BANGKOK — Today’s papers scream with the astounding news that rocked this city yesterday: three election commissioners accused of malfeasance have been jailed, after being sentenced to four years imprisonment by the Criminal Court.

It was a spectacle never before seen in Thai, or for that matter, Philippine politics. Last night, the three top officials of the Election Commission (EC) were hauled off to Bangkok’s Klong Prem jail just hours after their sentencing. They will now likely be forced to vacate their posts, paving the way for their replacement just two-and-a-half months before new parliamentary elections will be held.

For sure, many Filipinos are probably wishing they can see that kind of swift justice in their own country. After all, the ruling of the Thai Criminal Court sounds like it could apply to our own scandal-wracked Commission on Elections (Comelec).

“The three commissioners are senior figures who should know that their office is vital for the development of democratic rule,” the EC decision read. “[But they] have stubbornly pursued their way even after the people and political parties lost trust in them.”

The ruling, which also barred the three officials from voting for 10 years, continued: “This court suspects the three of putting their own interests before those of the nation and fears they will inflict more damage if set free.”

The commissioners have been accused of bending the rules to favor the Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai Party in last April’s parliamentary elections. Much like our own Comelec commissioners, the EC officials had stubbornly clung to their posts despite widespread dissatisfaction with their handling of the polling and calls for their resignation by opposition parties and civil society groups.

Yesterday’s surprise ruling offers Thais a way out of the current political crisis. It also demonstrates the independence of the Criminal Court and allows democratic institutions to resolve the impasse, a remarkable contrast to the Philippines, where the justice system still has to hold a controversy-wracked Comelec to account.

But yesterday’s court ruling is a blow to Thaksin, who remains under increasing pressure to vacate the prime ministership. In April, Thaksin was forced to dissolve parliament and call for elections amid mounting protests in the streets of Bangkok over allegations his family evaded payment of billions in baht of taxes when they sold their telecommunications empire to a Singaporean company.

Thaksin won, but the opposition boycotted the elections, which were marred by allegations of fraud. The charges compelled the Constitutional Court to nullify the results of the April 2 elections and the Administrative Court to suspend the results of the by-elections held in districts where lone candidates were unable to get the required minimum 20 percent votes. Because of these court rulings, new polls needed to be called and were scheduled for October.

The Criminal Court began trying the election commissioners on June 19 and issued its verdict in less than five weeks, just barely enough time to allow for the selection of new commissioners. Its decision, said Thai journalist Thanong Khantong of The Nation newspaper, means ” Thaksin will not have “home-field advantage as in previous elections…his key fortress has been destroyed.”

Uncanny similarities

For sure, the similarities are uncanny. Like Thaksin, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been facing a crisis in legitimacy. In both countries, the crisis has has spurred people-power-type protests and caused unrest in the military.

The difference, it would now seem, is that the institutions for holding officials accountable, particularly the justice system, seem to be working better in Thailand.

In the Philippines, despite a Supreme Court ruling finding six Comelec commissioners guilty of signing a P2.3-billion fraud-ridden contract to computerize the 2004 elections, the courts have barely budged. The Office of the Ombudsman has dragged its feet, despite the high court’s order that the commissioners be charged. When the Ombudsman finally issued its ruling last month, only one commissioner was indicted.

Astute Thais and Filipinos cannot but see how the crisis in their countries mirror each other. Thepchai Yong, whose family runs The Nation newspaper in Bangkok, was in Manila recently and wrote that Thaksin and Arroyo were both “two-faced devils” who managed to survive challenges to their corruption-marred rule.

Political twins

Here are excerpts from Thepchai’s piece on how Arroyo and Thaksin are, in many respects, political twins:

“Both Thaksin and Arroyo have been struggling for their political survival, rejected by segments of their people who believe they have lost all legitimacy to stay in office. The only reason they are hanging on, according to their critics, is to protect their own self-interests. But both argue they are not going to give up what they have legitimately won through the ballot box because of mob pressure.

“Take out Arroyo’s name and a recent news analysis in one of Manila’s dailies might as well be talking about Thaksin. ‘The biggest asset of the Arroyo administration in playing the political game and doing the serious work of government is Mrs Arroyo’s tough and never-say-die character. She is, above all, politically courageous – willing to do everything to stay in power. Many of her political moves have been smart. Others have been cynical, brazen – worthy of Sun Tzu’s teachings… ‘ said the Sunday Times in a report analysing why the opposition has failed to dislodge the Philippine leader.

