Tuesday, August 21, 2012

COUP De Grace? (Morsi and the Egyptian Military)

On August 13, the Egyptian President dismissed the country’s top military officers, Defense Minister Field Marshall Mohammed Hussein Tantawi and Chief of staff Lieutenant General Sami Annan. Five other generals were sacked from office. Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi, a former head of military intelligence replaced Tantawi while General Sedky Sobhy, an Islamist, was appointed as the new chief of staff. The members of the upper echelons of the military are scheduled to be replaced by the younger members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). Morsi also annulled a controversial provision in the constitution giving vast powers to the generals. Two days after the dismissal of two top officers, they were given positions in the president’s advisory council.

The military presided over state affairs since the resignation of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. Last July, the military dissolved the parliament by the virtue of a Supreme Court decision questioning the election process. The parliament has yet to be reconvened to draft the new constitution. At present, Morsi holds full executive powers and without the parliament, he also serves as the de-facto prime legislator. These developments illuminate the power struggle between the first civilian president of Egypt and a military which aims to limit his power.

Many speculated that Morsi’s move is just symptomatic of the hushed political squabble between the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and the military. There were rumors that the military has been planning a major coup this August, and Morsi just responded to avert the scheme. Junior officers welcomed the president’s move since they have been demoralized by the political entrenchment of their senior counterparts, who deprived them of decent salaries and quality military equipment. All presidents since the 1952 revolution were military officers. The institution has been discredited in the eyes of the Egyptians due to their privileged position in society. It owns at least 35 factories and companies (20 percent of Egypt’s industries) and many of its officers occupy the posh apartments of Alexandria and Nasser City. 

Morsi’s purge of the “old woods/brass” can be a mechanism to dismantle the dual power in the country and consolidate the government. This is a politically engineered strategy to significantly broaden his powers. The country is still waiting for the new constitution which explains his current political swagger. After praising the military in his speech, he admonished it to concentrate on its “holy mission of protecting the nation". What he meant by “protection” is subject to various readings. The president argued that the move was not directed at a certain group of people and that there is a current need move the country “towards a better future with a new generation and long-awaited new blood.” Rebuilding Egypt necessitates the introduction of young blood in the military. For sure, it sent a chilling effect to the entrenched political institution. The Egyptian military is the largest military in the Middle East and the 10th in the world thanks to massive US aid ($1.3 billion annually). 

Any attempt to undermine the positive role of Egyptian military could be a “political suicide” on the part of the president. Morsi has yet to recover from the political consequences of a violent standoff on the Sinai Peninsula between the military and militants where 16 soldiers were killed. Majority of the people still value the contribution of the institution in modernizing the country. The October 1973 victory of the military is one of the most celebrated events in the country’s history. Military officers gained the respect of the nation when they refused to fire on peaceful demonstrators during the revolution. Nonetheless, the army appears to concede to Morsi's purge, perhaps fearing the breakout of another civil war resulting from any act of defiance.

Morsi’s move can also be a subtle technique to introduce MB’s pan-Islamist project. Many fear the introduction of Sharia vision of society. General Sedky Sobhy  once wrote a paper lambasting US  policy in the Middle East when he studied in the National War College in Washington in 2005. There has been a crackdown on secular dissidents as Morsi calls for a more Islamic constitution in the country. Geopolitically, Israel is now on it toes for a possible Intifada in Egypt. The peace treaty with Israel (Camp David Treaty), which the generals have safeguarded for more than three decades could be destabilized by the Morsi regime. President Mohamed Morsi is scheduled to visit Iran on August 30 to attend the Non-Aligned Movement meetings. He also made an earlier pronouncement that Egypt and the Palestine are “one”.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Mga Isyung Kailangang Harapin ng JBC

Ang Judicial and Bar Council o JBC ang itinalaga ng Saligang Batas upang pag-aralan ang mga aplikasyon ng mga nominees na nangangarap maging miyembro ng Korte Suprema. Ito ang magsusumite ng listahan sa Presidente na siyang pormal na magtatalaga ng mga hukom. Mahalaga ang papel ng JBC sa pagpili ng susunod na Chief Justice lalo na ngayong kailangang isalba ang nadungisang imahe ng hudikatura bunga ng Corona impeachment trial.  Pinalulutang ng kasalukuyang proseso ng pagpili ang mga legal at pulitikal na isyung kailangang harapin ng JBC sa mga susunod na panahon.

