Prosecutor-General Huang Shih-ming (黃世銘) yesterday apologized for what he said was the Special Investigation Division (SID) of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office’s negligence in mistakenly wiretapping the legislature’s switchboard for a month.
Huang made the remarks at a meeting of the legislature’s Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee, which referred a draft amendment aimed at abolishing the SID to cross-party negotiations
The committee had invited Huang and Minister of Justice Lo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) to answer questions about the wiretapping controversy at a meeting called to review the draft amendment seeking to remove Article 63-1 from the Organic Act of Court Organization (法院組織法).
The article provides the legal foundation for the SID’s establishment and investigative powers.
While fielding questions from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Liao Cheng-ching (廖正井) — who accused the SID of being sloppy in its preparatory work, failing to follow up on investigations and being indiscreet when commenting on cases — Huang admitted there had been “oversights” and said he had apologized shortly after discovering the mistakes.
Several Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers also grilled Huang on his interactions with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) regarding the SID’s probe into alleged improper lobbying by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).
DDP Legislator Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡) asked Huang whether it was the revelation on Sept. 28 that the division had wiretapped the legislature’s switchboard that made the president stop calling him.
“Every time there was a news report casting doubts on the legitimacy of the SID’s operations, Ma would call me and ask me to clarify the matters... I don’t know why he suddenly stopped calling me,” the prosecutor-general said.
Huang had said on Sept. 30 that Ma had called him several times since Sept. 6, the day when the SID presented the transcript of a wiretapped telephone conversation between Wang and DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) at a press conference to back its accusations that Wang had improperly lobbied for Ker in a legal matter.
Huang has also said that he met with Ma twice before the Sept. 6 press conference to discuss the investigation, on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1.
At the meeting, Ker asked Lo whether the task force the ministry set up to look into the wiretapping had reached a conclusion that the SID’s surveillance of the switchboard was the result of an “unintentional administrative negligence,” as some media outlets have reported.
“I respect the task force’s authority to look into the matter ... and I don’t know about the details of its investigation,” Lo said, denying that the investigation has concluded.
Deputy Minister of Justice Chen Ming-tang (陳明堂) said that the task force’s report is due to be published no later than Thursday.
Meanwhile, members of several civic groups yesterday backed the proposal calling for the abolishment of the SID.
One of the members, Life Conservationist Association executive director Ho Tsung-hsun (何宗勳), said that more than 40 groups plan to launch a signature drive in the legislature next week, urging lawmakers across party lines to sign the motion to disband the division.
Taiwan Democracy Watch convener Hsu Wei-chun (徐偉群) said the existence of a unit like the SID was unnecessary, adding that many democratic countries instead assign senior prosecutors to district prosecutors’ offices to help handle serious or complicated cases.