The President can pardon Criminals, but can the People pardon Crime?
United Daily News editorial
translated by Bevin Chu
April 27, 2004
TV Celebrity Pai Ping-ping, a former Green Camp supporter, denounces Chen Shui-bian's Mass Pardon
Chen Shui-bian wants to declare a nationwide pardon for convicted criminals. Public response has been anxiety and discontent. The president can pardon convicted criminals, but can the public pardon rising crime?
Let's put aside political considerations for the moment and look at the issue purely from the perspective of public safety. Such a large scale pardon, involving 20,000 sentence reductions and 7000 immediate releases, undermines judicial impartiality, police morale, and social order. During his seven years in power, Chen Shui-bian has failed to ensure public safety and social harmony, yet he has the audacity to cavalierly issue mass pardons before his term of office expires. This is a gross abuse of presidential power.
In recent years major felonies and white collar crimes have increased dramatically, even as the legal dragnet has developed gaping holes. One look at the crime statistics tells the entire story. The types of crimes committed have also changed: First, crimes of impulse such as opportunistic robberies, kidnappings and rapes, have increased. This has made crime prevention more difficult and increased public anxiety. Secondly, a variety of misdemeanors have proliferated, including brazen telephone fraud, the theft of iron gates and manhole covers for scrap value, and even the theft of melons from farming communities and the theft of fish from fishing villages. Such crimes are never seriously investigated. They are crimes police usually ignore, but which cause people great suffering. Yet the object of this round of pardons is the perpetrators of these misdemeanors.
If the ship of state were on an even keel, commuting sentences to rehabilitate convicts and promote social harmony would not be an extreme measure. But on today's Taiwan, economic recession encourages the weak-willed to resort to theft or robbery, even as political confrontation leaves the public in a moral vacuum. At a time when the government has failed to maintain public safety, or rehabilitate chronic offenders, or prevent more people from taking the path toward crime, does it make sense to suddenly issue a wholesale pardon, and release large numbers of criminals back onto the streets? Is the government not concerned about adding fuel to the fire?
Consider several cases which occurred in the past week: A university co-ed in Hualien was attacked and raped at night on her way home. Fortunately villagers and fellow students were vigilant, and the perpetrator was captured. A few days ago, a man pushed his ex-wife over a cliff. If not for the persistence of the woman's family members, who looked in every direction and followed up every lead, the truth would never have come to light. Additional cases include the theft of two senior high school students' motor scooters and the theft of one university co-ed's purse. These cases were solved only when the victims themselves obtained security camera footage, then captured the perpetrators on their own initiative. When more and more people must depend on themselves to see justice done, one realizes the "Thin Blue Line" has long since vanished, and the public has long since ceased to expect anything from public authorities.
After the perpetrator of the attack on the Hualian university co-ed was captured, he confessed to six previous offenses; yet no record of of his crimes could be found in police archives. Whether the victims were intimidated into remaining silent, or the police dropped the cases down the memory hole, "public safety" on Taiwan is an empty fiction. Prime Minister Su's boast that "Public safety has taken a turn for the better" is a bare-faced lie. Yet Chen Shui-bian wants to use presidential pardons to demonstrate his "humanitarianism" toward felons? What is he doing to law-abiding citizens, except pouring salt in their wounds?
It is true that commuting sentences is the privilege of a head of state. But for Chen Shui-bian to do so for the wrong motives at the wrong time, merely reveals his callous indifference to the public's state of mind. Consider the extent to which the burden of coping with declining public safety on Taiwan has been shifted onto the shoulders of the private sector. Neighborhoods, high rise buildings, and businesses have all arrived at a point where not hiring private security guards means not having any security whatsoever. Even farming communities and university campuses have resorted to organizing "Self-Defense Brigades" to guard against criminal intrusions. Ordinary citizens have been compelled to invest more and more of their limited resources into providing their own security. The government, meanwhile, is more and more lackadaisical in its fight against crime. Does the ruling regime feel no shame? For years the ruling party has been at a complete loss in dealing with telephone fraud. Yet it has suddenly demanded that the newly established National Communications Commission (NCC) "assume responsibility." This kind of attitude reveals the Chen administration's buck passing attitude.
If Chen Shui-bian has the slightest empathy for public opinion, he should devote himself to improving the economy and reducing political provocations and ideological struggles. If Taiwan's economy could be improved, if poverty induced burglary and larceny could be reduced, that would demonstrate an ability to govern. The president has abandoned his key responsibilities. Ignoring what he must do, he is hoping to use "humanitarianism" as a pretext for an extravagant pardon of convicted felons, for purely political motives. This not only puts the cart before the horse, it is naked grandstanding and mass deception. How can such a fraudulent commutation of sentences, demonstrating sheer contempt for judicial independence, possibly be justified?