Isang malaking katanungan ang dapat na maging bilang ng kinatawan ng Kongreso sa JBC. Ayon sa Konstitusyon, mayroon itong apat na regular na miyembro, kabilang ang kinatawan ng Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), isang law professor, isang retiradong miyembro ng Korte Suprema, at isang kinatawan mula sa pribadong sektor. Bahagi rin ng konseho ang mga ex-officio members (sa bisa ng kanilang opisina) na kinabibilangan ng Secretary of Justice at kinatawan mula sa Kongreso. Ang Chief Justice ang tatayo bilang ex-officio chairman.

Sa pagkakataong walang tatayong Chief Justice, ang pinaka-senior sa mga Associate Justices ang uupo sa JBC. Kamakailan lamang, pinagbigyan ng Korte Suprema na magkaroon ng magkahiwalay na kinatawan ang Senado at ang Mababang Kapulungan. Dahil dito, sa halip na pitong (7) miyembro, magkakaroon ng walong (8) miyembro ang JBC. Kung ganito ang magiging kalakaran, mas may bentahe na sa boto ang Kongreso kaysa sa kinatawan ng dalawang departamento—isa lamang para sa executive (ang Secretary of Justice) at isa rin para sa judiciary (ang Chief Justice).

Nasisilip rin ang “insider tradition” sa Mataas na Hukuman. Magmula nang ito ay matatag noong ika-11 ng Hunyo 1901, walang Chief Justice ang naluklok nang hindi kabilang sa mga senior members ng korte. Exception dito ang naganap noong panahon ng Hapon nang italaga si House Speaker Jose Yulo bilang Chief Justice ng Japanese Military Administration. Ganundin, wala pang naisama sa short-list ng nominasyon ng JBC sa mahigit 25 taon nitong kasaysayan (mula 1987) na “outsider”. Sa mga nominees, 6 ang insiders at 14 ang outsiders. Naging kultura na sa JBC na isama sa listahan ang mga senior Supreme Court justices. Ganunpaman, hndi nakakasiguro na kung “insider” ang maluluklok sa puwesto ay magiging maayos ang pamumuno ng Korte Suprema. Tandaan natin na isa lamang ang Chief Justice, and primus inter pares, sa 15 miyembro ng korte. Katulad ng ibang sangay ng pamahalaan, ang judiciary ay apektado rin ng iba’t ibang uri at antas ng pulitika.

Pinaka-matingkad sa lahat ng isyu ang papel ng Pangulo sa proseso ng pagpili ng susunod na Chief Justice. Sa kasalukuyang patakaran, sinasala lamang ng JBC ang mga aplikasyon at ang presidente ang magdedesisyon kung sino ang kaniyang hihirangin mula sa shortlist na ibibigay ng JBC. Maaaring magdagdag ng pangalan mula sa mga nominees ang presidente kung nais nitong palawigin ang listahan. Matapos pumili ang presidente, hindi na dadaaan sa kumpirmasyon ng Commission on Appointments ang hukom na mahihirang. Maraming umaalma sa kapangyarihan ng presidente na iluklok ang nais niyang ilagay sa puwesto. May opinion na mas mabuti ang  pagbabalik ng 1935 Constitution system sa pagpili ng mga miyembro ng Korte Suprema.

Binigyan ng kapangyarihan ng 1935 Constitution ang presidente upang  pumili ng Chief Justice ngunit kailangang may “consent” o pag-sang-ayon ng Commission on Appointments (Article VIII, section 5). Ang COA ay binubuo ng tig-12 kinatawan mula sa Senado at Mababang Kapulungan. Sa ganitong sistema, may kapangyarihan ang COA na tanggihan ang napili ng pangulo. Subalit binago ito dahil sa pananaw na nagiging ma-pulitika ang proseso ng pagpili. Nagbago ang lahat noong Martital Law nang sinimulan ng dating pangulong Marcos ang tradisyon ng pagpili ng miyembro ng Korte Suprema gamit ang kaniyang kapangyarihan.

