DPP Rejects President Ma Debriefing
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 15, 2015
Executive Summary: Recently, cross-Strait peace and legislative reform have become hot button political issues. The Ma Xi summit shone a light on legislative chaos. It showed that without legislative reform, cross-Strait peace will be difficult to realize. Who knew that political reform on Taiwan would have such a close relationship with peaceful cross-Strait relations? This is yet another windfall from the Ma Xi summit.
Full Text Below:
Late on the night of November 3, surprising news of the Ma Xi summit surfaced. A Liberty Times newsflash described the meeting as "sneaky”. The paper even twisted the facts, and said that Ma Ying-jeou "bumped into" Mainland President Xi Jinping while the latter was on a state visit to Singapore. The Liberty Times had access to news sources, yet it deliberately departed from the truth. It depicted the Ma Xi summit as a "black box operation that violated the principle of openness and transparency". It alleged that the summit "left Taiwan's citizens and legislature completely out the loop, denied them the right of approval, departed from democratic norms, and was therefore legally questionable". Thus armed, green camp legislators immediately used this to sling mud at the Ma Xi summit.
The Liberty Times opposes anything to do with the Mainland. But its own news scoop reveals that its allegation that the Ma Xi summit was a black box operation was a lie. Newspapers usually obtain such information from the legislature. Our understanding is that during November 3, several DPP legislators already knew about the Ma Xi summit. Speaker Wang Jin-pyng said he learned of the summit belatedly, at 10:30 PM, when he watched the news. But subsequent news reports reveal that President Ma and the Secretary-General of the Presidential Office had already briefed Speaker Wang on the summit that very afternoon. The charge that the legislature was kept completely out the loop was a lie.
The allegation that the Ma Xi summit "required prior consent from the legislature" is based primarily on Article 63 of the Republic of China Constitution and on Constitutional Court Interpretation 520. Article 62 states: "The Legislative Yuan must approve laws, budgets, declarations of martial law, amnesties, declarations of war, the concluding of peace treaties, and other important matters of national rights" The DPP argues that the Ma Xi summit was an "important matter" that required advance Legislative Yuan approval. Constitutional scholars however note that these constitutional provisions and judicial interpretations apply only to specific policies or changes to existing policies or laws. Only then does the term "important matter" apply.
Furthermore, Constitutional Court Interpretation 520 originated with the Chen Shui-bian government's halting of construction on the Number Four Nuclear Power Plant. This was a major policy already approved by and budgeted for by the Executive Yuan. President Chen's unilateral halting of construction on the plant triggered intense controversy. The Constitutional Court explained, "Changes in policy objectives or major policy that involve statutory budgets or discontinued implementation, require that the Executive Yuan respond to the Legislative Yuan on important matters of national policy". It said "The Executive Yuan or heads of relevant ministries must report to the Legislative Yuan in due course and respond to questions". The Service Trade Agreement, which led to the Sunflower Student Movement, required legislative review. Only then would legislative participation apply.
Knowing the intent of the law, would the Ma Xi summit fall under the definition of "important matters"? In fact, the MAC made clear before the Ma Xi summit that the government would uphold the "four noes and one constant". It explicitly declared that the Ma Xi summit would not involve political negotiations, the issuance of any agreements or joint statements, or the making of any private commitments. The Ma Xi summit's most important goal would be the "consolidation of cross-Strait peace and the maintenance of the status quo". Our side would insist on "dignity and equality" in all arrangements, and there would be no agreements or commitments. Since the goal was the "consolidation of cross-strait peace and the maintenance of the status quo", the Ma Xi summit was not a matter that required a Constitutional Court interpretation. In fact, legal scholars have noted that since "political and diplomatic affairs change constantly, they cannot possibly be subject to legal micro-management".
This legal interpretation refutes the claim that prior legislative approval was required. The Ma Xi summit did not evade legislative oversight. In fact, when the Ma Xi summit was officially announced, the presidential office explicitly declared that President Ma would "respect the legislature" and “Taiwan's democratic values". It declared that Ma would appear before the legislature in the most "open and transparent" manner, and report on the Ma Xi summit in detail, issue by issue. In addition, press conferences were convened before and after the summit. The summit was explained to foreign diplomats stationed in Taipei. All these were evidence of Ma Xi summit openness and transparency.
The DPP legislative caucus boasted that it would provide legislative oversight against black box operations. Yet it obdurately refused to attend briefings held before the Ma Xi summit, and President Ma's briefing to the Legislative Yuan following the summit. The DPP trumpets legislative oversight, openness, and transparency. But when the president reported to the legislature on his own initiative, the DPP arbitrarily established political preconditions. Ker Chien-min even reverted to the language of the feudal era, saying that "Unless Ma is willing to confess his sins", the DPP caucus would boycott the Ma situation report. Meanwhile, Taiwan Solidarity Union legislator Chou Ni-an and Lai Cheng-chang forcibly occupied the podium in the legislature to protest what they termed "Ma Xi summit undermining and trampling of the legislature".
This reveals the confused values, confused utterances, and confused conduct of green camp legislators. The legislature refused to invite the President to report on the state of the nation. Did it not forfeit the opportunity to oversee the president? Did it not forfeit its right to speak? The DPP has long stressed that cross-Strait affairs must be open and transparent, and subject to legislative oversight. So why did green camp legislators refuse to add "Cross-Strait Agreement Oversight Regulations" to the legislative agenda?
Recently, cross-Strait peace and legislative reform have become hot button political issues. The Ma Xi summit shone a light on legislative chaos. It showed that without legislative reform, cross-Strait peace will be difficult to realize. Who knew that political reform on Taiwan would have such a close relationship with peaceful cross-Strait relations? This is yet another windfall from the Ma Xi summit.