Chou Chan-chun's Political Confession
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 9, 2010
Executive Summary: Chou Chan-chun's Full Court has acquitted the defendants in the Second Financial Reform corruption case. The public is apoplectic. The most mind-boggling aspect of the case is how the text of the full court's ruling openly admits that Blue vs. Green political biases determined its ruling. The text of the ruling was nothing less than the confession of a political hatchetman. Today's framework of constitutional powers and responsibilities is not sufficiently clear. Nevertheless Chou Chan-chun had no right to make such an absurd leap in logic. In order to let Chen off the hook on corruption charges, Chou equated Ma Ying-jeou's intervention in airport trollies with Chen Shui-bian's "exceeding the president's legally mandated authority." Chou's legal sophistry is a blemish on our legal system, and a tragedy for constitutional rule.
Full Text below:
Chou Chan-chun's Full Court has acquitted the defendants in the Second Financial Reform corruption case. The public is apoplectic. The most mind-boggling aspect of the case is how the text of the full court's ruling openly admits that Blue vs. Green political biases determined its ruling. The text of the ruling was nothing less than the confession of a political hatchetman.
For example, the text of the ruling points out that promoting the Second Financial Reform was "not part of the president's constitutionally mandated authority." The text states that although Chen Shui-bian promoted the Second Financial Reform "program." he was "merely perpetuating authoritarian thinking and mistakenly presuming the right to intervene in the affairs of the Ministry of Finance." He merely "exceeded his legally mandated presidential authority." Therefore his actions did not constitute "use of his official position to gain illicit advantage." Everyone, from those who offered bribes to those who accepted bribes, was a victim of a "misunderstanding," therefore all were found "not guilty."
In order to enable Chen Shui-bian to evade punishment, Chou Chan-chun used Ma Ying-jeou as a shield. His ruling stated that Chen Shui-bian receiving vast sums of money as a result of his Second Financial Reform "program," was "no different" that the current president's intervention in the airport trolley replacement issue, military physical fitness standards, and wetland ecology. What Chou Chan-chun meant was that Chen Shui-bian's "exceeding of presidential authority" was identical to Ma Ying-jeou's "exceeding of presidential authority." Both were constitutional anomalies. But judges may not turn two wrongs into a right. They may not cite "use of one's official position" to let Chen Shui-bian off scot free.
Chou Chan-chun presumed to interpret the constitution. But he could not mask his own Blue vs. Green political bias, or his attempt to engage in selective prosecution. When mentioning Ma Ying-jeou, he deliberately chose apparently trivial issues, such as trolleys and wetlands. Why didn't Chou Chan-chun mention Typhoon Morakot and the financial tsunami? These too involved "exceeding the president's constitutionally mandated authority." Ma should neither have intervened, nor should he have been held responsible for either. But Chou Chan-chunn knew that if he cited Typhoon Morakot and the financial tsunami, he would have been at odds with public sentiment, and would not have had a leg to stand on. Chou deliberately chose the issue of trolleys. He deliberately ignored political reality. Lee Teng-hui, Chen Shui-bian, and Ma Ying-jeou were three directly elected presidents. Each of them assumed control over the nation's business. When Chou ignored this political reality, he injected Blue vs. Green politics into his legal judgments. He used handcarts to harass political enemies such as Ma Ying-jeou. He used sophistries about "exceeding the president's legally mandated authority" to help political allies such as Chen Shui-bian evade criminal prosecution. What is this, but the conduct of a political hatchetman?
Let us return to constitutional issues. Seven constitutional "amendments" have seriously eroded the framework of the constitution. Constitutional powers and responsibilities have indeed been blurred. But lest we forget, when Chen Shui-bian was elected president in 2000, he declared that the constitutional framework is moving in the direction of "a presidential system, with a dual leadership system." He refused to allow the legislature to form a majority cabinet. He insisted on a small ruling party, large opposition party-style minority government. All this can be verified. Chen Shui-bian's control over the reigns of government was hardly the "mere perpetuation of a past authoritarian mindset." Chou Chan-chun attempted to drag his political enemies in the KMT into Chen's morass. Chou was motivated by his political bias, not by any honest misunderstanding. Besides, if during his eight years in power, Chen Shui-bian held total dominion over the machinery of state, as Chou acknowledges when Chen "exceeded the president's constitutionally delegated authority," shouldn't Chou be prosecuting Chen for the crime of usurpation?
Those debating the constitution today cannot look only at the provisions, whose content may be unclear. They must look at how the constitution has actually functioned since martial law was lifted 20 years ago. During Chen Shui-bian's eight years in office, the system "moved toward a presidential system with a dual leadership system." In fact it amounted to a fully implemented "super-presidential system." Six premiers in rapid order can testify to that. Chou Chan-chun wants the public to swallow flagrant absurdities. On the one hand, Chou concedes that President Chen did indeed intervene in the Second Financial Reform "program" and that Chen did indeed accept money from the heads of financial conglomerates. On the other hand, Chou insists that as president Chen Shui-bian "lacked the legal authority" to accept this sort of dirty money. Chen Shui-bian is suddenly no longer president, and as such, not guilty. This is akin to saying that if one grabs another person's knife (usurps another person's authority), then kills someone with it (engages in corruption), one is not guilty of homicide, and should not be charged with murder.
Now let us address the legal controversy. First, let us back up. Chou argues that Chen "lacked presidential authority." But even Chou admitted that Chen Shui-bian took money. The Punishment of Corruption Act stipulates that "taking advantage of opportunities offered by one's status as an official to extort wealth" is a felony subject to heavy penalties. The act reads "opportunities" and "status." It does not limit itself to "official authority." Let us back up even further. Chou Chan-chun insists that the money was "campaign contributions." First, several large suitcases filled with cash were delivered to the president's official residence. Then funds were remitted to overseas dummy corporations. This means that Ah-Bian and Ah-Cheng were in open violation of the Political Contribution Law, which stipulates that contributions must be deposited in a specified account and may not be in cash. Not only does the law call for harsh penalties, the recipient can even be fined two to three times the amount of the contribution. In other words, Ah-Bian and Ah-Cheng accepted 610 million NT in contributions. Therefore they could be fined as much as 1.83 billion NT. Not only does Chou Chan-chun's interpretation of the constitution receive a failing grade, so does his interpretation of the law. All of which confirms what the Special Investigation Unit said when it heard Chou's judgment. "If one is determined to find Chen not guilty, why bother with legal pretexts?
Today's framework of constitutional powers and responsibilities is not sufficiently clear. Nevertheless Chou Chan-chun had no right to make such an absurd leap in logic. In order to let Chen off the hook on corruption charges, Chou equated Ma Ying-jeou's intervention in airport trollies with Chen Shui-bian's "exceeding the president's legally mandated authority." Chou's legal sophistry is a blemish on our legal system, and a tragedy for constitutional rule.