Whenever there is mention of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), his successor, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), comes on all self-righteous, teeth gnashing. For the past four years, he has been acting rather sanctimoniously as the self-appointed flag-bearer in the fight against corruption.
The problem is, following a series of exposes of corruption involving people within his circle, this act has started to take on the air of parody. The Ma circus increasingly looks to be guilty of the very corruption it claims to be fighting.
The first person to apparently be caught with his hands in the cookie jar was former Cabinet secretary-general Lin Yi-shih (林益世). It defies belief that anyone, be they public official or politician, goes from being completely clean to demanding huge backhanders overnight. It is inconceivable that the first time Lin ever took a bribe in his life, he went for the jugular and asked for more than NT$60 million (US$2.02 million). Nobody is going to believe that, especially since that would mean the first time he took a bribe, he was so distinctly aware of the value of what he was offering. Otherwise, why would he not come out with a nice round figure like NT$50 million, NT$60 million or NT$70 million? He asked for exactly NT$63 million. Where did he pluck such a precise figure from?
If that were not unbelievable enough, several months into the investigation, the focus is still almost entirely on Lin himself. There seems to be some kind of impenetrable barrier surrounding the people around him, making it seem as if Lin were the only one involved in such a major corruption scandal. It is as if the investigators saw only the event that started it all off, but were blind to any other leads. It is really quite impressive that Lin was single-handedly able to divert attention from the others.
The second scandal raining on Ma’s parody is one involving a group of senior law enforcement officials, including former Criminal Investigation Bureau chief secretary Hsu Jui-shan (許瑞山). The severity of the scandal was exacerbated by the nature of the positions held by those involved: As senior police officers, they would have known exactly what they were doing. Here we had parts of legitimate society protecting and supporting gangsters. Because these officials have become distinguishable from criminals only by virtue of the badge they wear, a line has been crossed and the distinction between right and wrong, good and evil has been blurred. People are justified in wondering who is worse: these trusted members of legitimate society or the gangsters? It has become difficult to distinguish between the two.
It brings to mind the situation some years ago when former independent legislator Lo Fu-chu (羅福助), known for his involvement in the criminal underworld, stood up in the Legislative Yuan and, addressing certain other individuals in the chamber, said: “My night is brighter than the day [of those who call me a gangster].”
It is a sentiment that resounds even today.
Former National Fire Agency director-general Huang Chi-min (黃季敏) was praised for his efforts during the Typhoon Morakot disaster response in 2009 by then-premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), and visited by Ma when he collapsed after leading the relief response without a break.
Three years later, it was discovered that Huang and his wife had somehow been able to remit ￥200 million (US$2.56 million) to Japan to buy property over there, in addition to charging more than NT$10 million on their credit cards, sending their offspring to the US to study and still having plenty left to buy 16.5kg of gold bars without blinking, all on their civil servant’s salaries.