The View From Asia

Justice systems in the dock

Asia News Network commentators lambaste flawed law enforcement systems that raise issues of fairness. Here are excerpts:

When tycoon's son escapes the law

Tulsathit Taptim

The Nation, Thailand

It's understandable why everyone has become fixated on the Yingluck Shinawatra case, but maybe we're all barking up the wrong tree.

The rice price-pledging case, how it came about, how it panned out and how its "conclusion" is supposed to determine Thailand's immediate political future have edged out the story of another legal episode that is actually no less important.

That other case concerns the heir to Red Bull, a stimulant-drink company with a massive wealth and worldwide reputation.

Vorayuth Yoovidhya represents a wider segment of the population and is more characteristic of what's wrong in this country.

His alleged crime is a lot simpler than Thaksin's and Yingluck's. The young man was accused of a hit and run that killed a policeman several years ago.

There were no complexities of the ballot boxes' "legitimacy" or soul-searching about how much a government leader should be held accountable for a policy that goes wrong. A cop was fatally run over by a Ferrari that Vorayuth allegedly drove, and that was that.

Yet Vorayuth remains a "free" man. Having fled the country, he has not been living in jungles or hopping from one secret hideout to another.

In fact, Thai law enforcement officers know where he is, and the only thing that prevented them from catching him recently was - don't laugh - because they didn't know how to proceed with the extradition in English.

It was a shot in the dark, obviously. A senior police official said the extradition process involved translating some 30 pages of legal documents, "which needs to be done carefully". You can be forgiven if you thought it was a joke. I did. After all, what's so difficult about telling the authorities in a foreign country that this is a man accused of killing a cop in a car accident?

The man may finally be brought to justice, but that's not the point. Thailand's problem is someone accused of fatally running over a policeman in 2012 has remained free all this time.

The average guy on the street couldn't do that. And it's not just Vorayuth. Rich Thai suspects manage to stay out of legal reaches all the time and some of them even re-emerge after a while to live a comfortable life as if nothing had happened.

Is this justice?

Huma Yusuf

Dawn, Pakistan

Where is the justice when a village council orders the rape of a woman?

Few concepts have as much gravitas as justice. But as the disqualification of (prime minister) Nawaz Sharif has shown, in Pakistan, even justice can appear ambivalent. Is it justice if it is seen as selective? Can justice be served if it appears that dangerous precedents have been established?

While the country obsesses over the course of justice as it plays out at the highest levels, there is little capacity to consider how it is typically meted out in our country. Last week, while we awaited the Supreme Court verdict on the Panama case, reports emerged that a panchayat in Muzaffarabad, in the Multan area, ordered the rape of a 16-year-old girl to settle scores after her brother was accused of raping a 12-year-old girl.

The teenager was raped allegedly before the 40-odd members of the panchayat and her parents. Several days passed before the girls' mothers lodged FIRs, and the police began to arrest panchayat members.

Media coverage of this informal act of justice got the formal wheels of justice turning: the Chief Justice has taken suo motu notice of the panchayat ruling, (Punjab Chief Minister) Shahbaz Sharif has tasked an investigation committee to report on the revenge rape within a few days, and the officers at the local police station have been suspended.

The incident highlights how the law only works for some of the people, some of the time. For the rest, the judiciary is perceived as compromised and backlogged enough to enable the power of panchayats to persist.

After the rapes took place, police officers and a relative of National Assembly member Shah Mahmood Qureshi reportedly tried to serve as mediators between the two families, and proposed an "exchange marriage" whereby the victims would be married to their rapists to prevent the dispute from continuing - rather than immediately arresting the perpetrators and panchayat members. What hope for justice when its servants aren't committed to its cause?

Gruesome bloodbath

Philippine Daily Inquirer,

Philippines

More details are emerging about the police operation in Ozamiz City that resulted in the death of 15 people, including Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr, his wife Susan, his brother Octavio Jr, and 12 others. But on the face of it, it appears to have been an operation gone horribly wrong.

The purpose of a search warrant, it's reasonable to assume, is the gathering of evidence in connection with a case presumably being built up by the police, and not the death of suspects who might in fact have valuable primary information. But in this instance, the warrants served on the Parojinogs by joint teams from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Region 10, the Misamis Occidental provincial police and the Ozamiz police resulted in nothing less than a bloodbath.

The police said it was a shootout - that their raiding teams were met with resisting gunfire when they tried to serve the warrants on six Parojinog properties at about 2.30am last Sunday, thus forcing them to fire back.

Residents of Barangay San Roque Lawis said a power outage occurred right before the raid; electricity was cut, apparently in aid of the operation.

The police version of what happened afterwards is being disputed by Mr Jeffrey James Ocang, legal officer of the Ozamiz local government, who said in a TV interview that "there was no exchange of gunfire".

Based on pictures that have gone viral, "all the wounds of the victims are head shots. Wala nang chance na manlaban sila (They had no chance to fight back)."

The Parojinogs' properties had CCTVs that could shed light on how the raid unfolded, but these were reportedly disabled by the cops before the operation, and no mention of them has been made by the Philippine National Police.

The Parojinogs were among the politicians publicly tagged by President (Rodrigo) Duterte as involved in the trade in illegal drugs. And they eventually ended up dead.


  • The View From Asia is a compilation of articles from The Straits Times' media partner, Asia News Network, a grouping of 23 news media entities.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2017, with the headline 'Justice systems in the dock'. Print Edition | Subscribe