Monday, June 20, 2005

Democracy: Is It Consolidating In Middle East?

Everything happened too fast like a phantasm. Or like a mirage. Just a year ago, Lebanon was still under the strapping hands of Syria as Beirut became one huge military headquarter for Syrian forces who toddles along the night streets of Beirut in pointed tanks and camouflaged vehicles, looking for enemies of the state. At many points in the past, Lebanon became a country where its own people became the “enemies of the state” while Syrian intruders became the hand that feeds. The Syrian forces have stayed for far too long.

But on Sunday, everything had changed. Saad Hariri, the son of assassinated former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and other anti-Syrian politicians wrestled control over the governance of Lebanon in a four-stage elections that culminated in Sunday’s balloting. From subjugation to complete control---this is the Cinderella story of Lebanon that swirled before the eyes of the world like a whirlwind, because it happened too fast. This time, too fast is good and acceptable.

How time passes. With the successful holding of the elections in Beirut, most Lebanese could only hope that from this moment on, everything will be fair and sunny in a country that had endured more than a decade of civil war that pitted mortally the northern dwelling Christians as against the southern residing Muslims as well as the over-extended intrusions by the Syrian military into its territory. While President George Bush is still struggling to fine-tune his “transplantation” of democracy in Iraq (that is, by way of military force), the Lebanese proved that democracy can still be had in Middle East through the usual and more fitting peaceful processes (that is, by election).

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Science and Exponential Theories Of Wiretapping

Why do men usually seek to peek? Especially when the peeping is uncalled for. It seems to me that the more insidious and stained with malice a fact becomes, the more men wants to find out about it, or read and ponder upon it. And so it becomes moot and academic to us that wiretapping is such a reality nowadays particularly in the seedy world of dirty politics and the military.

In decades old, those who need to know the secrets of others went for other rigid medium like sending someone like Mata Hari, a lady dancer, deep into enemy territory just in order for salient information be had and forcefully taken. Decades ago, chief intelligence networks like KGB and CIA even went to “transplanting” individuals just in order to spy on other men’s secret knowledge or hidden facts, where they slipped in into enemy country their own citizen at a very young age and train him to act, speak and behave like an enemy so that one day when he grows up, he can easily pretend and pose like an enemy without any risk of detection. In those days, spymasters even had to wait the passing of so many years just so that they can gather much needed information.

But now, with technology growing by leap and bounds, all it will take for anyone to peep into somebody else’s world is money to buy available hi-technology equipment that could gather information by just merely the push of the button. The one being used by ISAFP, as admitted by some of its former men to NEWSBREAK, could intercept 500 cellphones all at the same time. Of course officially ISAFP would deny this for they say; wiretapping is not their business. But that’s all crap.

But of course, the military is into this peeking and sneaking game whether they admit it or not. Only now, the usual subjects of their wiretapping operations---like drug dealers, kidnappers, bank robbers and terrorists---are already aware that they are being wiretapped even when they are using cellphones. Ordinarily, if one were to be careful, he or she would usually say: “Use the cellphones baka na-bugged and telephone lines.” Now, they’d be too careful using even their cellphones for malicious conversations. Criminals can become too careful now for police detection.

But is it possible for the military to sneak on its own commander-in-chief? This ain’t such a hard question to answer and having read too much Tom Clancy and Frederick Forsythe in the past tells me that in the game called spying, there is no such thing as rules or ethics. There is no sacred cow here. Not even the President of the Republic of the Philippines. It’s a wild world baby!

This wiretapping controversy tells us one thing. The military may be too politicized than we had thought before. It may even be acting too independently that even the President, they had to spy and see if they should or should not intervene into the governance of our country. Are we close to becoming a Myanmar or Pakistan where the military acted on its own and took rein of governance from civilian hands?

Friday, June 10, 2005

This Asking Game

Once I was strolling along Warmstone, as I often do, and soon I was leisurely trapped into “this asking game” which by the way got me quite excited and pumped up. It’s fun and interesting. And so Bing prepared for me five (5) questions that I should elaborate upon and aside from being so excited about answering it, it got me a little bit anxious. But anyway, here is “this asking game” and I hope you’ll like to get into it.

1. Expound on being a Y.B. Masdal.

“Y” is for Yusop and “B” is for Bandaying which respectively are my first name and middle name. When I was a highscool student in Ateneo de Zamboanga, I was such a great fan of great writers like T.S. Elliot and O. Henry. I have surmised that perhaps someday I could become a great writer myself and use a sharp semi-pseudonym with crafty initials in it, that is, like “Y.B. Masdal”.

2. What prompted you to have “Where Now is the Citizen on Mars?” as blog title?

Quite frankly, the title “Where Now Is The Citizen on Mars?” just came up to me when the moment arrived that I was to name my new socio-political blog. I could not say that I chose that title as a form of surrealistic expression or as a way of sounding cool and smart, because I would be lying in that case. I used to call this blog of mine as “A Citizen on Mars” before I launched it in the web. It was like magic. I was racking my head for several possible titles and I was thinking hard until something lit in my head like a lightbulb and voila! the phrase “Where Now Is The Citizen On Mars? just popped up and I immediately used it without any further hesitation. My screen name “Major Tom” just came up later on as an offshoot of the “Mars” thing and also because I am a great fan of David Bowie and he sang about “Major Tom” in the song with the same title, who was “..floating in the most peculiar way…and sitting on a tin can” and was mostly about some spaceman floating beyond the moon and was looking towards the earth below and observing. As a blogger, I felt that all of us bloggers are all similar to an astronaut hovering above earth’s spaces and observing about all the things that happens there and about all the things that are not happening and then we write about these things.

