After expressing “surprise” at the impeachment of prosecutor-general Chen Tsung-ming (陳聰明), President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) later yesterday approved Chen's resignation, saying he respected the authority of the Control Yuan.
Chen tendered his resignation on Tuesday after being impeached by the Control Yuan.
The government watchdog voted 8-3 to impeach Chen, citing concerns over his “integrity” and “sincerity” in leading the Special Investigation Panel's (SIP) investigation into alleged corruption involving former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
Tuesday's vote was the second attempt by the Control Yuan after a motion by Control Yuan members Chien Lin Whei-jun (錢林慧君) and Lee Ful-dien (李復甸) on Jan. 5 to impeach Chen Tsung-ming failed.
In an interview with the China Television Co yesterday morning, Ma said he would discuss Chen's successor with Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) and Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng (王清峰).
Since the legislature is in recess, Ma said he would ask a senior prosecutor at the Supreme Prosecutors' Office to serve as an interim prosecutor-general before the legislature approves his nominee.
Ma was tight-lipped about who would be Chen's successor, but said the person must be capable and possess integrity to be able to lead the nation's prosecutors.
Asked whether the change would affect the SIP's investigation into Chen Shui-bian, Ma said he believed the prosecutors handling the cases would do a good job.
The president also dismissed as “ridiculous” speculation that the impeachment of Chen Tsung-ming was aimed at securing votes for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which suffered a resounding defeat in the legislative by-elections early this month.
Ma said he knew nothing about the impeachment beforehand and was also not aware of the Control Yuan's first attempt to impeach Chen Tsung-ming until it failed.
At a separate setting yesterday, Wu also dismissed the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) allegation that Ma was behind Chen Tsung-ming's impeachment.
“[The DPP] likes to make accusations. President Ma has always respected judicial independence. The Control Yuan members approved the impeachment and Chen Tsung-ming then offered to resign. What do all these have to do with President Ma?” Wu said.
It was “ridiculous” for the DPP “to be shooting arrows at Ma,” Wu said.
The impeachment also triggered speculation that all 14 members of the SIP had tendered their resignation to show their support for Chen Tsung-ming.
The SIP was established as a special team of prosecutors to probe major cases such as alleged corruption and money laundering by the former president. The panel directly reports to the prosecutor-general.
SIP spokesperson Chen Yun-nan (陳雲南) yesterday said the prosecutors had not resigned but only requested to return to their original posts before they joined the panel.
Chen Yun-nan declined to comment on whether all or only some of the 14 members plan to leave the panel, saying only that these are internal affairs. He also declined to comment on whether he himself plans to leave the SIP.
Chen Yun-nan assured the public that even if the current members were to leave, the SIP would continue its investigations and that progress of the cases assigned to the panel would not suffer as a result of personnel changes.
Meanwhile, responding to questions about prosecutors considering leaving the SIP, the justice minister said there was no need to leave just because Chen Tsung-ming had left.
“The prosecutorial system is independent. We are ruled by law, not by people,” Wang said.
She said although she respected each prosecutor's personal decision, she believed “it is a good thing to be able to serve our country.”
Deputy Minister of Justice Huang Shih-ming (黃世銘) yesterday said that based on the Organic Act of Court Organization (法院組織法), after the president approves Chen Tsung-ming's resignation, the president will nominate a new candidate for the prosecutor-general post for the legislature's endorsement.
After the new chief prosecutor assumes his post, he will have the power to approve or deny the SIP prosecutors' requests to leave the panel and return to their old posts. The new prosecutor-general will also have the power to form his own team of prosecutors to join the SIP and continue to probe cases assigned to the panel.
Chen Tsung-ming took office in January 2007 after his appointment was endorsed by the legislature. The term of a state prosecutor-general is four years.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHIH HSIU-CHUAN
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