Sa kabuuan, ang Chief Justice ang mukha ng hukuman at sistema ng hustisya ng bayan. Itinatadhana ng Konstitusyon na dapat taglay niya at ng ibang hukom sa Korte Suprema ang apat na katangian—competence o kahusayan, integrity o katapatan, probity o kabutihan at independence o kakayahang magdesisyon para sa sarili.

Kung nagawa ng JBC na isapubliko ang mga panayam sa mga nominees, marapat ding isapubliko ang pagboto ng mga miyembro nito. Habang nagmamatyag ang sambayanan sa kilos ng mga JBC members, JBC rin ang kanilang panawagan – JUST BE CAREFUL sa pagpili ng susunod na Chief Justice.

Mga Aral na Iniwan ni Habagat

Muli tayong minulto ng matinding pag-ulan katulad ng hagupit na dinala ni Ondoy noong 2009 at ng “The Great Flood of Manila” ng 1972. Damang-dama na natin ang epekto ng climate change. Asahan nating mayroon pang mga “Habagat” na maaring humampas sa bansa. Napakahalagang iayon na natin ang ating pamumuhay sa katotohanang ito. Kailangang maglatag ng “long-term solutions” upang mabawasan, kung hindi man tuluyang masawata, ang masamang epekto ng matinding pagbaha sa Metro Manila at karatig-probinsya.

Kumplikado ang usapin ng flood control. Hindi ito maaaring ibunton lamang sa iresponsableng pagtatapon ng basura na nagbabara ng ating mga drainage system. Kailangan ring ipakita ng pamahalaan ang “political will” upang isaayos ang mga programa ukol sa migration at urban planning. Ang mga lugar na dapat ay hindi tinitirhan ay namumutiktik ngayon sa mga informal settlers at squatters. Sa tuwing rumaragasa ang malakas na pag-ulan, sakit sa ulo ang paglilikas ng mga kababayan nating nakatira sa mga estero at tabing-ilog. Ang resulta: nalalagay sa panganib ang kanilang buhay at ang buhay ng mga rescuers.  Hindi sila magawang paalisin ng mga lokal na opisyal dahil sa usapin ng “human rights” at pulitika. Sila kasi ang pinagkukunan ng boto ng mga pulitiko tuwing eleksyon.

Kailangang iiwas ang mga tao sa paninirahan sa mga hazardous areas. Ngayon ang panahon upang paigtingin ng mga local government units ang paggamit sa mga “geohazard maps”  at datos ng Project NOAH na sinimulan ng Mines and Geosciences Bureau ng DENR at Department of Science and Technology (DOST). Buhusan ng sapat na pondo ang PAG-ASA upang mas mapabuti ang weather forecasting at madagdagan ang mga kailangang teknolohiya. Linisin ang mga drainage system.  Magtayo ng low-cost housing para sa mga urban poor. Maaaring bilyon-bilyon ang aabutin ng mga proyektong ito. Ngunit napakaliit niyon kung ikukumpara sa mga buhay na mawawala at ari-ariang sisirain ng mas matitinding kalamidad.

Maaring “kamay na bakal” ang kailangan upang matigil na ang illegal logging na kumakalbo sa kabundakan ng Sierra Madre at iba pang kagubatan. Political will ang susi upang masunod ang National Land Use Plan na nagiging isang “patay na dokumento” dahil sa laki ng real estate investments ng mga makapangyarihan sa lipunan. Ang pagi-issue ng Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC) at building permits ay nagiging “gatasang baka” ng maraming ahensiya. Maraming contractors ang walang habas na nagtatayo ng subdivision sa mga delikadong lugar. Sariwa pa sa ala-ala ng marami ang trahedya ng Cherry Hills noong 1999 sa Antipolo kung saan mahigit 50 residente ang namatay dahil sa landslide.

