The impeachment of State Public Prosecutor-General Chen Tsung-ming (陳聰明), which triggered a mass resignation of 14 of his prosecutorial appointees, was first and foremost a political act.
Chen resigned shortly after the Control Yuan’s decision was handed down on Tuesday. Nominated by former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), Chen Tsung-ming is the first top prosecutor to suffer this fate.
From the outset, Chen Tsung-ming admittedly set an inappropriate example by attending gatherings with then-minister of justice Morley Shih (施茂林) that were organized by the scandal-bound former president’s friend, Huang Fang-yen (黃芳彥), at Huang’s residence almost three years ago.
Because of his conflict of interest as top prosecutor in charge of the Special Investigation Panel’s investigation into Chen Shui-bian, as well as his political affiliations with the former president, Chen Tsung-ming should have avoided such gatherings given that his colleagues suspected Huang may have played a key role in the events under review.
During legislative question-and-answer sessions, Chen Tsung-ming also fudged about his attendance at other contentious gatherings with property tycoons and the press, thus arousing suspicions among several Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators that case details had been leaked, strings pulled or something otherwise improper took place.
But did anything improper take place?
If it did, Chen Tsung-ming should have been investigated and prosecuted instead of just being allowed to resign.
It was hoped that the Control Yuan could clarify these issues — and offer evidence of criminal activity.
Sadly, its report leaves the public none the wiser. It appears that Chen Tsung-ming has been impeached not for breaking the law, but for sloppy handling of his extensive connections, and possibly just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“As the Control Yuan is neither a criminal investigation institution, nor does it have any judicial enforcement powers,” it can only point out the “facts” and refer them to prosecutors, said Control Yuan member Lee Ful-dien (李復甸), who initiated the motion.
As with the previous failed attempt, however, this week’s vote of 8-3 to impeach was based on little more than speculation.
A sample of Lee’s deductive skills: “What did they talk about at Huang’s house? We suspect there were criminal acts at play in the meeting.”
And this: “There must be something behind the meeting that prompted Chen Tsung-ming to lie about the fact he dined with ... a construction magnate.”
This is simply extraordinary reasoning for a body charged with investigating the behavior — and passing judgment on the reputation — of top civil servants.
Yet again, the incompetence of political appointees has impugned the reputation of the wider judicial system, entrenching the public’s perception that it is entirely possible for the innocent to be wronged, and vice versa, at the behest of pressure from legislators.
Chen Tsung-ming was no shining example of how a law enforcement officer should behave, but his impeachment was more about the interests of forces outside the Control Yuan, and not the actionable merits of the case.
The final irony is that his loyal team of investigators succeeded in jailing the person who employed him. That obviously wasn’t enough for the powers that be.
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