Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-10-01 07:09 PM
The investigation follows repeatedly changing comments by Huang about how many times he had told Ma about the Supreme Prosecutors Office Special Investigation Division (SID)’s eavesdropping on Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng and top opposition lawmaker Ker Chien-ming.
Huang has been accused of leaking confidential information about the influence-peddling investigation into Wang and Ker to the president, provoking charges of political interference with the judiciary and of widespread wiretapping of lawmakers. The opposition has compared the case to the Watergate scandal in the United States.
The president was reportedly willing to visit the Taipei Prosecutors Office within the next two weeks to face questioning. If he did, this would be the second time in Taiwan history that an incumbent president was questioned by prosecutors, as former President Chen Shui-bian did so in a political case in Hualien in 2004.
The Presidential Office said Tuesday it respected any request from the prosecutors, though it did not provide further details.
Huang originally said that he visited Ma’s official residence on August 31 to tell him about the influence-peddling suspicions against Wang and Ker. Last week he added that the following day, the president asked him to provide more details. This second meeting has provoked accusations that the top prosecutor might have illegally revealed confidential information about the case to the president.
On Monday, Huang suddenly revealed that Ma also phoned him on September 6 to ask about the case. September 6 was the day the SID held a news conference to make its accusations against Wang and Ker public. The Presidential Office also acknowledged several calls that day after the news conference, reports said. Ma reportedly wanted Huang to keep the public informed about the allegations, the Presidential Office said. It denied that the president took charge of the case and ordered Huang how to move forward.
There were also suggestions that Ma and Huang might not have been alone during their meetings, with prosecutors likely to investigate whether other political or government figures were present or not.
The Taipei Prosecutors Office said Tuesday it was unwilling to provide further details about the case due to its confidentiality.
The Ministry of Justice was forming an investigation committee of its own to look into the actions of Huang and the SID. Lawmakers have called for Huang’s immediate resignation and the eventual abolition of the SID. New Justice Minister Luo Ying-shay said the Legislative Yuan did not have the right to ask the SID to stop all its work immediately and turn its files over to local prosecutors.
Opposition Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Su Tseng-chang said Tuesday that since Ma wanted to distance himself from Huang, the latter was likely to come up with even more revelations. “The truth is buried under an iceberg,” Su said, describing the current scandal as 100 times more serious than Watergate.
President Ma and Premier Jiang Yi-huah should not wait until the whole iceberg surfaced but resign immediately, the opposition leader said.
The SID and the opposition gave conflicting versions of the wiretapping. The prosecutors claimed they applied for four months of wiretaps but gave up soon after they found out the number belonged to the Legislative Yuan and their equipment failed to record any conversations. Critics said this was impossible, and the SID continued to record outgoing phone calls from at least 82 lawmakers and their offices for the full four months.
After the SID announced its allegations of influence peddling, the ruling Kuomintang stripped Wang of his party membership, a move that could provoke his removal from the Legislative Yuan. However, the speaker has since won two court cases confirming his continued membership of the KMT. His latest victory came Monday, when the Taiwan High Court rejected a KMT appeal against the lower court verdict.
The party can still file a new appeal, but even within the KMT, voices have risen to call for a truce and to drop the judicial campaign against Wang.