Updates from the region

A few interesting developments from the region:

Burma: An opposition candidate won a case against a candidate backed by the military regime! According to DVB, the Election Commission dismissed a complaint by a Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) candidate that his opponent, Sai Moon from the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP), used armed groups to force people to vote for him. This is one of a handful of cases in which the courts have ruled against an elite figure. Even more interesting, according to the article other opposition candidates claim the Commission is handling such cases fairly. That’s certainly a rare bit of good news and hopefully a reason for hope that the country’s new judicial institutions will provide better services than they have since 1962.

Indonesia: No surprise that the latest news deals with corruption scandals. First, a while ago I blogged about the Gayus corruption case, in which a tax official bribed jailers to let him leave jail and vacation in, among other places, Bali. Now, the South Jakarta District Court has handed down a sentence. Seven years and a Rp. 300 million ($33,170) fine. However, according to The Jakarta Globe, many see this as too light a sentence for such flagrant abuses. 

I have no basis upon which to judge these criticisms. I don’t know if the court was particularly lenient on Gayus or if any foul play was involved. Regardless, the outcry is a useful reminder of the distinction between justice in the abstract and the judicial process. It may well be that the masses demand a more stringent punishment than the system provides.

In another corruption case, judges visited the home of former National Police chief Susno Duadji to investigate claims that a broker visited the home in December 2008 to pay him Rp. 500 million ($55,000). This event is interesting from a comparative law standpoint. In civil law countries like Indonesia, judges can and often do take it upon themselves to investigate or confirm factual allegations by the parties. In common law systems, judges almost never leave the courtroom and rely solely upon the testimony of witnesses. Still, the article doesn’t explain how visiting a house will reveal what happened over two years ago.

Philippines: The war of words between the Aquino administration and the Supreme Court took another turn as Chief Justice Corona denounced a “propaganda war” against the Court’s recent judgements. According to PhilStar, the chief justice claimed, “There are people who went out of their way to disparage the decisions of the SC.” He particularly criticized those who attacked the judgments without actually reading them. Nonetheless, he was careful to clarify that the “propaganda war” attacked the judgments, not the justices themselves. Hopefully, everybody in the Philippines can keep that distinction in mind because it looks like the tensions between the court and presidency will remain for some time to come.

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