Sun, Nov 12, 2006 - Page 1 News List

DPP annulment stance unclear

VAGUE Ker Chien-ming said questioning of the president violated the Constitution, but Frank Hsieh said Chen Shui-bian may have problems trying to assert his immunity

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Although legal experts have raised doubts about the constitutionality of Prosecutor Eric Chen's (陳瑞仁) questioning of the president over the "state affairs fund," it remains unclear whether the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) will request that the Council of Grand Justices annul the prosecutor's investigation.

DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) has suggested that the party file for a constitutional interpretation on Article 52 of the Constitution, according to which the president enjoys immunity from prosecution unless charged with having committed an act of rebellion or treason.

As the constitutional immunity exempts the president from prosecution, Eric Chen's questioning of the president and seizing of related documents was a violation of the Constitution, Ker said.

Ker said he knew the pan-blue camp would question the DPP's motive in demanding such an interpretation, but he believed "this is a matter of right and wrong."

He said he would discuss the matter further with party headquarters and it is possible that the DPP caucus will initiate the petition.

Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) yesterday said discussion of the matter was important not because of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) but for the nation's "long-term stability and rule of law."

"We're not trying to give the president privileges but we also don't want to damage our constitutional system," Lu said when asked by the press to comment. She did not elaborate.

DPP Taipei mayoral candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), in a statement on his campaign blog, said he agreed with legal experts' arguments questioning the validity of Eric Chen's investigation.

But, Hsieh said, President Chen has put himself in a dilemma because he set a precedent of giving up his immunity when testifying as a witness in an election bribery case in Hualien two years ago.

If the president tries to assert his immunity now, he may draw criticism, Hsieh said.

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) told the press yesterday that if the DPP asks for a constitutional interpretation the public may believe it was trying to delay the state affairs fund investigation.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus whip Tsai Chin-lung (蔡錦隆) yesterday said the KMT respects the DPP's right to submit such a petition.

However, he added that he did not think the prosecutor's investigation was unconstitutional because the president gave up his immunity during the investigation and Chen was not indicted.

Should the DPP file for a constitutional interpretation, Tsai said he hoped the Grand Justices would maintain judicial independence.

In addition to whether or not the DPP should seek constitutional interpretation for the matter, which organization could do so remains obscure as well.

While Ker believed the DPP caucus should initiate the act, Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Yin Ling-ying (尹伶瑛) on Friday urged the Executive Yuan to file the petition.

However, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) had said that the Cabinet has no intention of doing so for the time being because further deliberation on the matter was still needed.

Former senior adviser to the president Wu Li-pei (吳澧培), when asked to comment by the press yesterday, said he personally thought the president should not have answered the prosecutors' questions in the first place because he was not obligated to do so.

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