The House, consistently perceived as among the most corrupt public institutions in Indonesia, has repeatedly sought to water down the KPK’s powers, in thinly veiled attempts to hit back at the KPK over its arrest and jailing of dozens of serving and former House members since its establishment in 2003. (Antara Photo/Noveradika)

All Eyes on Jokowi as KPK, National Police Kerfuffle Continues


JANUARY 27, 2015

Protestors rally in support of the  KPK in Yogyakarta on Jan. 26, 2015. (Antara Photo/Noveradika)

Jakarta. During his election campaign last year, President Joko Widodo vowed to stand on the frontline of upholding truth and justice if anyone so much as tries to weaken the much-feared Corruption Eradication Commission.

However, less than 100 days since his inauguration, those words are put to the test.

Last week, the National Police charged Bambang Widjojanto, a deputy chairman of the antigraft agency known as the KPK, for allegedly orchestrating false testimonies in a case he represented as a defense lawyer nearly five years ago.

The allegations were not new. The same charges were later dismissed by the Constitutional Court and the House of Representatives in a confirmation hearing on Bambang when he vied for a KPK commissioner post.

Activists also questioned the timing of the move against Bambang, made just days after the corruption watchdog charged a police general, Budi Gunawan, Joko's sole candidate for the National Police chief post, as a bribery suspect.

In a speech that confused the nation, Joko claimed he saw nothing out of the ordinary with turn of events and said, as president, he was unable to intervene with the case.

Despite further widespread calls for the president to step in, Joko chose to stay "neutral."

Activists were quick to lament the president's stance, and some predicted that attacks on the KPK would not only continue, but grow more aggressive.

After Bambang was finally released from police custody, a second KPK deputy Adnan Pandu Praja was reported to the police by the lawyer of a timber company who accused Adnan of illegally acquiring shares while acting as an advisor during a management feud in 2006.

A third antigraft deputy, Zulkarnain, also faces a possible criminal investigation after a civil society group on Monday accused the former public prosecutor for allegedly taking a bribe in a 2008 case.

Meanwhile, a politician from Joko's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) has accused KPK chief Abraham Samad of allegedly having an affair with Miss Indonesia Elvira Devinamira Wirayanti and calls for his dismissal.

Joko has also put off the legislative process to replace former KPK deputy Busyro Muqoddas until December this year, while expediting Budi's nomination.

Since Budi became a KPK suspect, Joko has "delayed" Budi's inauguration.

Former deputy minister for justice and human rights Denny Indrayana called the move on Bambang an "attempt to weaken the KPK," noting that such tactics were not new to the National Police.

In 2009, the law enforcement body named two KPK deputies Bibit Samad Rianto and Chandra Hamzah as suspects in an extortion case after the KPK began to investigate the National Police chief detectives Susno Duadji for alleged bribery.

In 2011, police also charged investigator Novel Baswedan after the antigraft body declared traffic chief Djoko Susilo as a bribery suspect.

"I am sure Joko is not that naive [for believing the police have no hidden agenda] and would blindly follow along with the scenario to weaken or even disband the KPK," Denny said.

Meanwhile, Bambang has slammed the recent legal actions as "a systematic attempt to attack on the KPK. These people are not out to weaken the KPK; they're out to destroy the KPK."

Protesters in Bangil, East Java, carry signs that declare their support for the antigraft body. (Antara Photo/Adhitya Hendra)


The KPK's Adnan has announced he would request Joko to issue a government regulation in lieu of law, or perppu, that would provide KPK leaders immunity from future legal attacks that could hinder their efforts in fighting corruption.

Such a measure was not meant to put the KPK's leadership above the law, but to protect it from "enemies," given the police's history of going after KPK commissioners when its own top officials face an antigraft probe, Adnan said.

He added that "criminalizing the KPK means hampering corruption eradication efforts."

Denny, who served as deputy justice minister under former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, agreed that a perppu on immunity for leaders of the antigraft commission was urgently needed in such an emergency situation.

"One by one the KPK leaders are being targeted. The president must issue the perppu to grant them immunity during their tenure," he said.

But the request has prompted an outcry from critics who warn it would escalate tensions with the police.

House Deputy Speaker Fadli Zon warned against the perppu, calling such immunity a "betrayal of the law."

"Our constitution states that every citizen is equal before the law. Nobody is above the law, the KPK and the police are equal, therefore there should not be any impunity," he said.

Justice Minister Yasonna Laoly agreed, saying such a move would be "against our Constitution."

Delicate balance

Arya Fernandez, a researcher for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said Joko is caught between a rock and a hard place, balancing the needs of the people at large and that of the political elites from inside his own coalition of parties.

The condition has put him in a "difficult" position, the researcher said.

"In the case of the police vs. the KPK, Joko is walking down a fine line between compromising with the political oligarchs and the people's aspirations, which are clearly in support of eradicating corruption," he said.

Arya noted that Joko's decision to name Budi — who first rose to national infamy in 2010 when the Financial Transactions Report and Analysis Center discovered irregular activity in his suspiciously large bank account — as police chief is rife with political considerations.

In nominating the troubled police general, Joko also opted to leave the KPK out of the vetting process, unlike his more transparent process in choosing his cabinet members.

Joko's insistence in giving Budi the role of Indonesia's top cop and his silent inaction during the barrage of against the KPK will surely hurt the president's popularity, the CSIS said, highlighting the fact that Joko's victory in last year's election owes more to wide public support instead of the political parties supporting him.

Antigraft activist Gandi Parapat of the Indonesian Legal and Politics Monitoring Center (PMPHI) believes Joko could regain his popularity with "bold" and "ground-breaking" moves.

