Critics who charge that the impartiality of the judicial system has regressed under the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) were presented with more ammunition on Wednesday when prosecutors announced the results of their probe into Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng’s (王金平) use of his special allowance fund.
Absolving Wang of any responsibility for handling his financial affairs, prosecutors said they were instead considering pressing forgery charges against three of his aides for using fraudulent receipts to claim reimbursements.
Looking at Wang’s probe, one cannot help but feel the outcome is remarkably similar to the verdict reached in Ma’s 2007 special allowance trial, when Ma was found not guilty while an unfortunate staffer was sent off to serve time in jail.
Since then, not a single one of dozens of prominent Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) members who have been investigated over their actions as government officials has been charged with illegal use of the allowance system. Any seasoned observer of Taiwan would not expect this to change anytime soon.
To understand where the claims of judicial bias are emanating from, contrast the fortunes of Wang with senior Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) members such as former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), former minister of foreign affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) and former premier Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃), who were all indicted after being held responsible for the alleged misuse of their special funds.
This is bizarre as well as ironic, since it was the KMT who created the special allowance system and milked this antiquated, shadowy remnant of the authoritarian era for decades until the spotlight was abruptly shone on its unaccountable nature in the wake of Ma’s indictment.
Yet we are expected to believe that while KMT politicians were unaware their underlings were apparently plundering the allowance system to enrich themselves, their DPP counterparts ran their sticky fingers over every single dollar and receipt, both legal and illegal, before depositing the ill-gotten gains in their own bank accounts and pockets.
While the DPP may have been tarnished with the brush of corruption following the trial of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), however flawed it may have been, the judiciary is really pushing the boundaries of belief if it expects people to swallow what would amount to a complete rewrite of Taiwan’s political history.
Ever since the accusations of judicial partiality first surfaced, Ma and his administration have repeatedly tried to defend themselves, reassuring domestic and international critics alike that there was no case to answer. Needless to say, those critics remain unconvinced.
Meanwhile, new State Prosecutor-General Huang Shih-ming (黃世銘) has also tried to allay such fears, repeating throughout his confirmation hearings and after assuming office last month that he would show no bias when dealing with cases involving politicians.
Yet, in the first notable politics-related judgment of Huang’s tenure, the very notion that there is a blue-green divide was reinforced.
Until the judiciary can convincingly explain the apparent double standard employed when dealing with the cases of figures on either side of the color divide, those doubts will remain.
Actions, in this case, speak louder than words.