ years of civil war,
    (3) and embark on a campaign of ethnic cleansing against hundreds of thousands of your fellow countrymen to the south,

    would you really care either way about the fate of two captured (‘kidnapped’ is a misnomer) soldiers of that foreign army? If ever they decide to do so, the Lebanese army has better reasons to fight the IDF.

  7. mrabello

    seems like Israel can never win.

    The honeymoon with the Jew and any sympathy that may have arised following the Holocaust may be over.

    Or maybe it never existed.

    Any underlying reasons for anybody to condemn Israel ?

    Palestine should have been for Palestinians(meaning Arab and Muslim) perhaps..?

    The creation of a Jewish homeland a mistake?

    Maybe we should just listen to Iran’s president who wants all Jews in Palestine, as he(along with all red-blooded Arabs and Moslems)calls it… shipped back to Europe?

    And that the Holocaust was just a myth?

    Maybe I’m wrong.. but I perceive anti-Israel sentiments(not anti-Jewish) in many posts..the roots of which may stem from the very issue of Israel’s right to exist…?
    or possibly perhaps that the birth of modern Israel may have been realized only at the expense of Palestine’s Arabs and there is a perception held by many that injustices may have been committed in the course preceding the establishment of present-day Israel?

    Or just plain anger towards Israel’s government and it’s “abusive” policies and actions against Palestinians.?

    I am btw.. not Jewish nor do I have friends who are– inner or outer-circle .. =)

  8. mrabello

    that is..not jewish unlike Byman as others have ventured to speculate as to his ethnicity.

    I am not disputing Israel’s abuses –point 1 is well-taken.
    Israel will have to account for these.

    Point 2 I see as unavoidable and cannot be separated from any given military conflict. But again..Israel may have to account for these damages.

    Point 3 in my view, presupposes that Israel does HAVE expansionist goals and turns a blind eye towards Hezbollah’s act of provocation –implying that Israel in fact hopes to annex southern Lebanon hence ..the IDF is presently embarking on ethnic cleansing of the Shias under the false pretext that it is simply neutralizing Nasrallah’s forces from commiting future problems along the border.

  9. mrabello

    Erratum: that is..President Emile Lahoud and not President Fouad Lahoud of Lebanon..oopsie.

  10. cvj

    mrabello, on my part, it’s more of the latter i.e. “‘abusive’ policies and actions”.

    Like many Filipinos, my natural affinity is towards Israel and the Jews. When i was growing up in the 70’s, i read the Old Testament for leisure so i was acquainted with their status as a ‘Chosen People’ early on. Like many kids at that time, i had very high regard for the Israeli commandos especially their exploits at Entebbe. Even before Schindler’s List, there was already this mini-series on TV about the holocaust (i think it was called ‘Holocaust”) where i saw what the German’s did to the Jews.

    I believe the holocaust (the ‘Shoah’) is real, and that they do deserve a homeland, but the more important reality today is, having once been the victims, the Israelis are now the oppressors. They, of all people, should appreciate what it means to be at the receiving end of State violence. Why then are they directing the same sort of State violence at the Palestinians and now, the Lebanese?

    As the party who is being provoked, Israel has a range of responses to choose from. It has chosen a path that affects the lives and livelihood of innocents and for that, as you rightly say, they have to be held accountable. With the Americans backing them up, that is unlikely to happen. The proper thing for the Philippine government to do under the circumstances is to distance itself from the United States’ foreign policy. It is both prudent and just.

  11. mrabello

    Hi cvj.. yep…”Holocaust” with a young James Woods and Meryl Streep..are our ages showing? =D

    Like many governments around the world, Israel’s leaves a lot be desired in terms of policy formulation and execution.

    Siguro nga baka “trying hard” lang si Ehud Olmert– being facetious here — in trying to ape his mentor and predecessor.

    I agree with you that all-out support for Israel by the US will present a barrier towards realizing any Israeli accountability for its actions..

    I think we can all agree that what is needed immediately is UN intervention and a cessation of hostilities.

    Afraid I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

  12. cvj

    James Woods and Meryl Streep were there? Was he Eric Weiss? Yes, i would agree with you on the UN and cessation of hostilities. I also hope the UN (or Red Cross) could set up refugee camps so our OFW’s can go there as a last resort.

  13. mrabello

    “Was he Eric Weiss?”

    I think so ..pero to be honest, I forget basta sya ata yung main character.

    It was a good miniseries I’m sure you’ll agree.

    I remember nga those handsome black uniforms worn by the German SS.

    =)

  14. cvj

    Yes, it was very well made mini-series. One of my favorite scenes was the last stand of the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto. (Just checked in IMDB, James Wood’s character was ‘Karl Weiss’ – my mistake.). I liked the way they portrayed the Erik Dorf character. He seemed like a decent human being, good husband and father, diligent and methodical in his job – which is finding a way to most efficiently exterminate the Jews. A true example of the banality of evil.

  15. mrabello

    I recall he was a fellow named “Weiss”.. and I think his ladyfriend or love interest..or was it wife(?) was played by Meryl Streep…if I’m not mistaken.

    But we digress.

    It is the sabbath in Israel and its troops are massing at the border as you well know.

    It doesn’t look good.

    They say it was ..and it may just continue to be Israel’s “vietnam”.

    Israel is adamant that it must execute its “cleanup” mission into southern Lebanon.