"Joko must have the courage to take strict actions on law enforcement officials if they are indeed abusing their authority. Such firm actions will bring positive effects to all law enforcement agencies. Just fire and arrest [these law enforcers] if it is proven that the cases [against the KPK] are bogus," he said.

"Especially if Budi Gunawan is found guilty [of corruption]," he added.

Independent investigation

Cabinet Secretary Andi Widjajanto said the president is mulling over the idea of forming an independent team to review the legal process inside the two top law enforcement agencies, after both launched criminal investigations against each other.

On Sunday, Joko called several prominent political figures to the State Palace to deliberate on the matter.

Following the meeting, each claimed they were offered a role in an ad hoc team that would work to quell tensions between the KPK and the National Police.

The group "will try to support, improve and ensure that the police and KPK remain strong and committed to enforcing justice," said former Constitutional Court chief Jimly Asshiddiqie, who was one of the seven people summoned by the president on Sunday.

The remaining presidential invitees were law professor Hikmahanto Juwana, police observer Bambang Widodo Umar, former National Police deputy Oegroseno, former KPK chief Tumpak Hatorangan Panggabean, former KPK deputy Erry Riyana Hardjapamekas and Muslim scholar Ahmad Syafi'i Maarif.

Of the seven, Syafi'i was the only one who was unable to come to the State Palace on Sunday evening because he was in Yogyakarta.

House Deputy Speaker Fadli, of the opposition Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) supported the move.

"The most important thing is to save both the National Police and the KPK," he said, adding that the team was a "correct" move on the president's part.

PMPHI coordinator Gandi pointed out that the key to restoring trust is not in forming such an independent team, but whether Joko will act on its council.

"There is no doubt that the lineup includes credible individuals. Their ability in solving the conflict between the KPK and police is without question," he said. "But Joko can't ignore their recommendations."

Yudhoyono formed a similar team when police charged KPK deputies Bibit and Chandra in 2009.

Following an independent investigation, its participants found numerous irregularities in the allegations and recommended the police to put a stop to all investigations against the two suspects.

Yudhoyono, however, failed to act on the team's suggestions.

KPK deputy chief  Bambang Widjojanto announces his request for a  leave of absence.  (Antara Photo/Fanny Octavianus)


Bambang on Monday submitted his request to be temporarily relieved of duty pending the investigation against him.

"Bambang Widjojanto has come to the KPK to take care of the paperwork for his suspension as deputy chairman," said Johan Budi, the antigraft body's director for corruption prevention.

Bambang's lawyer, Usman Hamid, said his client had decided to temporarily step down from his post out of respect for the Constitution and code of ethics, following his naming by the police as a criminal suspect.

"Of course [the request] must first be discussed with the KPK chairman and the president," Usman said.

He added that he and the team of lawyers advising Bambang did not personally support his request for a leave of absence, given that he was in the midst of overseeing investigations into several high-profile corruption cases, including one centering on Budi Gunawan.

The KPK hopes Joko will choose not to appoint Budi as National Police chief, pointing out that the inauguration would hamper their efforts in investigating allegations of massive bribery against Budi, Usman said.

"The KPK is making extensive progress in their investigation [on Budi]. They certainly don't want to see their efforts foiled by an inauguration," he said. "Joko needs to cancel the appointment, not just delay it."

Reacting to Bambang's recent surprise move, chairman Abraham said KPK will likely deny the request, citing the deputy's much-needed role in overseeing ongoing cases and investigations.

A group of prominent civil society groups submitted on Monday a report to the National Commission for Human Rights, or Komnas HAM, alleging possible rights violations committed in the police's arrest of Bambang on Friday.

The Anticorruption Civil Society Coalition, which includes the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), Indonesia Corruption Watch and MigrantCare, contends the police violated an article of the 2002 Child Protection Law when they arrested Bambang at his home in the presence of his young daughter.

Police investigators had not only taken her into custody along with her father, but also questioned her during the car ride to police headquarters.

"This clearly violates her rights," said Anies Hidayah from Migrant Care, as quoted by

Ade Irawan, a researcher from ICW, said the police also violated arrest procedures as regulated in the criminal code, by arresting Bambang without first serving him a warrant.

The anti-corruption coalition has demanded Komnas HAM to investigate possible rights violations made during the arrest and to publish its findings within the next seven days.

Bambang was conditionally released on Saturday morning.

He stands accused by a legislator from Joko's PDI-P, Sugianto Sabran, of compelling witnesses to perjure themselves during hearings over a district election dispute in 2010.

Bambang at the time was a lawyer for one of the parties involved in the dispute, who was eventually declared winner of the election.

Sugianto, a prominent timber tycoon, was on the opposing side.

The KPK deputy chief is now considering filing a counter suit against Sugianto, said Bambang's lawyer Nursyahbani Katjanegara, but declined to disclose further details.

Investigation resumed

With Bambang released from police custody, the antigraft body resumed their investigation into Budi's case on Monday by summoning three officers from the National Police to KPK headquarters in Kuningan, South Jakarta, for questioning as witnesses.

They included Brig. Gen. Herry Prastowo, police director for general crimes, who reportedly transferred up to Rp 300 million ($23,950) into Budi's bank account between January and May 2006 — a fraction of the Rp 54 billion that the PPATK had traced through the "fat" accounts from 2005 to 2006.

The other two officers questioned on Monday were: Sr. Comr. Ibnu Isticha, Budi's subordinate during his stint at the National Police's career development bureau; and Comr. Sumardji, deputy chief of the Jombang district police in East Java.

Among the three, it is Herry who has come under close scrutiny for reasons other than the absorbent amount of money he allegedly channeled to Budi.

Herry ignored a summons for questioning last week and is now the detective in charge of Bambang's investigation.