Tue, Oct 03, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Lawmakers dispute reform authority

COMPETING PROPOSALS:Lawmakers said that the recommendations of the congress on judicial reform were non-binding, while the Judicial Yuan put forward its own ideas

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

Lawmakers yesterday traded barbs over whether the Presidential Office should answer to the Legislative Yuan on the issue of judicial reform, after Presidential Office Secretary-General Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) was absent from a legislative session.

Wu, Judicial Yuan Secretary-General Lu Tai-lang (呂太郎) and Minister of Justice Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) were invited by the legislature’s Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee to make a report to the National Congress on Judicial Reform, which concluded in August.

However, Wu abstained from the committee meeting and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers refused to register their attendance despite their presence to prevent the session from commencing due to a lack of quorum.

Wu and DPP lawmakers defended his absence, saying it was unconstitutional to request a Presidential Office official to answer for judicial reform issues, which fall outside the office’s jurisdiction, even though it helped lead the reform initiative and organize the congress.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Alicia Wang (王育敏), who chaired the session, criticized what she said was Wu’s contempt for the legislature and the DPP’s blindness in defending his absence.

The DPP caucus had four times requested a Presidential Office secretary-general to stand in legislative sessions over issues, including a fatal shooting in 2013 in which a Taiwanese fisherman was killed by Philippine officials and the meeting between former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in 2015, Wang said.

“There is no issue of unconstitutionality in the planned agenda of judicial reform today. The DPP should not overstate the issue just because you want to defend Wu,” Wang said.

As the Presidential Office had used the government’s budget to organize the congress’ meetings and public hearings, it should answer to the Legislative Yuan, KMT Legislator Lin Wei-chou (林為洲) said.

Lin also questioned the appointment criteria for congress members, which he said were never explained by the Presidential Office, Lin said.

Judicial reform is the shared duty of the Legislative Yuan, the Judicial Yuan and the Ministry of Justice, not of the Presidential Office, DPP Legislator Tsai Yi-yu (蔡易餘) said, adding that the congress’ conclusions were of an advisory nature and were not legally binding.

The KMT caucus raised a motion to condemn Wu for abstaining, but the DPP caucus voted it down.

Meanwhile, Lu said that the Judicial Yuan is planning its own proposals for judicial reform.

It is to propose blueprints for a lay judge system, which would ensure public participation in the judicial process, and a “judicial pyramid” system to improve the accuracy of first trials, which would reduce lawsuit abuse, Lu said.

It is to also propose publishing and uploading judicial documents, establishing specialized courts — such as juvenile courts — and diversifying the recruitment of judges, Lu said.

To improve fairness, efficiency and transparency, the ministry plans to designate a group of prosecutors to handle key cases collectively, instead of an individual prosecutor as per current practice, Chiu said.

It also plans to publish indictments immediately when a first verdict is handed down, and to limit the number of times a higher prosecutors’ office can return a case to a lower office for reconsideration to one, Chiu added.

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