President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday defended his decision not to intervene in a ruling by judicial authorities to postpone the incarceration of former first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) after a prison hospital refused to admit her because of poor health.
Ma said on his Facebook page yesterday morning that many people said he was “incompetent” when the Taipei District Court in June last year found former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) not guilty in an embezzlement case.
Others accused him of interfering in Chen’s prosecution when the Supreme Court upheld two bribery convictions in November and sentenced both Chen and Wu to 11 years and eight years in prison for each charge.
The Taiwan High Court in December ruled that the couple should each serve 17-and-a-half years. Chen, who had been held at a detention center since late 2008, was transferred to Taipei Prison in Taoyuan County on Dec. 2 to begin serving his sentence.
Wu was taken home from the Pei Teh Hospital on Friday after Taichung Prison declined to accept her as an inmate because of poor health.
The Kaohsiung Prosecutors’ Office also ruled that Wu could not change her residence in Greater Kaohsiung without permission and was prohibited from leaving the country. The office would send staff to visit Wu regularly to see if her health had improved enough to enable her to begin her sentence.
Ma said the decision by Pei Teh Hospital was based on a professional recommendation made by a medical team. He would have overstepped his authority as president had he intervened, he said.
“That is a belief I have always held since I entered politics,” he said. “It is also a solemn covenant I make to the democratic Constitution.”
“Our Constitution clearly stipulates the separation of powers and it is an important constitutional principle that every president must not meddle in the judiciary,” he said.
The Ministry of Justice on Saturday rebutted speculation that the decision not to admit Wu was based on an under-the-table deal with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
“Such speculation is unfounded and not true,” Vice Minister of Justice Chen Shou-huang (陳守煌) told a press conference.
“The ministry did not play any role in deciding whether or when Wu should serve her prison sentence,” Chen Shou-huang said, adding that the ministry has consistently upheld a “no involvement, no interference and no guidance” policy on all such cases.
The remarks came amid speculation that the ministry helped the DPP strike a deal with China Medical University to have its medical team conclude that Wu was not healthy enough to be kept behind bars.
According to the theory circulated by some media outlets and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers, the ministry first arranged for Cheng Jung-hao (鄭榮豪), formerly the head of Hsinchu Prison, to be transferred to the post of Taichung Prison early this year.
After taking over his new post, the rumors said, Cheng reportedly helped arrange for the university to organize a medical team to assess Wu’s fitness to serve her sentence.
Meanwhile, a survey by the -Chinese-language United Daily News yesterday showed that nearly half of those polled accepted the decision not to accept Wu as an inmate.
The poll, conducted late on -Saturday, showed 48 percent of -respondents said they “accepted” the rationale behind the verdict compared with 26 percent who disagreed.