“Well, Thaksin and Arroyo are no strangers to each other. Arroyo was so impressed with what was touted back then as “Thaksinomics” that she wanted the Philippines to adopt the Thai leader’s brand of populism. The Philippine president was also said to have been inspired by Thaksin’s bloody war on drugs and the Thai leader’s one-tambon one-product initiative.

“But it’s in bad times that the two leaders seem to have more in common. Many Thais and Filipinos are fed up with their leaders under whose administrations corruption, conflicts of interest and abuse of power are alleged to be rampant. They only needed a trigger for their frustrations to explode. For Thais, the last straw was Thaksin’s decision to sell his family’s stake in Shin Corp to Temasek of Singapore. For the Filipinos, it was the “Garci tape” scandal in which Arroyo called an official of the Election Commission to allegedly discuss fixing returns from the 2004 presidential election.

“The scandals gave opponents of Thaksin and Arroyo ammunition to escalate their campaigns to drive them out of office. And for a while it seemed like “people power” would triumph.

Thieves and two-faced devils

“And consider these similarities:

“Thick-faced”, “Thief”, “Devil”, “Dictator”. The two leaders share these common labels.

2) Both may be rejected by the urban middle-class but remain popular with their rural electorates who benefit from their populist policies. Surprisingly, the ratings of both leaders have not suffered as much as one would expect. The Arroyo camp would argue that there was never a mass uprising against the president. The anti-Arroyo movement is more the work of the “oligarchs” and interest groups. Thakin’s explanation? It’s those who stand to lose from his pro-poor policies who have been working against him.

3) Both reportedly have no love lost for independent mechanisms that would ensure checks-and-balances. Thaksin stacked most of the independent bodies, such as the Election Commission, Constitution Court and the National Counter Corruption Commission, with his loyalists. Because of the “Garci tape” incident, Arroyo is accused of compromising the independence of the Election Commission. She described it as a “lapse of judgement” but her critics see it as nothing less than outright cheating. The ombudsman who was supposed to hold politicians accountable for their misdeeds has been rendered ineffective by what Philippine journalists believe to be political intervention.

4) Thaksin’s family members have been at the centre of charges of conflicts of interest, having allegedly exploited his political power to pursue business interests. Arroyo’s relatives are no different. Her husband is accused of receiving money from an illegal gambling racket while her son and her husband’s brother also are alleged to have received payoffs.

Restive barracks

5) Both face rumblings within the armed forces, the rank-and-file level of which became restless because of their disenchantment with their political leaders. Thaksin and Arroyo know that support of the military is crucial to their survival and have not hesitated to do anything to buy their loyalty.

6) Both believe everyone has a price. Their critics claim they use both political power and wealth to buy allies at all levels of the armed forces and bureaucracy. Arroyo is even accused of trying to bribe church leaders who wield tremendous moral authority over Catholic Filipinos. And there is a long list of people who are reported targets of Thaksin’s buyoffs.

“But just as three months of street demonstrations failed to dislodge Thaksin, eight months of people power also never came close to ousting Arroyo. Thailand and the Philippines had their own versions of people power that brought down dictatorships and unpopular governments before. But it looks like their current governments are much more entrenched, stubborn and definitely more adept at keeping their opponents at bay.

“Despite the continuing threat to their leaderships, Thaksin and Arroyo probably can congratulate themselves for having survived their most challenging political crises. Surprisingly, both the Thai and Philippine economies could be in worse shape. Thailand has its export sector to thank for this, while the US$10 billion (Bt379 billion) in annual remittances from overseas workers are helping to keep the Philippine economy afloat.

No alternatives

“If there is one reason why people power has failed to bring about political changes in Thailand and the Philippines this time around, it is probably because no matter how frustrated they are with their current leaders, Thais and Filipinos see no immediate viable alternatives.

“And in the case of the Philippines, more and more people have become disillusioned with street protests as a means of toppling governments. Filipinos have been let down by the two decades of political turmoil that followed the ouster of Ferdinand Marcos through the first people power movement. The euphoria that greeted the toppling of President Joseph Estrada in 2001 by the second people-power movement has given way to weariness because of the political instability that ensued.

