The Presidential Office yesterday defended President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) determination to fight corruption, saying the legislature’s recent passage of an anti-corruption bill was not a watered-down version of a Ma campaign promise.
Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) made the remarks in response to criticism of the revisions to the Act for the Punishment of Corruption (貪污治罪條例), which cleared the legislature on Friday.
The amendment will bring criminal charges against civil servants who fail to account for the origins of abnormal increases in their assets.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus’ proposed amendment states that prosecutors can demand that a defendant found guilty of corruption declare the origins of his or her assets if an increase in the total assets of the defendant, his or her spouse and their minor children in the three years following the crime exceeds the total declared in their latest year of declaration.
If a defendant refuses to offer an explanation or if the explanation proves false, he or she will face a prison sentence of up to three years, or a fine of no more than the value of the assets of undeclared origin, or both, the amendment states.
Failure to explain the origins of assets would lead to a presumption of corruption, under which property could be seized or confiscated and officials could be asked to pay compensation.
The version was an alteration to the initial version proposed by the Executive Yuan, the scope of which is restricted to civil servants under investigation for corruption.
A stricter Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) version, which was voted down, would have applied retroactively to all civil servants who are required to declare assets under the Public Functionary Disclosure Act and not just defendants found guilty of corruption.
Wang yesterday said that during Ma’s stint as minister of justice, Ma was against enacting an unconditional clause to compel all civil servants to account for the origins of their assets because it ran counter to the principle of presumption of innocence. However, if the individual is indicted for graft and found to have assets of unknown origin, that person should be required by law to offer a clear account of the suspicious acquisition, Wang said.
Ma has not changed his position on the issue since his electoral campaign, Wang said, adding that the legislature’s passage of the amendment to the Act was in line with Ma’s proposition.
Meanwhile, at a different setting in Kaohsiung yesterday, Ma said his economic policy was not aimed at further opening up to China but at making Taiwan a more normal country.
While Ma’s China-friendly policies have received much criticism recently, Ma yesterday said he was friendly only to Taiwan.
Ma criticized the former DPP administration for restricting the development of Taiwan for eight years with conservative policies. Ma said Taiwan deserved to have a “more reasonable policy that tallied with the development of Taiwan.”
His goal is to make Taiwan a global innovation center, trade hub in the Asia-Pacific region and operation headquarters of Taiwanese businesspeople, he said.
Although there might be risks involved, his administration would make sure to maximize opportunities and minimize risks, Ma said.