    It better brace itself for a bloody guerilla war by the Hez’s.

  16. mrabello

    kasama pala mga tropa ni President Lahoud to augment the Hez’s..

  17. cvj

    If the invasion pushes through, Lebanon will probably descend into the same chaos as Iraq, with IED’s and suicide bombers on the part of Hezbollah and the IDF exercising less restraint than their American counterparts. The secular, cosmopolitan society of Beirut will go the way of their Iraqi counterparts. The U.S, Iran and Syria are playing it by ear not knowing whether or how to to pull back from the brink.

  18. cvj

    As to the possible reason for Hezbollah’s provocation, here’s some analysis from an Israeli peace activist:

    http://www.antiwar.com/orig/avnery.php?articleid=9379

    In a nutshell, Hassan Nasrallah may have wanted to be a hero to the Palestinians. That’s why he threw caution to the wind.

  19. mrabello

    hear ya cvj.

    I also believe it was written by a bonafide Jew–Uri Avnery sounding more “jewish” than “Byman”.

  20. mrabello

    I maintain as well that the root is the Palestinian problem.

    But what exactly does Hamas want?

    It does not recognize Israel’s right to exist.

    That is a fact. Fatah is more pliable .. but they do not run the government of the Palestinian areas.

    How do you negotiate with Hamas?

  21. anna de brux

    Mrarbello,

    I’m convinced that like their fathers in the Fatah, the Hamas will come round too. Given the chance to sit down with some of the more reasonable Israeli leaders, they will buckle eventually recognize Israel’s right to exist.

    Right now, there is a flow of empty but hard rhetorics from hardliners on both sides. America is key. America must lead the way. It’s been done before. Why can’t it be done today?

  22. mrabello

    I really hope so Anna, there are unfortunately, “hawks” on both sides.

  23. cinquefranca

    to mlq3, i saw your program last night and i have several questions to ask you. what do you think should have been the proper response of israel after two of its soldiers were kidnapped and after hundreds of katushas fell on their heads? is there another way out of it? also, i have been watching both bbc and cnn reporting hundreds of bodies being killed yet while one reporter was doing this, he was showing only two makeshift rooms in a hospital where two injured victims are lying. How accurate and credible are these reporters? don’t you think they should verify them before reporting these figures? when you borrowed a quote from someone saying why lebanon must die when israel should live, it sounded as if israel started this mess, that out of nowhere they simply decided to bomb lebanon and sacrifice their own citizen and the lebanese lives as well. i am very confused. i am not a citizen of israel. i cannot say that i sympathize with them but if i will put myself on their shoes, having to live with suicide bombers all my life, dock in when there are katushas or scud missiles, bear the ridicule of worldwide anti-semitism… and knowing for a fact, that all your neighbors want you DEAD…i wouldn’t want to live there. what is your take on why hezbollah deciding without provocation to kidnap these soldiers and fire rockets on israel? do you believe that its just a whim and they have not planned this at all? a big organization such as theirs whose existence and mandate is to annihilate a race just after having a bad day at the barbershop found it necessary to fire rockets just to make this one bad hair day go away. they ust have a timetable for everything right? and when israel responded, the whole world is so quick to condemn it. one captain spielman on cnn said, if we don’t do this, if we let hezbollah run its business, 20 years from now what do you think shall it do? what can prevent hezbollah with the backing of syria and iran, and possibly a hezbollah united lebanon from bombing us or our family elsewhere in the world? even jan egeland said that hezbollah is hiding and hitting their targets within the civilian population. do you think hezbollah in order to achieve world sympathy will no hesitate to inflict harm on its own citizens? israel gave the palestinians Gaza and look what it got them. they want to give up West Bank, what do you think will happen? do you think israel should at this point give up jerusalem? i would like to share to you one story that caught my attention two years ago, when israel was cracking down on illegal aliens. one filipino who was a victim of a suicide bomber got a knock on his door one day. true enough, as expected it was the israeli police, when asked to hand over his papers he readily admitted that he had no proper documents. while going through these, the police asked him what happened to him what with all the burned scars and bruises from the bombing. do you know what happened to this guy? not only was he NOT DEPORTED, he was taken to the hospital immediately for further treatments and was given compensation for his injuries. we get stories of how filipina domestic helpers were thrown out of windows in libya, kuwait, syria and saudi. at least there’s one that cheered me up. CNN showed how precise israel weapons are when they make their targets. why do you think they need to bomb Tyre and parts of Beirut? what do you think will happen to the christians in lebanon if hezbollah becomes more confident because now it can be told that they can take on israel?

    lastly, i would like to know what the Explainer’s schedule is so i can make time to watch it. i don’t watch our local news anymore because i feel that it is hopeless. i am from baler, aurora and i always watch your tv guestings so i am glad that you finally have your own tv program. the no to cha cha ad is nothing without you in it. really. can you do a piece on Palestine? who really have the right to own it? what was the state of palestine before 1947? where was israel before then? is it true that the palestinians that we know now are jordanians and other arabs who settled in palestine? please????thank you…

  24. mlq3

    cinquefranca: thank you for your kind and encouraging comments. the lebanon issue is extremely confusing. the show tried to discuss why that’s so.

    you may wish to refer to the post on sources used for the show, which is here:

    http://www.quezon.ph/?p=971

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  1. the prince of egypt

    the prince of egypt…

    I Googled for something completely different, but found your page…and have to say thanks. nice read….

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