“Aquilino Pimentel, one of the outspoken senators behind a campaign to drive out Arroyo from office, points out that the Philippines doesn’t have a “revered king” to unify its people in times of crisis. But it may be a little presumptuous for him to believe that the Philippines does have its own version of monarchy that would somehow manifest itself. “It’s the people of the Philippines who are king,” he pointed out and expressed confidence that sooner or later they would assert their power to affect change. In Manila these days the talk among intellectuals and the media is less about people power but more about people-power fatigue.

“In Thailand, however, people power is far from being on the wane. But like in the Philippines, people power is essentially a question of numbers. At least for now, both Thaksin and Arroyo can take comfort from the belief that it is very unlikely that another show of people power of the size rivalling those that drove out their predecessors will happen very soon.”

19 Responses to Election commisioners jailed — in Thailand



July 26th, 2006 at 7:19 pm

dammit! what in the name of GMA’s personal demon would we need for the Philippines to finally get a similar headline?

kudos to the thai people!



July 26th, 2006 at 8:01 pm

that’s the kind of good news i want to hear or read in phils news. corrupt people being put to jail.

indeed, the thai people are commendable.



July 26th, 2006 at 8:34 pm

First it was the South Koreans, who realized that in order to “move on” systemic reform of justice system should be on top of the Agenda. I’ll exempt Singapore, because theirs was reform from the top and is still holding on as long as the Party and the Ruling Clans are still in power. May already set among its subjects that the order they have now may be just what’s good for the City State. Now, come the Malaysians. China is in the same line as Singapore. I’ll bet Indonesia will beat us to the line. Or maybe even Vietnam. We three, are still rated the top most corrupt countries in the Far East. We don’t know what’s going inside these two countries, but we know exactly what’s going inside ours and the prospect, though hard to accept is quite dim.



July 26th, 2006 at 9:30 pm

Mabuti pa sila!

Sino kaya ang buwisit na nag-isip na isulat sa konstitusyon na impeachment lang ang pwedeng magpa-alis sa mga COMELEC Commisioners, napaka-espesyal ha.

Masamang mainggit, pero kung mababasa mo nga naman na June 19 lang nagsimula ang paglilitis ng kaso may hatol na agad sa loob ng 5 weeks, dapat lang talaga silang kainggitan.



July 26th, 2006 at 9:57 pm

for as long as there are people who are going to justify that there’s nothing wrong with cheating, lying and stealing, the prospect here in our country will always be dim.


Huseng Bulag

July 26th, 2006 at 10:20 pm




July 26th, 2006 at 10:36 pm

“For sure, many Filipinos are probably wishing they can see that kind of swift justice in their own country. After all, the ruling of the Thai Criminal Court sounds like it could apply to our own scandal-wracked Commission on Elections.”

You becha!

With great admiration, we should salute the people of Thailand for doing the right thing. Their motives were simply integrity and honor–they did not compromise.



July 27th, 2006 at 12:42 am

of Thai justice really grind swift
while in the Philippines, they grind exceedingly slow…
despite having justice on



July 27th, 2006 at 2:31 am

Same headline in the Philippines? I doubt it. Again, I keep repeating and pointing my finger at the Marcoses and their cronies who are now basically enjoying their loot after a fake People Power. The minority in control of the Philippines are mostly related to each other. So the only way to see the same Thai headline in our local newspapers is to eradicate these cancerous mother f’ers out of our society: JAIL THEM OR EXECUTE THEM.

Otherwise, don’t be surprised to find yourself or one of your relatives with a PhD applying for a job as toilet cleaner somewhere in the Middle East.


tongue in, anew

July 27th, 2006 at 7:05 am

I’m dying to see the headline:

Chief Executive, relatives, allies lynched by mob.

I’d be dead after reading this headline:

Chief Executive, retains top position in Parliament.



July 27th, 2006 at 11:48 am


for as long as there are people who are going to justify that there’s nothing wrong with cheating, lying and stealing, the prospect here in our country will always be dim.

correction: for as long as there are people who are going to justify cheating, lying and stealing as a fact of life (harsh reality, so to speak), the prospects of our country will always be dim.

or perhaps we should just move on?



July 27th, 2006 at 1:59 pm

teka, why blame the people?


