Will the Southern Front Disappear into 57 Document Shredders?
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
April 24, 2008
President-elect Ma Ying-jeou will soon be inaugurated. Now in its final days, the outgoing Chen Shui-bian regime is implementing a "Scorched Earth Policy," deliberately leaving a mess for Ma to clean up. The mess includes artificially-low gasoline prices, the Suhua Highway, the Taiwan Goals arms procurement scandal, and the Sunny Bank scandal. The Presidential Office is even rumoured to have purchased 57 document shredders. Having learned from past mistakes, the Legislative Yuan is considering preventive legislation to deal with the transfer of presidential and vice presidential authority.
In fact every aspect of the handover, including those relating to personnel, budgets, policies, and confidential files, is covered by existing laws. The passage of new laws is unnecessary. The bizarre phenomenon taking place is the result of the outgoing Chen regime's refusal to obey the law. It is not the result of inadequate laws. If the outgoing Chen regime violates the law during the handover, it must bear full legal responsibility for its actions. It must not be exempt from prosecution merely because it has already stepped down.
Political appointees come and go depending upon which party is in office. Career civil servants on the other hand are subject to the Civil Service Promotion Act. They may not be arbitarily transferred. Their promotion within the civil service is subject to certain legal standards and procedures. Candidates for promotion must meet strict standards. Candidate promotion rosters must be approved by Candidate Review Boards. If authorities violate the law, they are subject to prosecution. DPP political appointees have illegally appointed relatives and cronies to positions of power. But the punishments meted out to them have been mere slaps on the wrist. The offending officials must not escape punishment. They must pay for their offenses -- with their careers. Civil servants are protected by the law. Therefore they must avoid political controversy and refuse to obey illegal orders from their superiors. Only this can ensure the stability and integrity of the civil service system.
Budgets and policies are two sides of the same coin. The government must formulate policies and draft budgets. It must then get them approved by the Legislative Yuan. Only then can it govern. Furthermore, the Council of Grand Justices considers budgets reviewed and adopted by the Legislative Yuan as "implementations of the law." These implementations must be in accordance with the law. The Budget Act also requires that concerned agencies implement the budget according to plan, on schedule, then evaluate the situation and send their findings to the Legislative Yuan. The budget may not be spent in advance. Any agencies that illegally spend their budgets in advance must be held legally liable.
The State Secrets Protection Act and the Archives Act explicitly define civil servants responsibilities. They must protect and manage official documents when they are transferred to another office, or resign from office. If they deliberately destroy official documents, or fail to destroy them in accordance with proper procedure, they may be criminally liable. The rumour that the Presidential Office has ordered 57 document shredders may be true or false. But if a future review of document numbers reveals files missing for no reason, those responsible will be criminally liable. Chen Shui-bian says his Confidential State Affairs Expenses funded a top secret "Southern Front." Chen Shui-bian says that the archiving of "Southern Front" documents met with the approval of the Council of Grand Justices. If so, the documents are subject to the terms of the aforementioned State Secrets Protection Act and Archives Act. If so, Chen Shui-bian is legally obligated to turn them over to his successor, intact. If they are destroyed, Chen may be criminally liable.
Therefore all aspects of the handover process are subject to legal constraints. The only question is whether the outgoing regime is obeying the law. If the new administration is guilty of illegal activity after taking office, it must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, especially during the transition period. If it is found guilty of fraud or dereliction of duty, if it illegally bestows favors upon certain parties, or accepts kickbacks, it is guilty of corruption. Prosecutors may then prosecute those involved according to the law.
If the Legislature passes special legislation purely in response to the presidential election and the handover of authority, the constitutionality of this legislation may be challenged. Before the constitution was amended, depriving the legislature the right to approve the president's nominees for Premier, the Council of Grand Justices offered constitutional interpretations 387 and 419. They stressed that the Executive Yuan must answer to the Legislative Yuan. The Executive Yuan is obligated to resign en masse. Following a presidential election however, the Premier's resignation is merely a courtesy resignation. It is merely a method of coping with a political issue, rather than a solution for a constitutional issue. The Grand Justices failed to express an opinion after constitutional amendments deprived the Legislative Yuan of the right to approve the President's choices for Premier. In other words, the transfer of authority should have occurred after the Legislative Elections, not after the Presidential Election. Reckless and ill-considered constitutional amendments have created chaos. If the Legislature passes special legislation specifically in response to the Presidential Election, in response to the transfer of authority, they may add to the confusion, and further tilt the system toward a presidential system.
2008.04.24 02:58 am