Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Political Trickery must be Investigated to the Bitter End

Political Trickery must be Investigated to the Bitter End
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 2008.04.15

Frank Hsieh has sued Chen Chun-sheng for alleged defamation of character and election law violations. Yesterday the Taipei District Prosecutor's Office decided not to prosecute Chen. Prosecutors took depositions from Lin Hung-ming and Chen Chun-sheng. Ten years ago Wu Dun-yih and Frank Hsieh were running against each other for Mayor of Kaohsiung. During the last two weeks it came to light that the doctored tapes implicating Wu Dun-yih in an extramarital affair "were indeed supplied by Frank Hsieh." Hsieh handed the tapes over to Chen Chun-sheng at Lin Hung-ming's home. Prior court findings have confirmed that the tape was spliced together. The Taipei District Prosecutor's Office decision not to prosecute Chen clarifies a complicated and confusing decade long case. The doctored tape was probably responsible for Wu Dun-yih's defeat by a mere 5,000 votes. As the saying goes, "Justice delayed is justice denied."

In response to the prosecutors' decision not to prosecute Chen, Frank Hsieh's office said it would immediately meet with prosecutors. Hsieh's office said it wanted to prove that Chen Chun-sheng scripted the affair entirely by himself. Hsieh's office maintained that the master tape was not doctored. Hsieh's office alleged that the tapes the court identified as having been doctored were doctored by the Bureau of Investigation. Lin Hung-ming testified that the tape was handed to him at his house. Hsieh admitted he was present that night. But he said that the tapes were already present when he arrived on the scene. The day after prosecutors announced they were not going forward with the case, Frank Hsieh swore a blood oath that he was innocent.

Over the past decade, Taiwan's political culture has changed. It has changed from one of physical violence, vote buying and black gold politics, to one of political trickery. Wu Dun-yih's undeserved election loss in his bid for Kaohsiung Mayor was the first instance of this political trickery. This was followed by the Chung Hsing Bills case just before the 2000 Presidential Election, by the Two Bullets case the day before the 2004 Presidential Election, and by the Per Diem case on the eve of the 2006 Kaohsiung Mayoral Election. These were classic instances of political trickery that reversed the outcome of the election. Prosecutors have eventually gotten to the bottom of these cases. They have been through a decade of trials and tribulations. Politically speaking, the top dogs are now the under dogs, and the under dogs the top dogs.

It would be no exaggeration to say that Frank Hsieh's doctored tape rewrote Taiwan's history. It changed the Mayor of Kaohsiung. It foreshadowed ruling party change in 2000. Frank Hsieh was subsequently re-elected Mayor of Kaohsiung, appointed Premier, and ran for Taipei mayor. His nomination as the DPP's 2008 presidential candidate was made possible by his election as Kaohsiung Mayor. The Taipei District Prosecutor's Office decision not to prosecute Chen acknowledges certain facts made clear in the depositions. If they were to go forward with the case, they would merely force Frank Hsieh into a public accounting.

After all, Hsieh has still not come clean on what he was doing with Chen and Lin when the tapes were delivered to Lin's home. What reason is there to believe that the tape was not doctored? Is Hsieh omniscient and ominpotent? How could he possibly know what happened during the Bureau of Investigation's forensic analysis? How did he find himself mired in such a political conspiracy? Who has it in for him following the 2008 Presidential Election debacle? Who would lay such a trap for him? Hsieh is unable to answer these and other questions. Instead he rejects the court's decisions. He rejects the prosecutors' decision not to go forward. He rejects the testimony of two key witnesses. He persists in opening another case, in a futile effort to drag out a process that is already over and done with. He denies leaving fingerprints on the tape. His denials convince no one, and underestimate the public's common sense.

Prosecutors have not decided not to prosecute Chen Chun-sheng. This means Frank Hsieh may be prosecuted instead. He will be forced to explain his role in the sex scandal tapes, and bear full legal responsibility. For the past decade politicians who have been investigated have gotten off scot-free. It is not difficult to predict the number of politicians will resort to political trickery in the future. Every politician who thinks he can get away with it.

One cannot rewrite history. But society may be able to gain some insights from this prolonged discovery process. Democracy provides no assurance that politicians will behave ethically. Politicians will do whatever it takes to win. If the electorate fails to demand ethical conduct from its political representatives, then it must be prepared to suffer the painful consequences. The truth must be uncovered by means of due process of law. This requires both political courage and time.

Two years ago Chen Chun-sheng testified before the Legislative Yuan that Frank Hsieh personally handed him the master tape of the fake scandal tape. If Frank Hsieh hadn't chosen to sue for defamation of character, prosecutors wouldn't have had the opportunity to examine the physical evidence. The job of government officials is to enforce the law. If they can't stand the heat, they should stay out of the kitchen. The justice system is the hottest part of the kitchen. We must not assume that if Hsieh had won the presidential election, prosecutors would have lacked the courage to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law. Nor should we fault prosecutors for waiting until after the election. We have no reason to assume that prosecutors are piling on Hsieh merely because he lost the election. The Chinese parable about the father and son riding a donkey to market tells us that whatever we do, someone will criticize our actions. One must do what one must do. The law has a long arm. Those who resort to political trickery to win elections and rewrite history must bear full legal responsibility. Those who should be prosecuted, must be prosecuted, no ifs, ands, or buts.