Manuel L. Quezon III: The Daily Dose » Blog Archive » Sizzling survey

July 27th, 2006 at 6:23 pm

[…] In Thailand, the PCIJ’s Shiela Coronel reports from Bangkok on Thai reactions to the arrest of three members of their Electoral Commission. The three continue to be in jail, denied bail by the Thai Supreme Court. Prime Minister Thaksin is reportedly in shock, and presided over a rather droopy convocation of his party. There is the problem, though, of filling the vacancies in the Thai electoral watchdog. […]



July 28th, 2006 at 3:28 am

Napag-iiwanan na talaga tayo ng mga kapit-bansa natin. Nung una punta sila sa atin para mag-training sa IRRI. Later on tayo na ang nag-iimport ng rice nila. Nung una, pinag-aaralan nila paano tayo mag-raise ng bangus. Ngayon bangus nila ang binibili natin . . . tsaka durian . . . tsaka lansones . . . tsaka langka . . . atbp. Dati, hanga sila sa people power natin. Ngayon nakatunganga na lang tayong nag-aabang at humahanga sa kanila. Kailan kaya tayo gigising sa ating mahimbing na pagkagupiling?


tongue in, anew

July 28th, 2006 at 7:27 am

It’s no surprise we envy the Thais these days.

Every move towards people’s victory in their recent political history have long been employed here, some of which I would even say we “invented”.

While we gave Marcos a clean sweep in one martial law era elections when the then opposition forces failed to consolidate the people to a boycott, the Thais were successful in a similar bid against Thaksin.

As in this blog, Thai courts have convicted its officials for election fraud committed this April. Compare this to our Supreme Court begging, er, ordering, the Ombudsman to investigate Comelec for an anomaly committed in 2004, and as of late, is still under investigation.

We may have inspired Thailand in its own successful People Power when we invented the phrase, but we also were the first to destroy it when we slammed a womanizer and replaced him with a despot.

While our own military men have never successfully overthrown gov’t without hiding behind civilian barricades, Thailand has a long history of successful military coup d’etats, in fact there were 14 of them, my Thai friend tells me.

However, I am excited, and anxious at the same time that Uncle Sam is playing a more active role now in Phil. gov’t affairs. Excited at the news on the P1.1B grant to fight corruption and the arrest of Bolante in the US. It’s now just a matter of time that the real masterminds are unmasked, even if it had to be a foreign gov’t that has to take lead.

The $21M grant under the Millennium Challenge Account Threshold Program, I think, is a bait to lure and ensnare the big fish. It’s like entrusting a kilogram of crack to a shabu junkie. This is one big buy-bust operation we need to see.

On the other hand it’s like a loaded pistol in child’s hands, which explains my anxiety. Gloria and her cohorts may even use this fund to further harass her opponents and even non-supporters in the guise of tax-evasion charges.

With gov’t signing the grant documents, shall we now see the prosecution of Nani Perez, Jocjoc Bolante, Chavit Singson, Mike, Mikey and Iggy Arroyo, Cito Lorenzo, Abalos and Comelec, AFP Generals, Police Generals, PSALM and YNN directors, Fertilizer Fund co-conspirators, Lakas Congressmen, NAIA 3 kickback middlemen, crony businessmen, etc. etc. etc?

Or does she think she can dupe the US with the usual selective application of the law?


Van Helsing

July 31st, 2006 at 6:55 pm

Iba talaga ang pulitika dito sa Thailand. The Thais (even ordinary ones) can be politically active and at the same time still be productive.

They are always updated and active on what is happening with their gov’t and yet they don’t let politics interrupt their daily work. Do you know that they attend their political rallies (also called “mob” by the locals) after office hours? That is why you will often see televised rallies at night because this is the time when most of rallies gets “full to the brim” here in Thailand. They also do daytime marches and rallies but they do it on weekends and the only businesses mostly affected were shopping malls.

This way, the economy still runs while they conduct their protest rallies. So, somehow, I believe we should implement change on how we conduct our protest rallies to make sure we don’t disrupt businesses and thereby gain more support to what we are really fighting for.

Just my “2-satangs worth”, from an OFW’s point of view…



August 1st, 2006 at 10:19 am

Van Helsing, we did that too during the time of Ferdinand Marcos when we, who had offices in Makati, would proceed to Ayala Avenue during lunch breaks and back again after office hours in the afternoon to stage a daily protest. By nightfall a large throng would have gathered. The only difference then as compared today is that there was solidarity among the protesters against Marcos while there is none today.



August 1st, 2006 at 2:23 pm


perhaps it’s less an issue of solidarity that it is about apathy.



August 2nd, 2006 at 9:19 am


It cannot be all about apathy as almost everybody is politically active one way or the other. I believe it’s more on political differences in opinion and priorities.

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