The politico-fashion debate continues:
Nachura’s take: It’s the wearer, not the shirt. His arguments seem to be the following:
1. For an ordinary citizen to wear a black T-shirt with the logo “Patalsikin na! Now na!” Is not wrong.
2. For an identified critic of the President to wear it is wrong.
3. For anyone to wear it in the company of other people wearing the same thing, is wrong and can possibly be considered seditious.
4. The sole judge of what is permissible assembly are the police. Perception is as important as any factual circumstances surrounding any gathering; hence “Round up the usual suspects!”. Or, the Minority Report principle of law enforcement.
5. People are free to distribute the shirts, but they are liable for the consequences of their actions, which begins with distributing the shirts.
Edwin Lacierda tackles the fashion police-obstructed event in light of the Public Assembly Law. Read his discussion of the law; which is why I said on ANC last night, what is in dispute is the interpretation of the law made by the fashion police. Lacierda, among other things, points out that:
1. Batas Pambansa 880 cannot abridge the freedom to peaceably assemble guaranteed by the Constitution. It can only impose time, manner, and place regulations in the interest of the broader public’s not being subjected to traffic, mayhem, or chaos.
2. The law is “content neutral,” which means the law cannot, and does not, have a bias against any particular kind of assembly, whether for or against the administration: indeed, from the point of view of the law and previous decisions of the courts, anti-administration speech is protected speech.
Defensor: Palace is not paranoid, has no plans to muzzle media. Not plans they’ll admit to or disclose, anyway.
Palace welcomes positive assessments of RP’s economy. In other business news of sorts, Small town lotteries get Palace go-ahead (I’m actually for turning jueteng into a state monopoly like other forms of gambling; wiping out gambling is as futile as Prohibition was in America, and as harmful in the long run).
20-plus senators sign assembly resolution: so sorry, but nyet to the both houses vote as one argument of the House.
In Thailand, the Nation, in its editorial, says Democracy put to the ultimate test:
…Thaksin Shinawatra has launched an all-out offensive against his swelling ranks of critics. Portraying himself as a champion of democracy, Thaksin claims to be heroically abiding by the rules as an upright politician, in order to fend off “unprincipled protesters bent on subverting the Constitution and imposing a mob rule on society”.
The premier insists that the supremacy of the ballot box offers the best possible solution for settling, once and for all, the current political deadlock, which centres on the question of his legitimacy as a democratic leader, or his lack thereof. He expects the outcome of the April 2 snap election not only to renew his mandate to rule, but also to absolve him of every transgression he has committed against Thai democracy and the Kingdom’s citizens over the five years he’s been in power.
Taken at face value, Thaksin’s argument appears sound and consistent with one of the most fundamental principles of parliamentary democracy. But on closer inspection, his invocation of ballot-box democracy, as he chooses to interpret it, does not hold water. It fails to take into consideration a major fallacy of the concept, particularly in a less-developed democracy like ours, in which the impoverished, poorly informed masses are easily manipulated by people of his ilk…
Once Thaksin gained power as “chief executive”, he allegedly proceeded to subvert the Constitution by undermining independent watchdog agencies, including the Constitution Court, the National Counter Corruption Commission and the Election Commission. Their job was to ensure the rule of law, be a check and balance on government power, ensure sound governance, public accountability and fair competition among political parties.
After five years of abuse, these constitutionally mandated organisations have inexplicably lost their effectiveness to serve their stated purposes. They have begun to toe the Thaksin government’s line and become instruments through which the Thai Rak Thai leader can bend the rules, both to tighten his grip on power and advance the selfish interests of himself and his cronies at the expense of the public good. Not even the supposedly politically neutral Senate has escaped such an ignominious fate.
In virtually every single compromised watchdog agency may be found allegations of collusion between the Thaksin government and those senators charged with the nomination and appointment of members to those “independent” bodies, plus allegations of people friendly to the government being installed.
It should thus hardly come as a surprise that all of the alleged corruption cases and high-handed manipulation of democratic institutions by Thaksin and his cronies have gone unpunished. That is why the main opposition parties, led by the Democrats, are boycotting the election. And it’s also why the anti-Thaksin movement, encompassing the urban middle class, civic groups and a growing cross-section of society – indeed all free-thinking, law-abiding citizens – has become so worked up and decided to take to the streets. Protesters are demanding that any fresh election for a new government must be preceded by a thorough reform of the Constitution and weeding out of corrupt elements from key democratic institutions.
Returning Thaksin and his Thai Rak Thai Party to power through the ballot box on April 2 under the existing seriously flawed political system can only seriously jeopardise Thailand’s democracy and imperil its destiny as a viable economy. It could possibly cause social cohesion to disintegrate. The stakes may be high as the confrontation between the two sides of this conflict of ideas heats up, but the ultimate outcome – as to which side’s idea of democracy will prevail – is not in doubt.
