Does the Legislature Still Have Any Self-Discipline?
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
November 5, 2013
Summary: Huang Shi-ming exposed legislators who peddled influence in criminal justice cases. He fought for an independent criminal justice system. He wanted to provide the legislature with a clean, corruption free environment. But lo and behold, the legislature spared no effort to protect its own. The Legislative Yuan has made clear it has no intention of allowing the criminal justice system to prosecute legislators who engage in influence peddling.
Full text below:
The political drama that began in September, has dragged on to November. Two phone calls touched off an influence peddling scandal and led to clashes over legislative self-discipline, information leaks, and wire tapping. Each of these is a story in itself. But the disproportionate manner in which these four cases have been dealt with, defies credulity. After two months of foot-dragging, the Legislative Yuan Disciplinary Committee has finally convened to discuss the influence peddling case. Everyone is waiting to see what it will do. They want to see how the ruling and and opposition party legislators stand on the influence peddling case. They want to see just how much discipline the "Legislative Yuan Disciplinary Committee" plans to mete out.
This case began when the Special Investigative Unit overheard Wang Jin-pyng and Ker Chien-ming talking on the phone. The two spoke of "persuading" prosecutors not to appeal criminal charges filed against Ker Chien-ming. As a result, Prosecutor General Huang Shi-ming referred the case to the President for Legislative Yuan disciplinary action. President Ma Ying-jeou dealt with the matter in his capacity as KMT Chairman. He referred the matter to the KMT Party Disciplinary Committee, which revoked Wang Jin-pyng's party membership. But Wang filed an injunction with the courts, protesting the revocation of his party membership. He was able to retain his party membership and status as a legislator without portfolio. The case suddenly morphed into one about information leaks and wiretapping. Ironically, prosecution of these charges was pursued far more swiftly and far more aggressively than influence peddling.
Prosecutor General Huang Shi-ming launched Special Investigation Unit investigations of legislators who peddle influence in criminal cases. Yet he has been indicted by the Taipei District Prosecutors' Office for "leaking information to the President." The President has been subpoenaed as a witness. In the blink of an eye, Huang Shi-ming went from Justice Bao Qin Tian to Public Enemy Number One. DPP legislators declared open season on him. KMT legislators refused to side with him. Both Blue and Green camp legislators could hardly wait for him to step down. They hoped to disband the Special Investigation Unit. As matters stand, even if the Special Investigation Unit is not disbanded, it has already been rendered a paraplegic. Every day it must deal with the legislature. How can it possibly find time to punish evildoers and corruption?
The Executive Yuan is equal in status with the Legislative Yuan and the Judicial Yuan. Yet Executive Yuan President Jiang Yi-hua has been subpoenaed as a witness by the Taipei District Prosecutor's Office and the Control Yuan. The Premier's policy address to the legislature has been delayed a month and a half. Huang had nothing to do with influence peddling, leaking information, or illegal wiretapping. Yet the opposition DPP is demanding his resignation. Meanwhile, the two individuals who engaged in influence peddling, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng and DPP Party Whip Ker Chien-ming, have so far gotten away scot free. The Control Yuan Evaluation Committee wants to investigate the influence peddling case, but the two men have refused to testify. The Control Yuan wants to investigate the charges of leaking secrets, but the two men have refused to appear before it as well. They say the Control Yuan has no jurisdiction over the Legislative Yuan.
This means only one thing. The legislature truly does wield power. Prosecutors want to interrogate witnesses. The President himself is obligated to testify. But legislators are not. The Control Yuan wants to investigate wrongdoing. The Premier cannot refuse. But legislators can. Is this an example of democratic checks and balances? No one outranks the Legislative Yuan. Therefore the Legislative Yuan must rely on self-discipline.
What can legislative self-discipline accomplish? Based on the past record, it is hard to be optimistic. The Legislative Yuan Disciplinary Committee sanctioned Luo Fu-chu, who provoked a physical altercation with female legislator Diane Lee. But other cases are conveniently swept under the rug. In recent years, no disciplinary actions have been taken at all. Legislators who use obscenties are given a free pass. Legislators who use brute force to occupy the podium are given a free pass. Legislators who attach locks to the Speaker of the Legislature's Office are given a free pass. Legislators who engage in influence peddling are offered "sympathy" and "understanding" that far exceed any indignation they might feel over information leaks and wire taps. Since the Legislative Yuan convened, it has refused to allow the Premier to deliver his address. The Judiciary Committee has held several meetings about wire taps and information leaks. Huang Shi-ming cannot cope. At least twice a week he must confront legislators who demand that he step down. All he can do is brace himself, and remember that his daughter testified to his fairmindedness. Few people have offered him any sympathy.
Consider the matter from a rule of law perspective. When Huang Shi-ming conducted his investigation he did in fact commit several procedural errors. They pertain to leaking information and abuse of wire tapping authority. He may find it difficult to avoid criminal and administrative penalties. These are consequences of his own negligence. No one can absolve him of responsibility for them. But the public has to wonder. Assume Huang Shi-ming leaked information and engaged in illegal wiretaps. Does that mean a nation under the rule of law can permit legislators to engage in influence peddling? Can voters cavalierly permit legislators to engage in illegal conduct? Can society tolerate a legislature utterly lacking in self-discipline?
One thing is puzzling. The prosecutorial system has its own turf wars. Prosecutors have remained indifferent to the merits and demerits of the influence peddling case. This has provoked suspicions of infighting among prosecutors. The details of the influence peddling case have yet to emerge. Yet the Taipei District Prosecutor's Office has already charged Huang Shi-ming with leaking information. The Taipei District Prosecutor's Office and the Special Investigative Unit usually notify concerned agencies, including the Legislative Yuan, before they conduct searches. Were they all guilty of "leaking information?" If even officials inside the criminal justice system refuse to maintain their independence and impartiality, how can the public trust them to stand by the underdog when confronted by powerful special interests?
Huang Shi-ming exposed legislators who peddled influence in criminal justice cases. He fought for an independent criminal justice system. He wanted to provide the legislature with a clean, corruption free environment. But lo and behold, the legislature spared no effort to protect its own. The Legislative Yuan Disciplinary Committee dragged its feet for two months before it finally convened. It turned a deaf ear to calls to give the "Legislative Practices Act" teeth. It made clear that the Legislative Yuan has no intention of allowing the criminal justice system to prosecute legislators who engage in influence peddling. Is this what passes for judicial independence and impartiality? How much is the Legislative Yuan Disciplinary Committee worth? Let us see how they deal with the Wang Ker influence peddling case, and we will know soon enough.
中國時報 本報訊 2013年11月05日 04:10