A Pardon for Chen Shui-bian Must Be Preceded by an Admission of Guilt
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
March 28, 2012
Summary: In classical tragedy, the characters often find themselves in a quandary. The "Should we or should we not pardon Ah-Bian?" debate has mired the DPP in a quandary. But this quandary is not a tragedy. It is a farce. It is a yawner that has somehow managed to drag on for five years, with no end in sight. Ironically, the Democratic Progressive Party has become its biggest victim.
Full Text below:
In classical tragedy, the characters often find themselves in a quandary. The "Should we or should we not support Ah-Bian?" debate has mired the DPP in a quandary. But this quandary is not a tragedy. It is a farce. It is a yawner that has somehow managed to drag on for five years, with no end in sight. Ironically, the Democratic Progressive Party has become its biggest victim.
The election of a corrupt president suggests that our democracy still leaves much to be desired. The result was our collective doing, and a national embarrassment. No one derives any pleasure out of seeing a former President behind bars for years to come. But is this really the right time to talk about a pardon? As an unnamed DPP legislator observed, "Does our society really support a pardon at this time? If not, can the DPP really rush things?" In other words, the president may have the authority to pardon a convict. But when society disagrees, does a president really dare to exercise that authority?
Taiwan today urgently needs to address many issues. They include U.S. beef imports containing Beta-Adrenergic Agonists, second generation health care, 12 year compulsory education, and local labor and foreign labor salaries. Every one of these issues affects people's livelihood. Every one of these issues competes for government attention. That a pardon for Ah-Bian suddenly erupted amidst these pressing issues, and has become the top priority on the Green Camp agenda, proves that Ah-Bian supporters have done their homework, and are truly adept at tugging at the heartstrings of DPP officials.
For example, Wu Shu-chen has threatened to ignore her physical infirmity and launch a personal protest. If the authorities do not release Ah-Bian on medical grounds, she threatens to rally the troops on Ketegelan Boulevard and stage a protest. Knowing full well that Premier Sean Chen lacks the authority to grant a pardon, Ah-Bian supporter Kao Chi-peng deliberately staged a publicity stunt in the legislature. He mounted the podium and repeated, 88 times, "Should we or should we not pardon Ah-Bian?" Nativist social organizations staged their own coordinated antics. Pirate radio shock jocks launched an offensive. They demanded that DPP Chairman Chen Chu, DPP county chiefs, DPP city mayors, and DPP legislators speak up on behalf of Ah-Bian. DPP officials were swamped. The DPP faced an even greater dilemma. In the past TSU "spiritual leader" Lee Teng-hui harshly condemned Ah-Bian's corruption. But the TSU's three legislators adopted diametrically opposite positions from their spiritual mentor. They became the vanguard of Ah-Bian's defense. The big Green Camp party and the little Green Camp party clashed. The TSU set its sights on the Deep Green vote. DPP legislators felt compelled to express support for Ah-Bian.
Eventually calls to "Pardon Ah-Bian!" began to exert pressure on the DPP, Wu Shu-chen's ability to manipulate people is astonishing. During a radio interview, Wu was blunt. She let it be known that Ah-Bian took money from financial conglomerates. She even said he donated it to the DPP. The amount totaled 1.4 billion. She even named names, saying who took money. She held up a notebook, saying everyone's name was in the book. Her speech was virtually extortion, and struck terror in the hearts of DPP legislators. Ker Chien-ming was forced to come forward, apply media spin, and call a halt to the process.
Clearly this is not the ideal time to demand a pardon for Ah-Bian, mainly because of the legal process. A presidential pardon is not a straightforward judicial process.. It involves a modicum of political discretion. But a president pardon has strict preconditions. The convict must first exhaust all other forms of legal recourse. Only then can he be pardoned or exonerated. As DPP legislative caucus leader Ker Chien-ming said, "It is illogical to demand a pardon for him now. Ah-Bian must plead guilty to the Second Financial Reform scandal first."
Ker Chien-ming failed to make clear why it is illogical to demand a pardon now. Put simply, in order to qualify for a pardon, Ah-Bian must first exhaust all other means of legal recourse. But would Ah-bian really be willing to plead guilty? Would he really be willing to explain how to intervened on behalf of financial conglomerates? Based on past Chen family conduct, he clearly has no such intention. Ah-Bian does not merely deny that he is guilty of corruption. He insists he is the victim of political and judicial persecution. Since he shows no remorse, is the president really authorized to pardon him?
The degree to which Ah-Bian and his supporters are willing to engage in deception, is difficult for most people to appreciate. Ah-Bian and his supporters compare him to Myanmar champion of human rights Aung San Suu Kyi, or the political prisoners of the Formosa Incident. Actually Chen Shui-bian's closest counterparts are two former South Korean presidents, Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo. They are the ones he most closely resembles. They are the ones he should seek to emulate. They pled guilty to their crimes and apologized to their compatriots. They returned the money they embezzled. That is why they were eventually pardoned.
Chen Shui-bian finds himself in a dilemma. The president has the authority to grant a pardon. But he has no right to interfere with the administration of justice. If Chen Shui-bian wants a pardon, he must abide by the judicial process. He must admit that he is not a political prisoner. He must confess to corruption in open court. Only then will it be possible expedite the legal process. Only then will it be possible to grant him a pardon, in accordance with the letter and spirit of the law.
Admit guilt. An admission of guilt is not merely in the political and moral interest of the nation. It is in the interest of Ah-Bian as a person. Only by admitting guilt can he meet the preconditions for a presidential pardon.