3. What political issue stimulated your mind the most?

I could not pinpoint exactly at one subject or issue but I guess problems on graft and corruption always stimulates my mind. I have a particular dislike on those who are dishonest in the government service.

4. Who is Major Tom 10 years from now?

I’d like to believe that ten years from now, Major Tom has written a very interesting book that many readers read and liked, including those in faraway lands.

5. If you are an RP diplomat to Iraq, how will you deal with complaints on working condition and hours that violated the OFWs’ contracts?

My immediate actions would be to start exploratory talks and initiate meetings with all known employers of our OFWs in Iraq and discuss head-on the reported labor violations that they have supposedly committed. At the same time, I would put into motion a team that would gather verifiable informations and evidences that could prove the violations of those employers. If by these initial actions the problems would persist, I would consider sending back affected OFWs home before the problems get worst. I should recognize that contract violations in working hours may endanger the lives of some of our OFWs where some of them may be force to work on a time and condition where the risk on their limbs and lives may be greater than what is normal.

Here are The Official Interview Game Rules:

If you want to participate, leave a comment below saying "interview me."

I will respond by asking you five questions - each person’s will be different.

You will update your journal/blog with the answers to the questions.

You will include this explanation and an offer to interview others in the same post.

When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions. If you don’t have a blog, I will still ask you 5 unique questions and you can post your answers here.


Thursday, June 02, 2005

What’s Southcom Got To Do With It?

I could not help but write something about what’s happening here in our city---this city of fame and notoriety called Zamboanga. In our town today is House Committee on Defense Representative Roilo Golez along with other house member House Minority Floor Leader Francis Escudero and the ever-affable Zambonga Representative Erbie Fabian. Southern Command Chief Lt. Gen. Alberto Braganza and a horde of high-ranking military officials have been invited also to shed light on the on the dire issues attending.

FYI---President Gloria Macpagal-Arroyo, in supplement to an earlier order to transfer the center of Region IX to Pagadian City---a move which effectively meant the relocation of all government regional head offices from this city to Pagadian---had recently instructed Southern Command officials to pack up their bags and head up north, also to Pagadian City. Soon, the Southern Command, the strongest and biggest military infrastructure here in Mindanao will call Pagadian its home instead of Zamboanga.

Apparently, local residents here headed by no less than Mayor Celso Lobregat himself pushed the panic button and starkly protested this order by President Arroyo to take Southcom away from this city, which for years and years before have served as a bastion of military power that had somehow stave away grave threats and danger to this particular peninsula, a perennial hotspot and troublesome area that includes the nearby island of Basilan and the ever problematic Sulu Province just further down south. Zamboanga residents are up in arms and they have just been to the streets this afternoon to send the clearest message to the President that what she had done was clearly such a bad thing to do and obviously inconsiderate.

We all know how the Basilan and Sulu areas are such notoriously volatile regions, like a volcano always threatening to explode, where terrorists and bandits roam there like they own the streets as well as the mountains. The transfer of Southcom from Zamboanga City to Pagadian City would further embolden these terrorists and bandits to wreak more havoc in a place already scarred by a past so bloody and gory.

So many uncertainties and questions have risen from this unexpected and highly surprising move by the President. Her cohorts reasoned out that relocating the major headquarters of the military here in Mindanao to another city would not really affect the strength of forces assigned and situated here. But they do not get the point, Southcom is more than the actual foot soldiers on the ground protecting this very fragile region, or the definite number of tanks and helicopters that are parked and warehoused here. It actually serves as a psychological military strength here that had effectively controlled danger and harm brought about by terrorists in the past. Without it, troubles in Basilan and Sulu may have been doubly gruesome.

I do not know if this house inquiry could bring the result desired by Zamboanga residents but what I see here is more than the things we see on the outer realms of the issue. You see, Zamboanga City was some place where the President lost to FPJ by an embarrassing landslide and Pagadian City was a part of the Zamboanga del Sur juggernaut that had helped her win the election, winning there with relatively high margins. I am not accusing her anything as of this moment but if my fears and intuitions are true, she may have just been guilty of jeopardizing regional security, as well as national security by fiddling with Southcom and the lives of hundreds of thousands of residents merely on the basis of political revenge or political patronization, the signs and symptoms of old, traditional and stinking culture of politics. It’s a cruel and shameless way of parading how politics in these part of the world works. She ain’t different afterall. She’s just the same animal.
See related news articles and stories here:
1. The Manila Times -
House probe into Southcom transfer to start May 22.
2. Philippine Daily Inquirer - AFP team to study transfer of Southcom to Pagadian.