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Not the power of the Senate

Tuesday, 25 October 2016 00:00 Published in Commentary

What is it with the Senate and its senators that all they seem to do is to hold investigations that moreover amount to nothing, by way of crafting a law, since these probes in the Senate are supposed to be in aid of legislation?
The Liberal Party (LP) senators and their allies are suddenly looking into even the presidential power to craft foreign policy and this power and authority obviously do not belong to the Senate.
Former Sen. Juan Ponce-Enrile said the Senate is only involved in foreign policy with respect to the ratification of treaties.
“They’re not formulators of foreign policy. The President has his national security advisers, council of leaders. Such a set up has been in place since the term of President Manuel Quezon,” Enrile said.
“These are the bodies that the President consults with: The NSC includes the senators, members of foreign affairs committee and members of the House of Representatives,” he added.
Enrile said it is within Duterte’s powers to decide on the direction of the country’s relationship with other nations. He stressed, however, that Duterte should have consulted such a crucial pronouncement with his Cabinet officials.
But of course it is clear what these LP senators and their allies are into all these investigations, whether it is about the extrajudicial killings or President Duterte’s foreign policy.
The same LP senators also want to question the trade deals amounting to some $24 billion.
Strange, but when Noynoy was president, there was no call from the LPs and their allies in the Senate for them to investigate the agreement between the Philippines and the United States that will provide America its five bases that strategically positioned for the US moves in the South China Sea.
All the Senate did, through a resolution from the late Sen. Miriam Santiago, that the Senate’s power and authority is to approve or reject the treaty .
There was never a hearing on this, and they kept their mouths shut.
So why do these trouble makers in the LP Senate today, insist on conducting a probe on the constitutional right of a Philippine president to craft his own foreign policy?
The answer of course is that these LP senators and allies, who enjoyed so much protection from Noynoy when he was in Malacañang, never once questioned this right of the President, as chief architect to craft his foreign policy, nor for that matter was anything brought home, by way of loans and deals from abroad. It was all propaganda on the part of the Aquino government.
The same senators, this time led by Noynoy’s cousin, Sen. Bam Aquino stressed the need to undertake such an inquiry, citing the necessity to seek clarification on Rody Duterte’s recent pronouncement regarding the “separation” of ties with the United States and his apparent leaning toward China.
Strange that during Noynoy’s term, these same LP senators never questioned the fact that Noynoy was clearly leaning toward the US while dumping China and this was the foreign policy he adopted, which is the US policy.
Who among the LP senators sought a probe or formal explanation from Noynoy on why he was dumping China, and cozying up with the US?
Why did the same senators not even question the fact that Noynoy and his administration were putting the country at risk of a war over the South China Sea?
After all, aren’t these LP senators even worried that should a war break out between China and the US, the Philippines will be a sitting duck in that war?
And what will the country and its people gain by having two powers hitting each other and in our land?
So what was wrong with Duterte’s foreign policy? As pointed out by Enrile. “He made the right move, which is to assure that the country does not dance to the baton of foreign powers regarding the crafting of policies particularly in the field of foreign relations,” he said.
“There should be no special friend, that is the essence of non-aligned position but it goes with it a burden of the need to be skillful in balancing relations, he said. “That was how (Jawaharlal) Nehru (the first Prime Minister of India) did it during the Cold War era in balancing India’s relations between America and the Soviet Union,” Enrile added.
But as many already know, the LPs, out of power, want to destroy Duterte and oust him and for the LPs to be in power and position again. This is what it is all about.

Clinton looks to consolidate lead over Trump

Tuesday, 25 October 2016 00:00 Published in Commentary

Charlotte, United States — With just over two weeks to go before Americans vote for a new president, Hillary Clinton — who has widened her lead over Donald Trump — is stepping up her efforts in key battleground states to consolidate her lead.
The Democratic former secretary of state vying to become America’s first female president leads the Republican real estate mogul among likely voters by 50 percent to 38 percent, according to a national ABC News poll.
That is her highest score since the start of the race to succeed Barack Obama in the White House.
“We are behind,” Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway admitted Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” nevertheless insisting that the race was not over.
At an evening rally in Naples, Florida, the 70-year-old Trump called on his supporters to turn out en masse to “get rid of Crooked Hillary once and for all,” using one of his favorite nicknames for his 68-year-old rival.
“Numbers are looking phenomenal in Florida. Don’t believe the media,” he insisted.
The Sunshine State is a key prize in the presidential race, one of several battleground states that are key for both candidates if they want to win on November 8. Most polls put Trump a few points behind Clinton there.
‘Systemic racism’
Conscious that winning the minority vote will help lead her to victory, the 68-year-old Clinton started her day Sunday at a mainly black church in Durham, North Carolina — another of the swing states up for grabs.
Obama won the southern state by a razor-thin margin in 2008, but lost it to Mitt Romney four years later. Team Clinton is pulling out all the stops to put it back in the Democratic win column.
Before a congregation that included Sybrina Fulton — the mother of slain unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin, whose death shocked America in 2012 — Clinton called for awareness of the “systemic racism” seen across the country.
“If we are honest with each other, we know we face the continuing discrimination against African-Americans and in particular young African-Americans,” she said.
“These conversations can be painful for everybody, but we have got to have them.”
She accused her Republican opponent of painting “a bleak picture of our inner cities” and ignoring the successes of black leaders “in every field and every walk of life.”
Hillary and Michelle
Clinton will return to North Carolina on Thursday with the woman who has emerged as one of her best campaign weapons — Michelle Obama. It will be their first joint rally for the former and current first ladies.
“The choice in this election really is about what you want, what you believe for yourself and your future,” Clinton told a rally in Charlotte, notably mentioning the need to respect women — an allusion to Trump’s woes over allegations of sexual misconduct.
The new ABC News poll said 69 percent of likely voters disapprove of Trump’s response to questions about his treatment of women, after a series of women alleged he either groped or forcibly kissed them in years past.
Trump has strongly denied those allegations, and on Saturday threatened to sue the “liars” who came forward with claims about his past behavior.
Clinton is leading nationally in both two-way and four-way contests by an average of about six points, according to RealClearPolitics. She is also ahead in most of the crucial battleground states.
The 70-year-old Trump is clinging to an edge — but only a slight one — in traditionally Republican strongholds like Texas, where he has a three-point lead.
‘Not over yet’
Team Clinton is gunning for a landslide win, using its momentum to push ahead in the battle for control of Congress. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives are now in Republican hands, and the Democrats would like to change that.
“We’re not taking anything for granted at all,” campaign manager Robby Mook told “Fox News Sunday.”
“You know, this is not over yet.”
While Clinton has received several major newspaper endorsements, Trump got his first major thumbs-up, from the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“Mr Trump represents neither the danger his critics claim nor the magic elixir many of his supporters crave,” the paper wrote, adding he would instead shake up the US capital’s “political elites.”
In Vegas, Obama hit the campaign trail for Clinton and Nevada’s Democratic Senate candidate Catherine Cortez Masto.
For the president, Democrats have the winning hand.
“You’ve got an ace, and you’ve got a jack,” he said, giving in to the urge to use a blackjack metaphor in Sin City.
“But you’ve got to make sure to turn over the card by voting,” he added.
“The game ends on November 8th!”