Walang ginagalang na “political boundaries” ang kalamidad. Tinatawag ng pagkakataon ang lahat ng munisipilidad, bayan at lungsod na magkaisa. Mahalagang kilalanin din ang kontribusyon ng ibang sektor—ang scientific community, mga arkitekto, business sector at maging ng international community. Gawin nating inspirasyon ang karanasan at expertise ng ibang bansa tulad ng Belgium, Netherlands at Malaysia sa pagkontrol sa baha.

Hindi tayo magiging kaaki-akit sa mga foreign investors kung may pangamba silang babahain at mapupunta sa wala ang kanilang ipupundar sa bansa. Ngayon natin mas nauunawaan ang kasabihang “kung ano ang ating itinanim, iyon ang ating aanihin.” (Galacia 6:7). Kung hindi tayo matututo sa trahedya ni Ondoy at ni Habagat, asahan natin ang mas matinding trahedya sa mga susunod na panahon.

The Nature and Limits of Propaganda

Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s foremost polemicist, argued that propaganda must be simple enough to be appreciated by the common people. A propagandist is a “true artist” and “master of the popular soul.” They have the acumen vis-a-vis their audience’s ability to perceive information. Propaganda, however, should be perceived as amoral. It depends on the goal it seeks. This is a historical irony since Goebbels was the major lackey of Hitler in committing mass atrocities/genocide in Europe.

Russian socialist theorist Plekhanov made a distinction between agitation and propaganda. The former utilizes ideas and slogans to shape people’s opinions, for immediate purposes, while the latter aggressively espouses the principles of Marxism-Leninism with the view of transforming the infra-culture and superstructure of society. Also, Lenin, in his work, “What needs to be done” also distinguishes one from the other according to the quantity of ideas being advocated and the means by which they are projected to the masses:

"The propagandist, dealing with, say, the question of unemployment, must explain the capitalistic nature of crises, the cause of their inevitability in modern society, the necessity for the transformation of this society into a socialist society, etc. In a word, he must present “many ideas”, so many indeed, that they will be understood as an integral whole by a (comparatively) few persons. The agitator however, speaking on the same subject, will take as an illustration the death of an unemployed worker’s family from starvation, the growing impoverishment etc and utilising this fact, known to all, will direct his efforts to presenting a single idea to the “masses”. Consequently the propagandist operates chiefly by means of the printed word; the agitator by means of the spoken word. (underline mine)"

Juxtaposing this view with the advent of information and communication technologies,  Lenin can be indicted for limiting the perceived images agitators can get across and the information people can absorb through this method. Agitation, as Lenin defined it, requires bigger forces to achieve its purposes. This view can be undermined by the capability of social networking sites (SNS) to make information spread like wildfire.

Moreover, propaganda is not merely an “art of persuasion”. The Bolsheviks elicited support from peasants and workers, not only because they intended to “brainwash” them, but also due to their skill to magnify existing social issues and trends, giving them sharper and precise focus. 

Propaganda shapes collective attitudes by manipulating significant symbols. Cyphers and codes can be expressions of allegiance. This can be witnessed in Hitler’s swastika and Nazi gesture and Mao’s Red Book which sustained the cult of personality in China. The zealous Red Guards, composed mainly of students, persecuted those who gave low esteem to the state-published booklet. This continued during Zhou En-Lai’s Thought Reform campaign in 1950s which smothered the power of Western/capitalist principles through massive indoctrination, struggle sessions (public humiliation of “enemies of the state”), among others.

Propagandism, however, entails significant costs. Sustaining a campaign warrants infusion of resources for the constant stream of ideological information. This compelled Stalin in 1930s to build Russia’s largest propaganda aircraft, Tupolev ANT-20, which served as the “voice from the sky” of the Communist Party. It was used to drop printed leaflets and even became a radio station hub and film projector. Mao was effective in projecting ad nauseum propaganda by inculcating among the youth his personal vision of Chinese socialism. In the same manner, Marcos, during Martial Law, ordered the religious singing of Bagong Lipunan hymn to project a "compassionate government."