台 北地檢署日前就謝長廷控告陳春生誹謗及違反選罷法案件,做成不起訴處分。檢方採信林宏明及陳春生二人的證詞,十年前吳敦義與謝長廷競選高雄市長,最後兩周 爆出吳敦義的緋聞錄音帶,「確實是謝長廷拿出來的」,地點是在林宏明宅。此前已有法院判決確認該捲錄音帶乃是經過變造剪接的錄音帶,北檢的不起訴處分進一 步澄清了十年以來撲朔迷離;如果那捲錄音帶的公布,就是吳敦義當年以不滿五千票些微差距敗選的原因,則如今除了遲來正義,還能挽回什麼?

針 對檢方的不起訴處分,謝長廷辦公室立即表示將提請檢方再議,以便證明陳春生是自導自演;他們繼續主張錄音帶的母帶是真的,而且指稱法院中鑑定為變造的錄音 帶曾經調查局剪接。不過,林宏明證稱交付錄音帶的地點是其住宅,謝長廷並不否認當晚確實到場,但說抵達時錄音帶已在現場。不起訴處分翌日,謝長廷更公開以 發毒誓的方式強調他的清白。

過去十年來,台灣的選舉景觀出現轉變,從暴力賄選黑金充斥,發展到選民聞選舉「奧步」而色變,就是以吳敦義在 緋聞錄音帶公布之後落選一役,首開先河。此後,兩千年大選之前的興票案,○四年大選前日的兩顆子彈,○六年高雄選舉前夕的走路工事件,都被看成某種「奧 步」扭轉選舉結果的經典案例。現在這樁事件經過司法程序逐漸水落石出,卻已屆十年寒暑,政治上已是桑田成為滄海,滄海又成桑田。

如果說這 捲緋聞錄音帶改寫了台灣的歷史,並不為過。當年高雄市長易手,正是二千年政黨輪替的先聲;以後謝長廷連任,再從高雄市長轉任閣揆,角逐台北市長,問鼎○八 年總統大選……也都從高雄市長勝選發端。如今台北地檢署不起訴處分採認的證詞及所彰顯的事實,就算持續走完司法訴訟,也該是謝長廷對高雄市民乃至台灣人民 必須有所交代的一樁歷史公案。

畢竟在北檢不起訴處分之後,謝長廷仍然未澄清自己為什麼會在交付錄音帶的當場與陳、林在林宏明的住宅晤面? 有什麼理由確知確信該捲錄音帶是未經剪接的真帶?謝如何全知全能地了解調查局的錄音帶鑑定作業過程?自己怎麼又再陷入某種政治陰謀的天羅地網?是誰要在他 ○八年總統敗選後落井下石、羅織構陷?若不能回答以上諸多疑問?單純地否定法院判決、否定檢方的不起訴處分、否定兩位關鍵證人的證詞,不斷地開啟另一個程 序以延續一個結束的程序,來否定自己曾在錄音帶事件中留下涉事指紋,其實說服力軟弱,也低估了社會常識判斷的能力。

迴避不起訴處分呈現的 事實,將迫使謝長廷必須繼續面對接踵而來的法律訴訟,以釐清其在緋聞錄音帶事件中究竟應該負擔何種法律責任。如果可以憑著口說某種想像中的政治構陷否定十 年來的司法追查而不必負擔任何法律責任,以後台灣的選舉將有多少政客師其劣技,不難預卜;奧步選舉盛行,亦恐不知伊於胡底。

歷史不能重 寫,但台灣社會或可從這樁歷史公案真相揭露的漫長過程中,得到一些啟示:即便是民主政治,政客若是缺乏起碼的政治道德,也可能會為求勝利不擇手段。選民如 果放棄要求政治人物遵守起碼的政治道德,就要準備付出慘痛的集體代價。畢竟透過司法程序還原事實,既需要獨立公正的法治勇氣,也需要漫長的時間。

兩 年前陳春生在立法院中公開謝長廷親手交付緋聞錄音母帶,要不是謝決定控其誹謗,檢方也無偵查驗證的機會。政客的法律責任,就是執法者的功課;司法畢竟不能 怕熱而不進執法廚房。我們不會假設若是謝長廷贏得總統選舉,檢方將無做成同樣不起訴處分的執法勇氣;也不會挑戰檢方等到大選結束後才完成不起訴處分的執法 智慧;更無理由懷疑檢方的不起訴處分是對敗選者落井下石。父子騎驢不能免於旁人指點,該走的路還是要走;法網恢恢,疏而不漏,用選舉奧步改寫歷史的法律責 任,該用訴訟追究的還是要追究到底!

No comments: