President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has ignited a constitutional crisis with his involvement in a political vendetta against Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) that is being disguised as an influence peddling probe, and Ma owes Taiwanese an explanation, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said yesterday.
The controversy began when the Special Investigation Division (SID) launched a probe into alleged influence peddling by Wang and two other judicial officials, former minister of justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫) and Taiwan High Prosecutors’ Office Head Prosecutor Chen Shou-huang (陳守煌), in a lawsuit involving DPP Legislator Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘).
The SID’s lack of due process in information-gathering and the administrative interference of the judicial and legislative branches throughout the investigation is highly alarming, DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said after a DPP caucus meeting yesterday.
“It seems like we are back in the White Terror era, during which the government regularly wiretapped opposition politicians... This is worse than the Watergate scandal and is unacceptable,” Su said.
The chairman added that the SID had violated confidentiality regulations by reporting the case to Ma on Aug. 30, five days before it was publicly announced at a press conference on Friday, and demanded the president disclose whatever orders he gave during the meeting.
Ma has said that Wang abusing his position was “the most shameful day in the development of Taiwan’s democracy,” but what was really shameful was how the SID illegally gathered information and how the president used the division to politically persecute Wang, the DPP said.
With regards to the allegations that Ker asked Tseng, Chen and Wang to lobby a prosecutor to refrain from appealing his acquittal in a breach of trust case, Su said the claims were unfounded because Ker had been ruled innocent, so preventing an appeal was unnecessary.
In his first public appearance after the SID’s Friday announcement, Ker yesterday told a press conference he would tackle the claims head-on because they had been a political witch hunt from the beginning.
Ker denied that he asked Wang to lobby for him, but said he was sorry the legislative speaker was involved in the scandal.
DPP Legislator Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡) said that ironically, a group of Chinse Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers in 2007 did exactly what Wang has been accused of doing, when they lobbied for Ma after he was charged with embezzling his special allowance as Taipei mayor.
Wu said that then-KMT caucus whip Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權) visited then-prosecutor-general Chen Tsung-ming (陳聰明) with a group of KMT lawmakers on Aug. 16, 2007 — one day after Ma was found not guilty — and asked Chen to urge prosecutor Hou Kuan-jen (侯寬仁) not to appeal the case.
“Judging by Ma’s standards, if that was not influence peddling, then what is?” Wu said.
The DPP has agreed to adopt a “wait-and-see” approach to the case, with caucus director-general Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) saying that the party’s next move would depend on Ma and Wang’s reactions, amid rumors that the latter may be stripped of his KMT membership and position after he returns from Malaysia today.
Ex-DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said that a president making such accusations for political persecution was a “national tragedy.”
“The president has resorted to extreme measures, using illegally-obtained and unverified evidence to carry out political persecutions and divide the opposition so he can reap political gains,” she said. “A leader like this is no longer fit to govern.”