Having occupied the presidency for seven years, Chen Shui-bian has tasted all the power a head of state can ever hope to. He has abused that power and milked it for all it is worth. Confronted with a government in decay and a society in chaos, he chooses to engage in an ostentatious commutation of sentences. Does he really have public safety in mind, when he doesn't have the people in his heart? The president can pardon criminals, but can the people pardon escalating crime?
Original Chinese below:
2007.04.27 02:27 am
撇 開此舉的政治算計不談，從治安的角度看，幅度如此之大的減刑，兩萬人刑期縮減，七千受刑人可隨即釋放出獄，不僅對司法正義構成削損，對執法人員構成打擊， 對社會治安亦構成潛在威脅。陳水扁執政七年，無能把台灣建設成一個較安全、和諧的社會，卻在即將任滿前大肆減刑，這真是對總統特權的大揮霍。
近 幾年台灣重大刑事及經濟犯罪愈見嚴重，且法網愈形疏漏，僅看通緝犯排行榜，即一目了然。同時，犯罪型態也出現變化：一是「即興犯案」的比率大為提高，諸如 隨機搶劫超商，或隨機擄人強暴；這不僅大大增加了防範難度，也升高了民眾的恐懼。二是「微罪型」的犯罪層出不窮，包括囂張的電話詐騙，從未被認真偵辦的鐵 門、鐵蓋竊案，乃至農村漁村的偷瓜、偷魚賊。這大抵是警力最怠忽的一隅，卻也是全民受害、受擾最深的一環，但此次減刑的對象卻以這些微罪、輕罪犯為主。
如 果國家承平，藉減刑協助受刑人重獲新生，增進社會和諧，尚不失為積極之計。但以台灣目前的狀況，經濟萎縮逼使意志弱者走上偷搶，政治對峙導致人民精神缺乏 追求；此時，不檢討政府對治安的維護能力，不問國家對罪犯的矯正是否周全，不設法預防更多人民步入監獄，卻驟然實施大減刑，把大批人犯放出來，難道不怕助 長亂世的動盪？
且看最近一周發生的幾個案例：花蓮女大學生在夜歸途中遭襲擊強暴， 幸虧村民和同學機警，方才擒獲歹徒。此前數日，狠心男子將前妻推落山谷，若非女方家人鍥而不捨，自行四處查訪、過濾線索，奇冤如何大白？此外，包括兩樁高 中生機車失竊、女大學生皮包被偷，都是受害人自行調閱錄影帶，自力擒賊。當社會上越來越多人須靠自力救濟來討回公道，不啻意味治安防線已瀕於崩毀，人們對 公權力也已失去了寄望。
再看，襲擊花蓮女生的歹徒就擒後，承認自己曾犯下六案；然 而在警方的資料中，卻查不到紀錄。無論受害者是被迫噤聲或遭警方吃案，台灣的治安「黑洞」多麼幽深，已不言可喻。蘇揆誇稱「治安好轉」，分明是違心之論； 而陳水扁要用減刑向罪犯體現「人道」，這無異是選擇對善良百姓雪上加霜！
的確，減 刑是元首的特權，但陳水扁此時實施，不僅在錯誤的時機提出了錯誤的藉口，他也暴露自己對人民的心情毫無感應。試想，這幾年來台灣治安惡化的重擔，有極高的 比率已轉由民間自行承受。包括社區、大樓乃至企業，皆到了不僱用保全人員不足以保安的地步；連農村及大學校園也組織「自衛隊」，來防止歹徒入侵。人民投注 可觀的資源來維護自身安全，政府在治安陣線的心力反而愈形鬆散，執政者不愧對手中公權力嗎？就如執政黨幾年來對氾濫的電話詐騙束手無策，最近突然要求 NCC「負起責任」。這種作風，在在反映了扁政府「一推二託三狡賴」的本質！
陳水 扁如果對民意稍有感應，他應該致力拚經濟，減少政治的挑撥和鬥爭；若台灣經濟能有起色，「飢寒起盜心」式的偷竊詐欺自可減少，這才是治國之本。現在，總統 拋棄核心的施政責任不顧，卻欲假藉「人道」之名大縱放刑事罪犯，目的無非是為了選舉「割喉」的權謀算計，這不僅本末倒置，更是赤裸裸的欺世盜名。更別說， 施行減刑的手，還是全力侮蔑司法的貪瀆正犯；如此「名不正、言不順」的減刑，如何自圓其說？