Chen Tsung-ming's Wounds: Not Impeachment, But Loss of Public Trust
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
January 20, 2010
The Control Yuan has impeached Prosecutor General Chen Tsung-ming by a vote of eight to three. It has also demanded by a vote of seven to three that the Ministry of Justice bring the matter to a swift resolution. The Control Yuan has gotten tough. Chen Tsung-ming has responded by tendering his resignation.
The first Prosecutor General under the new system has been impeached. This is deeply regrettable, not just for Chen Tsung-ming personally, but for the entire judicial system. Ever since Chen Tsung-ming's role and behavior became the subject of a major scandal, we have urged him to be smart and consider resigning. Given his protestations of innocence, his words and deeds clearly run counter to public expectations. He may feel personally aggrieved. But as the highest ranking official within the prosecutorial system, he must boldly resign. He must do so to uphold justice and to maintain respect and trust in the administration of justice. Only by doing so, can he maintain his own reputation and minimize the damage done to the judicial system. Instead Chen Tsung-ming dragged his feet so long he forced the Control Yuan to impeach him. On the one hand, Chen Tsung-ming set a negative example for judicial ethics. On the other hand, he left huge scars on the nation's system of justice.
Chen Tsung-ming has provoked a great deal of controversy. He may not have left traces of illegal conduct. That is why the Control Yuan's reasons for impeachment did not include references to illegal conduct, but rather to negligence. For example, the impeachment points to Chen Tsung-ming and Shih Mao-ling's frequent meetings at Huang Fang-yen's private residence, and to his self-contradictory testimony when questioned by the Legislative Yuan. He even personally visited a building contractor named Tsai, a witness in the Chen Shui-bian corruption case, at Tsai's office. The Control Yuan concluded that his conduct was suspicious, but difficult to prove illegal. Therefore they characterized his conduct merely as "dereliction of duty." In fact, Chen provoked all manner of controversy. For example, during the Discretionary Fund controversy, he failed to preside over a unified opinion. He sat idly by as conflicting standards of justice prevailed in different jurisdictions. The political tides turned. But this inconsistency remained under the purview of an independent prosecution. Control Yuan members were unhappy with the situation. But getting to the bottom of the matter proved difficult. Chen Tsung-ming and Huang Fang-yen were suspected of leaking information. Suspicions linger. But this is not something the Control Yuan can comment on. It lacked proof that Chen Tsung-ming engaged in illegal conduct. But characterizing Chen's words and deeds as "dereliction of duty" was fully consistent with public perceptions. Chen Tsung-ming should not have met in Huang Fang-yen's private residence, just as another man's underwear must not show up in the Queen's chambers. It is not necessary to talk about whether there is evidence of illegal conduct. The fact is Chen Tsung-ming must take full responsibility for his unethical conduct.
Chen Tsung-ming Chan has tendered his resignation. This was a wise decision. He must not be so oblivious as to continue stonewalling, to the point where he is impeached. His allegation that the Control Yuan "fabricated facts and maliciously defamed him" will only provoke even greater public disappointment. It can only exacerbate the damage done to his personal reputation. The job of Prosecutor General involves important duties and responsibilities. A Prosecutor General must maintain public respect and public trust in the administration of justice. Chen Tsung-ming has already lost the public trust. That much is abundantly clear. Chen Tsung-ming landed himself in his current plight. He would do well to ask himself whether as Prosecutor General, he still commands the people's respect and trust.
The Prosecutor General is a unique cabinet position. No one within the administrative system can force him to resign. Therefore, anyone who assumes this position must measure himself against the highest standards for professional conduct. Chen Tsung-ming's given name means "smart." But Chen Tsung-ming lacked the smarts to know when to fold. Instead, he has landed himself in his current pickle. He severely damaged the image of the justice system. Chen Tsung-ming could have minimized the damage to himself and to the nation by making a moral choice. Instead he forced the Control Yuan to impeach him. This harmed Chen Tsung-ming. It also left a massive scar on "the first Prosecutor General" under the new system.
Chen Tsung-ming's words and deeds have provoked intense public indignation. As mentioned earlier, Chen Tsung-ming has lost the public trust. The public has even concluded that if it could not rid itself of Chen Tsung-ming, then the entire government would remain riddled with problems. Chen Tsung-ming did not know enough to resign. He forced the Control Yuan to impeach him. Chen Tsung-ming apparently failed to realize that if he was unable to maintain his status as a moral paragon, he would have no leg to stand on. In fact, Chen Tsung-ming's real wound was not inflicted by the Control Yuan when it impeached him. His real wound was inflicted upon him by himself, when he lost the public's respect and trust.
The Chen Tsung-ming case is a major blow to the justice system. The lesson is that for administrators of justice, public respect and trust are the ne plus ultra. The loss of that respect and trust renders the administration of justice meaningless.
2010.01.20 03:13 am