Syria’s Kurds restore ancient names to Arabised towns

Tuesday, 25 October 2016 00:00 Published in Commentary

Hasakeh, Syria — On a dusty road in northeast Syria, a woman and her four children stand beside a freshly erected green sign for Joldara, the Kurdish name of her village known for decades as Shajra.
As part of an ambitious project by Kurdish authorities, hundreds of towns and villages in northern Syria are shedding Arabised names adopted in the 1960s in favour of their traditional Kurdish ones.
In Joldara, 70-year-old Abdulrahman Hawas Hamo recounts the history of his village’s name as he fixes an old white truck in his yard.
“Joldara in Kurdish means a plain covered in trees,” he says.
“This was the name of the village before it was Arabised by the Syrian government in 1962 and changed to Shajra,” which means tree in Arabic, he explains.
A handful of modest one-room mud houses make up the village, which lies in Syria’s arid Hasakeh province against a backdrop of dry hills.
The roads into and out of Joldara are lined with new signs bearing the Kurdish names of nearby villages in both Arabic and Latin script.
Syria’s Kurds, who number about three million, have been denied basic rights for decades by the ruling Baath party.
The community was banned from speaking or teaching the Kurdish language and celebrating Kurdish feast days and some were barred from holding Syrian nationality.
The names of hundreds of villages and towns were also Arabised in the government’s official registers — but Kurdish authorities are now reversing the procedure.
‘Original, historical names’
Soon after Syria’s uprising erupted in 2011, President Bashar al-Assad granted citizenship to thousands of Kurds and regime troops withdrew from Kurdish-majority areas in 2012.
Since then, Kurds have erected a parallel system of institutions, complete with schools and police units, to govern swathes of the country’s north.
“We are not renaming towns and villages — we are returning to their original, historical names,” says Joseph Lahdo, co-chairman of the autonomous municipalities commission in Hasakeh.
Local committees are being consulted on the original Kurdish name of their hometowns.
“The autonomous administration then uses these names in its records and communication,” Lahdo says.
“Maps will include the original Kurdish name with the Arabised name in parentheses.”
The process is not recognized by the central government in Damascus, which has preserved the Arabised names in its own registers.
Researcher Zohrab Qado says the Arabisation of town and village names accelerated when Syria’s Baathist regime came to power in the 1960s, but had begun the previous decade under the short-lived United Arab Republic of Syria and Egypt.
Between 1978 and 1998 alone, Qado says, the names of more than 500 villages in Hasakeh province were Arabised, as well as other towns like Kobane, which became known as Ain al-Arab.
“These procedures weren’t innocent — the Arabisation was planned,” Qado tells AFP in his office, surrounded by history books in Kurdish and Arabic.
The town of Derek “was changed to Al-Malikiyah in 1957 in a formal decree in memory of Adnan al-Maliki,” the founder of Syria’s modern army.
‘A victory’
An employee at the government’s civil register in Amuda, also in Hasakeh province, says place names were officially Arabised “in a formal letter from the ministry of interior.”
“Even newborns had to have their names approved and Arabised by security agencies,” says the employee who requested anonymity.
According to Qado, Syria’s government even distributed land around Kurdish villages to Arab farmers coming from the nearby province of Raqa in a bid to transform the demographic composition of northern Syria.
Among these, Ahmad al-Abduli’s family travelled as part of this government program to a village now identified by its Kurdish name of Himo.
“We came from Raqa in the 1970s, and the village name was changed at the time to Hanadi. But today it has gotten its older name back,” the 45-year-old says.
Kurdish families saw the land distributions and renamings as an attempt to erase their identity.
Sheikhmous Rasho, a Kurdish farmer in his 60s, gestures excitedly in his hometown, which several weeks ago regained its original name of Girsor.
“Our village is... more than 200 years old,” he says.
“But they changed the Kurdish names to Arabic, so they could say these were Arab villages and distance us from our Kurdish nationality and language.”
Residents of Amuda were thrilled after the municipality announced they could add Kurdish-language signs outside their shops.
Outside the store where he sells roasted cashews and other nuts, Adnan Hoshi carefully writes out “Emise Hejar” — Kurdish for “Nut shop.”
“It’s a victory for us to be able to write the name of our shops in Kurdish,” he says with a grin.






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