Ma Wins Key Ruling
Indicted KMT Presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou took an important step toward squirming out of a conviction yesterday:
The Taipei District Court ruled yesterday that a Ministry of Justice opinion which could prove favorable to former Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was admissable as evidence in his trial.
At a Cabinet meeting last November, Justice Minister Morley Shih said that special allowance funds should be seen as a "substantive subsidy," an opinion similar to that being argued by Ma's defense team.
The court did not resolve, however, whether the special allowance funds - allocated for the discretionary use of administrative chiefs - should be treated as public funds or personal benefits. Ma's case could turn on which definition the court accepts.
While the latest hearing in Ma's case was being held, the nation's top prosecutors said it was improper for the prosecution to provide a unified definition on the use and character of special allowance funds.
This ruling allows Ma to claim that the special funds, downloaded into personal accounts, were meant as a form of extra salary. That may be implicitly true -- they were one of the ways the KMT bought the bureaucracy's favor -- but that is obviously not the stated intent of the law.
Note also that last paragraph -- the nation's prosecutors do not want the special funds defined, because if they are, prosecutors will lose discretion over how they charge politicians in the future. Ma's team has already pointed to a case in Tainan in which a public official did the same thing Ma did, but got off when the prosecutors concluded that the special funds were personal salary.
The way to go here is obvious: an amnesty for all public officials, from the lowliest school principal to the President, and an end to the special funds. But I think we'll see a quasi-amnesty: the special funds will be treated as personal income, Ma will not be convicted, and they will continue to flow out of public coffers into personal pockets to corrupt another generation of public officials.