Russian propaganda, of course, also had its offensive dimension. Glavlit, USSR’s main censorship organization used to employ at least 50,000 “watchdog” staff to eliminate anti-state information and make sure that printed materials are compatible with the state’s ideological spin. In the same vein, Marcos, with his Bagong Lipunan campaign, encouraged developmental journalism and clandestinely imprisoned anti-regime journalists. I remember Ariel Ureta being punished for mocking Marcos’s slogan---“Sa ikauunlad ng bayan, bisikleta ang kailangan.” As a result, he was forced to make his rounds inside Camp Crame using his bicycle.

Propaganda, to be effective, must be planted on a fertile field for it to prosper and influence a community. It is essential that it is congruent with people’s desires and aspirations. Hitler’s persecution of the “non-Aryan” race struck a chord in the hearts of Germans who, during that period, also desired global supremacy and freedom from the clutches of major powers which punished their country post-World War I. The masses’ lack of education and discernment of issues make them susceptible to ideological appeals.  However, propaganda can only be effective as long as the propagandists deliver their pronouncements. Hollow promises can cause disillusionment among the people.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Seven Reasons Why To Be In Youth Ministry and Stay (via Youth Ministry Ideas)

1. Youth are the most spiritually responsive segment of society – The statistics are somewhere between 85 -90% of people that choose Christ as savior end up doing so by age 21. There is a stronger indication that most do between age 5 to 14. What this means is you have a vital role in the influence of young people towards accepting the gift of salvation! Make sure that you are giving the gospel in your talks because you never know which night is the night that a student will place their trust in Christ.

2. Adolescence is the time when most determinitive decisions are made – Let’s take a look at the 4 C’s:
  •  Companionship – teens are looking for and developing companionship. who their friends are is extremely important and weighs heavily on their decision making because of the influence.
  •  Courtship – They spend a LOT of time talking about relationships. Who’s going out with who. Did you hear? I can’t believe that they did that! Be careful not to tease about their relationships as this can really damage the influence you have.
  • Career – Believe it or not – students are thinking about what they want to do for a career. They are wondering and exploring and looking for a path that will lead them into a career some day. We have the opportunity to help them down that path.
  • Convictions – Here are some negative convictions: Materialism (we are what we have). Secularism – (functional atheism). Heedism – (pleasure principle). Humanism – (I am the center of the universe). These are what you students are battling with on a day to day basis in their school. We have a job as youth leaders to help battle the negative convictions and give them God convictions.

3. Human tendency is to overlook the contribution to youth – Only problem with this is that look at the Bible and how it is filled with youth: Jesus, Mary, Timothy, David, Joseph, Samuel, Daniel. These were not old people – these were young people! I Timothy 4:12 “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” Young people can be a tremendous example to the older ones in Church! You have a role developing them into young people that love God!

4. Young people have their entire life ahead of them to live for Jesus Christ – The sooner that they begin a relationship with Christ – the longer their life for God is. They can have more of  an influence over their friends and family. They can make a lasting difference for God’s kingdom and it starts now in their lives not later when they are older. You can have such an impact on them by leading them to Jesus Christ – whom they can start their new life and live it out!

5. Young people are desperately searching for a model for their life – Young people will always be looking up to someone be it famous, father, mother, coach, and YOU the youth leader. They are looking for someone that’s not perfect, but progressing and real. They can tell if you are being fake – so instead be yourself and the students that connect with you will be the students that God will help you with.

6. Youth represent the greatest reservoir potential – Youth have so much potential! Most any of the great movements started with young people and it’s young people that can bring a change and revival to our countries. We need to be doing everything we can to help build their potential and help them to be a strong follower of Christ.

7. Youth need a committed adult outside the home to help them grow up – The teenage years are about creating their own identity and what you normally will see is some separation from their mother and father. So with that – they need adults with Godly influence to help them as they are growing up. They need youth leaders to step in and walk beside them and to lead them to making decisions based on what God would want.

What are some of your reasons to be in youth ministry?

ANO BA TALAGA ANG "CALLING" KO?

Lagi kong naririnig iyan sa mga kabataang kaga-graduate lang sa kolehiyo at mga young professionals na nababagot sa buhay. Nagtatanong si...