Unconvinced by the Ministry of Justice’s account of a case in which members of the legislature were wiretapped, a number of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers yesterday renewed calls for Prosecutor-General Huang Shih-ming (黃世銘) to step down to take responsibility for the scandal.
The ministry on Friday said one of the legislature’s switchboard lines being put under surveillance by the Special Investigation Division (SID) of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office was an inadvertent error and not a deliberate attempt to tap the legislature, as its 11-member investigative panel presented its report on the case at a press conference.
A number of KMT lawmakers were suspicious of the ministry’s findings.
“I would not say it is a coincidence that the panel reached a conclusion similar to what Minister of Justice Lo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) said about the case before the probe was started,” KMT Legislator Liao Kuo-tung (廖國棟) said.
Liao was referring to comments Lo made to reporters on Sept. 28, the day the wiretapping scandal came to light, that “Huang had no subjective intent [to place the legislature’s switchboard under surveillance.]”
Rather, Liao said the report was, “to some extent, a cover-up attempt” to avoid blaming Huang for irregularities in leading the SID to wiretap the whole legislature, and urged Huang to take responsibility for illegal wiretapping by resigning.
According to the report, there had been 13 cases of three other telephone numbers, also used by the legislature as its switchboard lines, being tapped during 2007 and 2009, when prosecutors investigated into various suspected cases related to vote-buying and corruption.
The ministry claimed the numbers were all mistaken for personal cellphones and that it was not able to pick up any information from the normal wiretapping practices because they were cost-saving telephone systems that require different wiretapping techniques to log conversations.
“Is the ministry treating us like three-year-old children who are easily fooled? Tapping the legislature must not to be allowed. Huang made an inexcusable mistake and must resign,” KMT Legislator Chen Ken-te (陳根德) said.
Just because Article 66 of the Court Organic Act (法院組織法) ensures that a prosecutor-general serves a four-year term does not mean the top prosecutor is not liable for any irregularity committed during the tenure, Chen said.
Chen called on President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) to demand a resignation from Huang, as they did to former minister of justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫) for his alleged involvement in an undue influence case involving Democratic Progressive Party caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) from which the wiretapping storm stemmed.
“Was Tseng’s mistake more serious than Huang’s?” Chen said.
Huang’s misconduct — the misuse of information obtained by tapping Ker’s telephone in an unrelated case to charge Ker over the undue influence case, the publication of transcripts of wiretapped calls and the leaking of information to Ma — were all serious irregularities in violation of the Communication Security and Surveillance Act (通訊保障及監察法), KMT Legislator Lu Hsueh-chang (呂學樟) said.
“Huang should have tendered his resignation for his involvement in the irregularities, let alone the fact that the SID monitored lawmakers’ conversations by tapping the legislature’s switchboard operator,” Lu said.
If Huang refuses to resign, he should at least be suspended before all allegations leveled against him, which are being investigated by various agencies, are clarified, KMT Legislator Wang Hui-mei (王惠美) said.
“People accord nobility to his position, but the controversies over Huang’s handling of the issues has put that value in doubt,” Wang said.