The administration plan is laid out in Newbsreak: no need to enlist senatorial candidates with no Senate by May next year; a referendum and parliamentary elections, instead (though the true feelings of the House are reflected in Rep. Pichay’s proposal to postpone the elections at least to October next year); and then parliament could then immediately do the real work at hand, which is to further amend the constitution. I have no argument with Dan Mariano’s take on things -but Kit Tatad as the source is unfortunate. Anyway the issues are joined tomorrow at the Supreme Court, and it seems the main argument will be, bayonet Bernas:
In their manifestation before the Supreme Court, Sigaw ng Bayan and ULAP stressed that the primary objectives of the petitioners in proposing the shift to a unicameral parliamentary system are: The removal of the institutional gridlocks between Malacañang and Congress and between the Senate and the House; improvement of public governance; and democratization of the process of electing political leaders.
On the oppositors’ argument that the adoption of a parliamentary system entails a “revision” of and not just an amendment to the Constitution, ChaCha proponents contend the Constitution does not actually make a distinction between the two.
Even if there is such a fine distinction, they say, the proposed reform makes up a mere “amendment” and not “a revision” because it only covers a “single subject,” which is a systematic change in government.
Moreover, they point out that the anti-ChaCha groups are only relying on the opinion of 1986 Constitutional Convention delegate, Fr. Joaquin Bernas, that the parliamentary shift requires a “revision” and not a mere “amendment” to the Constitution. If Bernas is right, they ask why the Jesuit constitutional expert has not cited any “supporting authority” or jurisprudence to prove his point that a parliamentary switch represents a “revision” of, and not just an “amendment” to the 1987 Charter.
All options remain on the table. Even the House calendar is being prepped. The deadline seems to be a floating one, ranging from December to March next year for a plebiscite.
In contrast to other articles claiming the Thai generals moved to prevent Thaksin-led hooliganism, the Times of London suggests the motive was far less far-fetched: Thaksin was being heavy handed and bungling anti-insurgency efforts. In Thai coup sparked by failed war on Islamists, the Times argues,
According to sources briefed by the army high command, Thaksin’s bungled response to the insurgency in southern Thailand, which has claimed 1,700 lives in two years, was a critical factor in the generals’ decision to get rid of him.
Military intelligence officers intend to negotiate with separatists and to use psychological warfare to isolate the most violent extremists, in contrast to Thaksin’s heavy-handed methods and harsh rhetoric.
The question of the military and it’s security concerns -and justifications- reminds me of a recently-published, unauthorized, biography of the Thai monarch, “The King Never Smiles: A Biography of Thailand’s Bhumibol Adulyadej” (Paul M. Handley). I first read about it on the FriscoDude blog. Interesting observations on the book are also in the blog of Matthew Hunt, as well as links to other reactions to the book can be found in Bookish (and in baratillo@cubao, a link to a book on Latin American juntas available free, online).
Long before the present coup and the alarm presently being raised by journalists in Thailand over the military government’s censorship of the internet and of community radio stations (though so far, not the newspapers), the biography of the king received official hostility and the site of the publisher was blocked: an Amazon reader-reviewer says scuttlebutt in Thailand is that the book was commissioned by Thaksin!.
One way or another, the points for comparison keep popping up, as Roby Alampay pointed out in the Asa Times.
Randy David yesterday compares the Thai coup to Edsa Dos in the Philippines and says the lesson is:
In the way we normally understand democracy, the September coup is certainly a setback for Thai democracy. But who are we to judge Thai politics? Are we in the Philippines really better off being stuck with a President we resolutely distrust? Do rigged elections, damaged institutions, corrupt politicians and indifferent citizens constitute the essence of democracy? The lesson from Thailand, as I see it, is this: The only alternative to uniformed men seizing power for whatever reason is a virtuous and informed citizenry that fiercely defends its liberties and militantly refuses to be enslaved by corrupt leaders.
In his blog, Asia Cable, veteran journalist Todd Cromwell discusses why the Thai Constitution, “one of the most progressive documents of its kind in the world,” ended up being scrapped by the Thai Junta:
In retrospect it is clear that all political factions in the country set out to subvert both the letter and the spirit of the liberal document almost from the beginning. That includes, of course, the deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and members of his party, known colorfully as the “Thais Love Thais” Party.
For example, under the constitution the elected senate is not so much a legislative body, as it is in the United States, as it is a kind of guardian council. But from the beginning Thaksin senators abrogated their role as watchdogs to secretly serve the government’s agenda.
The senate’s support made it possible for the government to subvert supposedly independent bodies, such as the Election Commission. Three members of the commission were earlier imprisoned for trying to manipulate the results of the April 2 general election.
But the not-so loyal opposition parties also failed the country when they determined to boycott a general election because they knew they would lose. That led to the election being annuled and directly to the current political impasse. It finally took the army to cut through the Gordian Knot.
As the Bangkok Post editorialized: “Democracy is not just about free elections Rather, the democratic process is difficult daily task of making authorities accountable to voters and reining in the politicians who abuse the agreed legal framework.”
In a commentary today, Kavi Chongkittavorn says Western diplomats remain ambivalent about the coup not because of democracy, but because of their bottom dollar -Thaksin signed to many big deals not to be fondly viewed by the diplomatic corps. The commentary goes on to stipulate which provisions of the now-scrapped constitution should be kept.
The Beijing correspondent of a Taiwan newspaper describes a debate on whether a similar coup could take place in China. The verdict? Corruption is so endemic everyone has a piece of the graft, so no chance of a coup.
In the punditocracy, my column for today is Referendum on Estrada. He’s not getting a fair trial. So let him settle the issue by running for office.
And in The New Kyoto Review of South East Asia: an audio recording of an interview with Ferdinand Marcos, 6 months before he fell from power (the beginning, complete with clinking cutlery, is Imelda Marcos as the opening act: then Marcos begins with a lot of table-thumping; it’s interesting to hear him talking conversationally and reminiscing about the war). You can see why, even at the end of the road, sick, ailing and with a brain dulled by illness, Marcos remained a formidable person and respected even by many of his critics (and how loony the dictatorship had become, with Imelda’s prattle). The moment Imelda leaves the room, Marcos slides into his tried and tested, smooth lawyerly persona. It’s rather charming how Marcos keeps saying, “don’t you think so?”
In the blogosphere, Thai coup fallout, thinking-wise, in unlikely places. Sun Protective wonders what would happen if there was a coup or martial law in the USA. The possible response: a couch potato rebellion.
Other places where prime ministers are in trouble: Wonkette quotes what the Hungarian Prime Minister said to provoke rioting (tongue firmly in cheek, she asks, he lied, but so what?).
One Man in Bangkok describes how he spent the coup and what it’s like living under martial law. Notice the Thais have something we don’t: tanks (well, they also have an aircraft carrier, albeit mothballed).
Another Malaysian irked by Lee Kwan Yew.
Philosophical Scratchpad takes a Malaysian and philosophical look at what Filipinos know as the bangungut.
And finally, via Perpetual Thursday, a link to what has to be one of the niftiest blogs around: Indexed. A life lesson, every day, on an index card, but online! Plus, lots and lots of a personal fetish of mine -Venn Diagrams!