Category Archives: impeachment

Why did it happen? (Myanmar/Burma)

So, Myanmar’s Constitutional Tribunal has been impeached. Despite this, it’s still not entirely clear why the legislature was so adamant in pursuing impeachment. Why did it matter so much that legislative committees be considered “union-level organizations”?

Aung Htoo, a human rights lawyer affiliated with the Burma Lawyer’s Council, argues in a DVB op-ed that:

… MPs would like to earn allowances on par with union ministers. They would achieve this if the affairs committees of the Hluttaws were recognised as constitutional institutions on the union level in accordance with a new law. If this were to happen, then the state would have to cover the enormous expenditure incurred by the operations of the 30 affairs committees. 

Another concern that people have is that these committees include not only MPs, but also non-MPs as members – for example, Toe Naing Mahn (Shwe Mann’s son). As a result, the number of affairs committee members is influx [sic]. Thus, the state would be forced to cover all the expenses and allowances for those members on the same level as government ministers.

In some ways, this fits what one might expect in a transitioning political system coming out of the shadows of a corrupt military regime. However, I don’t buy the expectation quite yet. First, the petition for impeachment received the support of almost all non-military MPs, including the NLD and ethnic minority parties. Thus, each of those groups must have had some motivation to support impeachment, even though not all MPs serve on committees.

Second, it is a bit hard for me to imagine Aung San Suu Kyi and the opposition joining the USDP going along with a money grab. This most recent crisis was reignited when Daw Suu beam chairperson of the rule of law committee. Other people I’ve talked to have said MPs thought the tribunal decision would have weakened the ability of committees to subpoena ministers.

Even though the justices have been removed, we’re only just beginning to understand what happened. I hope one day somebody writes a definitive history on this.

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Filed under Burma, constitutional tribunal, impeachment, Myanmar

The Constitutional Tribunal strikes back (Myanmar/Burma)

Facing the threat of impeachment, Myanmar’s Constitutional Tribunal has criticized the Hluttaw for appointing 15 MPs, including Chairman Thein Swe, who signed the original petition for impeachment to the new Investigation Board. The tribunal members are of course relying upon the principle that a defendant’s accuser should not also serve as his judge. 
According to the 2008 Constitution, one chamber can initiate impeachment, while the other one conducts the proceedings. However, what happened in this case was that Pyithu Hluttaw MPs signed a petition before the Amyotha Hluttaw formally voted on impeachment. Thus, even though the Amyotha Hluttaw did hold its vote, the Pyithu Hluttaw MPs had already revealed their preferences before the proceedings even started.

Some analysts belief the Constitutional Tribunal is striking back in a deeper way. A former European diplomat quoted in The Financial Times noted that the tribunal’s ruling was “clearly designed to protect the executive against the emerging will of the people represented in parliament. . . What it really says is that ‘the old guard is trying to strike back’.” Unfortunately, the diplomat isn’t quite clear in why he came to this conclusion, but I suspect it’s because the tribunal’s “union-level organizations” decision would reduce the Hluttaw’s ability to subpoena ministries to testify before committee hearings..

Here is the Constitutional Tribunal’s announcement of its complaint against the Hluttaw from The New Light of Myanmar:

Republic of the Union of Myanmar
Constitutional Tribunal of the Union
Announcement No.2/2012
2nd Waning of Wagaung, 1374 ME
(3rd September, 2012)
Remonstration of Chairman of Investigation
Board U Thein Swe and members

1. It is reported that 301 Pyithu Hluttaw representatives at first have signed a proposal and sent it to the Speaker of Pyithu Hluttaw to impeach Chairman of the Constitutional Tribunal of the Union and members. Those representatives are adverse parties in this case.

2. They have no right to be as a chairman and members of the Investigation Board formed by Pyithu Hluttaw. This concept can be seen at Penal Code Section No.556 and paragraph 41 of Services Regulations Manual Book issued by the former State Council Office.

3. PREM’s Law of Habeas Corpus, Certiorari, Mandamus and Emergency Legislation says that “Nobody has the right to make decision in the case in which they get engaged”. This law principle is the prime of fair judiciary in the world.

