Democratic Progressive Party benefits from chaos over ‘special allowances’

The China Post

The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office filed an appeal on Aug. 17 to the Higher Court against the district court’s acquittal of Ma Ying-jeou on the misuse of his “special allowance fund” while Taipei mayor. Ma is the presidential candidate of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT). In filing the appeal, the prosecutors’ office claimed that the court was not justified in considering the “special allowance” as a de facto subsidy for Ma. It is to be expected that the prosecutors’ office would decide to appeal the acquittal ruling, and it has the constitutional right to do so. In response to the move, Ma said he is confident he will not be convicted. Legal arguments aside, there is one undeniable consensus at present; that is, the nature of the “special fund” is an extremely controversial issue, not only among government agencies in general, but even among the judicial officials who are entrusted with the authority to render ultimate judgment on the matter. For example, the prosecutors’ offices in southern and northern Taiwan have made sharply different interpretations of the nature of the “special fund.”

Under these circumstances, it is common sense to ask on what reasonable basis did the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office decide to indict Ma for an uncertain and unclearly defined crime? Granted, Ma did make confusing remarks as to whether the “special fund” is “public” or “private” money, primarily as a result of prosecutor Hou Kuan-jen’s hypothetical and tricky questioning, but was he alone in such confusion? Was the charge justified that he “deliberately” used deceptive means to embezzle public money? When thousands of decent government officials, not just one individual like Ma, may be involved in the same criminal case over several decades, it is time to examine the flaws of the system, not just concentrate on finding fault with those in question. Therefore, the most urgent thing for the judicial branch to do now is to hold a nationwide conference of the relevant agencies to reach a consensus on the nature of the “special fund,” and adopt unified standards in handling various cases related to it. Only in this way can the “special fund” issue be resolved once for all. However, it appears that the current administration does not want a quick solution to the problem. Instead, there are indications that it intends for the confusion to continue and even get worse in order to fish in troubled waters. The first sign is that a national conference did take place, but to the surprise of many, it did not reach any conclusion on the unified interpretation of the “special fund.” With his authority, the prosecutor-general can use his influence to help solve the dispute, but he didn’t. Thus, with his acquiescence, opinions on the nature and purpose of the “special fund” remain as divided as ever. The second sign comes from the prosecutor-general’s clear support for the district prosecutors’ office to appeal the acquittal case, even in the face of a generally acknowledged convincing verdict on Ma from a panel of judges. Thirdly, Hou, the prosecutor who indicted Ma, has voiced strong objection to the ruling on Ma’s case, and has even gone so far as to declare that he would consider suing Ma and his lawyers if they do not openly apologize for their behavior. Furthermore, Hou, being a senior and respected prosecutor, has chosen not to seek justice within the judicial system to which he belongs. Instead, he has launched fierce verbal attacks on the court and accepted invitations to air his complaints on TV and other media. Fourthly, according to the prosecutor-general, the prosecutors’ office has already collected evidence on the handling of the “special funds” by the “big four” of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), and hence the questioning process may commence at any time. If so, without a consensus on the nature of the “special fund,” the all-around chaotic situation in Taiwan created by the controversy can be predicted. Fifthly, DPP leaders have made it clear their election strategy consists of namely one thing: to try to expose one abuse after another committed by Ma. As most of the people in this land know, Ma is a person of high integrity. Consequently, such tactics will undoubtedly lead to a mud-slinging election war marked by ruthless and mostly groundless personal assaults. Last but not least is the development of a dozen legal cases involving Frank Hsieh, the presidential candidate of the DPP. How Hsieh will come out of all this is everybody’s guess. The latest development is that the “pan-green” camp has charged that Speaker Wang Jin-pyng attempted to influence the prosecutors’ office investigation of alleged illegal political contributions to Hsieh while he was campaigning for reelection as Kaoshiung mayor. To win upcoming elections, the Chen Shui-bian administration — with no major achievements to boast of — has no choice but to resort to all kinds of maneuvers and generation of hot and volatile issues, which will engage the nation to such an extent that few will pay any attention to whatever “beef” the KMT candidates will offer in terms of how to rule the country once elected to power.