Missing Presidential Office Case Files Must Be Investigated to the Bitter End
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
March 31, 2011
As incredible as it may seem, over 36,000 Republic of China government files have sprouted wings and disappeared. Included are over 25,000 secret Ministry of Foreign Affairs files. What is even more outrageous, those responsibile for the disappearance of the documents were 17 highly-placed members of former President Chen Shui-bian's Presidential Office.
State documents are national assets, especially since the passage of the Archives Act. All official documents must be filed according to specified procedures. The Archives Act was promoted by the DPP. It was implemented after Ah-Bian assumed office. Prior to the first change in ruling parties, the Chen regime was particularly worried about one thing, the smooth transfer of power. A smooth transfer of power means the military must swear allegiance to the incoming administration. It means the outgoing administration must transfer all government documents to the incoming administration. This will enable successors to know what their predecessors did. This will enable later generations to either carry on or make improvements.
What state of mind would permit an individual responsible for state policy, to cavalierly dispose of documents and thumb his nose at the nation's laws? Just before the second change in ruling parties, Chiang Lian-fu, a member of the legislature, said Chen Shui-bian's Presidential Office had purchased a large number of document shredders and was preparing to shred official documents. Many treated his accusation as a joke. Most denounced it as absurd. They did so based on the assumption that the Head of State was someone who could be trusted.
Who knew that three years later, Chiang would be vindicated? During the Chen regime's eight years in power, vast numbers of documents disappeared from the Presidential Office. Incredibly, the fate of most documents sent to the Presidential Office remains unknown. Only 0.03% of all documents were archived. One cannot excuse Chen Shui-bian by arguing that he had never served as president. After all, he had served as Taipei Mayor. Surely he knew that the documents he approved or had accessed must be archived? Surely he didn't squirrel away official muncipal government documents in his private files?
Three lowly secretaries in the Presidential Office were able to investigate the matter and issue this astonishing report. DPP officials are accusing the Presidential Office of political persecution in advance of the 2012 presidential election. They say it is no wonder the Ma administration's efficiency has been so severely criticized, it took three years to discover that official documents were missing, DPP spokesman Lin Yu-chang said the Presidential Office logs included letters of invitation and private correspondence. Lin asked how could the Presidential Office generalize and mislead the public? But Lin's non sequiteurs merely prove that DPP officials cannot face the truth, that they did nothing while Chen Shui-bian perverted the law for eight long years.
After the Ma administration took office, the Presidential Office was criticized for streamlining itself so drastically that it could no longer bear comparison with the Chen regime. But three secretaries worked all year around for three years. They were able to uncover 100 missing documents. That certainly qualifies as efficiency. The Presidential Office has indeed sent and received many documents. But all documents were logged. They were inventoried on computer. They include large numbers of "secret and unrecorded" documents that had to be logged manually. But do letters of invitation really need to be "secret and unrecorded?" More absurd is that during the Chen regime, all documents addressed to the President, the Vice President, the Secretary General, and Deputy Secretary General were directly turned over to these government officials, in flagrant defiance of the nation's laws.
Stop making wild allegations about political persecution. The Presidential Office is not above the law. A head of state must comply with the nation's laws. Anyone guilty of misplacing, destroying, concealing, or leaking official documents must bear administrative and criminal responsibility. When the Special Investigation Unit was prosecuting the Chen family's corruption, and Chen was in the Taipei Detention Center, it seized 102 boxes. It discovered over 1,500 secret documents. This was a tiny fraction of what the Presidential Office found. The case has yet to be closed. How can the Ma administration refuse to follow up? Does anyone remember Chen Shen-hui, who was responsible for the disbursement of Presidential Office expenses during the Chen regime? The Chen family was busy of embezzling funds. She on the other hand, received a meager salary. Yet she wound up behind bars. How many more Chen Shen-huis does the DPP intend to sacrifice?
The Democratic Progressive Party hopes to return to power after the 2012 presidential campaign. If the DPP were to return to power, would it overlook the misplacing or even destruction of large numbers of documents by highly placed officials within the Ma Ying-jeou administration? The rule of law makes no distinctions between Blue and Green. Even if the DPP were willing to forgive and forget, the public would not. The Ma administration is often criticized for its timidity. But a nation's laws ought to be obeyed. Eight years Chen regime misrule left the nation in chaos. The public wants a president and a government that adheres to the rule of law. Who is the DPP to say no? Are we to understand that if it returns to power, the DPP would repeat the mistakes of the Chen regime?
A year after Chen Shui-bian took office, he published his "Maiden Voyage of the Century." He revealed the secrets behind the transfer of power. He referred to the first change in ruling parties as an "verbal transfer," "a transfer of conscience," as opposed to a "systemic transfer," or "inventory transfer." he said many important events lacked even minutes of the meeting, and left him in a cold sweat. That year, he decided to establish a system for future transfers of political power. Who knew that in his hands a "verbal transfer" would suddenly become a "fraudulent transfer."
For the psst five years, the Chen family corruption scandal has been making waves. For the public, it has been a terrible nightmare. Our cherished democracy has produced a president with total disregard for the rule of law. The public is thoroughly fed up. But the the lost Presidential Office files are more than a link in the Chen family corruption scandal chain. It must be investigated to the bitter end. Ruling party change on Taiwan has become the norm. If the public on Taiwan wants to be the envy of the world, it must perfect its democracy. The first step must be strict oversight of those in power, ensuring that they cannot circumvent the law, This applies to the outgoing president, the current president, and to all future presidential candidates.