4. Thus, according to the investigation ways and practices, as those 301 representatives who proposed to impeach the Chairman of Constitutional Tribunal of the Union and members, have no rights to participate in Pyithu Hluttaw Investigation Board, they are objected.

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Filed under Burma, constitutional tribunal, impeachment, Myanmar

Amyotha Hluttaw joins the fight (Myanmar/Burma

Thus far, the Pyithu Hluttaw has received the most attention for its push to impeach the members of Myanmar’s Constitutional Tribunal. However, there is just as much support for impeachment in Amyotha Hluttaw. In a recent vote, 163 MPs supported impeachment while 53 did not. The vote split directly along civilian-military lines, with the 53 military MPs opposing the measure. According to The Myanmar Times, military MPs have actually taken the lead in defending the court:

“The ruling of the constitutional tribunal is final. Not following [the ruling] is the same as not following the constitution. It’s as if the legislature is trying to position itself above the judiciary,” Lt Col Zaw Moe said.

The irony!

The votes in both Hluttaws have been open votes, meaning MPs must publicly stand up and state their position. However, according to The Myanmar Times, a few MPs in the Amyotha Hluttaw proposed using a secret ballot. Speaker Khin Aung Myint rejected the proposal. Nonetheless, the proposal itself is interesting in that it might indicate dissension within the ranks. It does seem a bit suspicious after all that all civilian MPs support impeachment. It might suggest that the speaker is putting pressure on backbenchers to vote for impeachment.

Finally, The Myanmar Times published another op-ed in which I was interviewed.

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Filed under Burma, constitutional tribunal, impeachment, Myanmar

He’s out!

The Philippine Senate voted 20-3 to convict Corona. Turns out the vote wasn’t even particularly close. Moreover, 2 out of the 3 senators who voted to acquit were either Marcos or Arroyo relatives. Here’s an article summarizing the vote. I’ll write more once the fallout is clear.

And if you were confused about the complex accusations against Corona, here is an article summarizing the legal case.

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Filed under Corona, impeachment, Philippines

Is the Philippines impeachment roadshow almost done?

We know the Senate is expected to vote on the impeachment of Chief Justice Corona fairly soon. Moreover, some lawmakers are now claiming that Corona’s omission of assets in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth constitutes a per se impeachable offense. The most definitive statements seem to be coming from the House, so they’re not necessarily dispositive of the views of them majority of senators. Nonetheless, the trial thus far hasn’t given Corona’s defenders much to work with.

Perhaps more importantly it seems Filipinos themselves are finding their own conclusions about the trial. According to a recent survey, 58% will accept any Senate decision regarding the outcome of the case. Around half of respondents viewed the chief justice as guilty, while 43% remain uncertain. Based on Manila’s distaste for Arroyo, I suspect Manila residents are more likely than not to consider Corona guilty, so if he is convicted we probably won’t see any attempts to launch a People’s Power movement against the administration. However, if Corona is acquitted, I wouldn’t be surprised if Philippine politics gets a bit more contentious.

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Filed under Corona, impeachment, Philippines, Supreme Court

Thriller in Manila

The impeachment trial against Chief Justice Corona is almost reaching a conclusion. The Comparative Constitutions Blog has a great article summarizing recent developments in the trial. The authors seem a bit skeptical that the Senate will convict, but either way we should get an answer before Easter.

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Filed under impeachment, Philippines, Supreme Court

Conflict of interest or interesting conflicts?

Of course, there’s always been a large potential conflict of interest underlying the impeachment of Chief Justice Corona. Namely, President Aquino would have a chance to appoint another justice to the court if he succeeds. However, two recent articles raise other possible conflicts of interest. The Supreme Court of course decided the fate of the Aquino family’s plantation in Hacienda Luisita. President Aquino adamantly denies any connection and points out that impeachment started with the Supreme Court’s decisions on Arroyo and the TRO. Second, and perhaps more interesting, Chief Justice Corona has accused Justice Carpio’s old firm (commonly known as “The Firm”) as behind the “black propaganda” against him. Of course, should Corona be removed, Carpio would probably be his successor. The Firm denies any involvement in the impeachment, but the accusations do raise the question of whether Carpio can keep his hands entirely clean in this whole affair.

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Filed under Aquino, Carpio, Corona, impeachment, Philippines, Supreme Court