It sounds like complaints made over here at home: what is the Ombudsman doing? Why is the Supreme Court silent? Why did impeachment get stalled? Why did everyone else get the blame for the absence of a fact-finding commission, when the President could have appointed one, and can still appoint one? Where is Comelec reform?
A commentary in the same Thai newspaper insists, The time for dialogue has long passed:
The proponents for dialogue or a debate seem to believe – rather naively – that a compromise can somehow be reached. But under the current political circumstances, a compromise is probably the last thing we need.
In fact, it was Thaksin who effectively closed the door to the possibility of a compromise when he decided to dissolve the House last month and branded those calling for his ouster “hooligans” and “devilish people”.
Rejecting all of the grievances against him, Thaksin has gone on the warpath. Ignoring the growing chorus for him to resign, Thaksin has hit the campaign trail and amid the cheerleading at every stop is drifting farther away from political reality.
Apparently still convinced that those who are campaigning for his ouster are just a small bunch of troublemakers, Thaksin is leaning on rural supporters who have benefited from his populist programmes to catapult him back to power through the ballot box…
If Thaksin is interested in a dialogue with his critics, as Government Spokesman Surapong Suebwonglee is trying to suggest, his only motive is to buy time to ease off the pressure. For Thaksin, nothing is going to come in the way of the snap election.
But Thaksin might have forgotten one thing. Democracy is more than having elections. There is no doubt that Thaksin and his party will triumph unopposed in the April 2 poll, which is being boycotted by all of the opposition parties. But political legitimacy doesn’t always come with the votes.
The snap election may pave the way for Thaksin to regain his mandate but will in no way restore his legitimacy to govern – not when a sizeable number of the population still question his ethics and integrity. Thaksin may take comfort from his grass-roots support, but he should know that if the broad sectors of urban society are strongly opposed to him and ready to continue to challenge him on the streets, his post-election administration would be dysfunctional from day one…
A closer look at Thaksin’s ongoing tour of the countryside tells us that the prime minister is doing more than hitting the campaign trail to get people to vote for his Thai Rak Thai Party on April 2. His cheerleading and hate-filled speeches at every stop are not only driving a wedge between rural folk and urban intellectuals, but also setting the stage for possible confrontation between them, in the event he is pressured to relinquish power.
It would be foolish to believe, as some senior Thai Rak Thai figures have quietly suggested to journalists, that Thaksin might consider taking a break from politics after the election…
But everything Thaksin is doing and saying suggests that stepping down or taking a break from politics is the last thing he is prepared to do. Any debate or dialogue is, therefore, at best a waste of time and at worst a diversion from the real issue.
Thaksin has brought the country to the brink of a crisis that cannot be defused with a compromise. Nothing short of his departure – forced or voluntary – can prevent society from sliding into what many fear will be anarchy.
In the punditocracy, the Inquirer editorial dwells on George Orwell’s 1984, with its Newspeak:
War is Peace. Ignorance is Strength. Freedom is Slavery.
The editorial sums up why it’s important to make noise now, before being reduced to the silence of the grave:
Many critics believe that in Orwell’s generation, no other novel than “1984” stimulated so much loathing for tyranny and so much desire for freedom. In our present stage of political instability and turmoil, when there is undeclared martial law and a creeping movement toward authoritarianism, it would be well for the people to keep the lessons of “1984” in mind and strongly resist the totalitarian actions and rules of the administration. If we remain too long in a state of apathy and inaction, we may wake up too late, when we have already lost our freedom.
Connie Veneracion explains how bias and distortion can either creep in, or be actively fostered, in media; she believes self-regulation is not enough to maintain standards in media or protect the consumer from the effects of bad journalism.
Tony Abaya asks, if the present political order must pass, how do we tackle the question of what kind of alternative to pursue?
Juan Mercado says every Filipino who migrates or works abroad has already voted in a referendum.
In the blogosphere, Red’s Herring continues his explanations of political theory and how it applies to our present circumstances. First, he tackles Edsas past, present, and possibly future in The people’s choice. He then weighs in on the question of impeachment in Taxing the People’s limits.
Newsstand further dissects the surveys to probe into what he identifies as the “outrage gap,” the difference between those who want the President to go, and the far smaller subset that is willing to do something about it. (Newsstand wasn’t that impressed with “V for Vendetta,” though). Big Mango also analyzes the numbers, and comes to a quite interesting conclusion about the importance of “silent majorities.”
Blurry Brain tackles how unemployment figures can change, depending on how unemployment is defined.
Uniffors has startling photos of then-Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.