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Legislative Yuan convenes to review Cabinet's reconsideration request

06/19/2024 07:13 PM
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Premier Cho Jung-tai. CNA photo June 19, 2024
Premier Cho Jung-tai. CNA photo June 19, 2024

Taipei, June 19 (CNA) The Legislative Yuan convened on Wednesday to examine the request made by the Cabinet last week for it to reconsider the recently passed amendments to increase oversight of government officials.

Premier Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰) gave a 20-minute presentation to the Committee of the Whole Legislative Yuan on why the Cabinet considered the amendments "difficult to implement."

Cho argued that the amendments to strengthen lawmakers' power to question officials, investigate, and hold hearings violated the separation of powers, citing various Constitutional Interpretations stating the legislative power should be within the scope of matters that are "substantially related to the exercise of its powers under the Constitution."

Cho added that it was also unclear "under what constitutional power the Legislature can compel people to [provide materials and testimonies and express opinions]."

According to the Constitution, the president is not required to report to the Legislative Yuan and is responsible to the people rather than the Legislature, which is a response to the amendments that call for the president's regular report to the Legislature and his or her presence for the lawmakers' questions, Cho said.

Cho then expounded on the Cabinet's position that asking those nominated for key positions to submit a written oath when reviewed by the Legislature and subject them to possible punishment, "is treating them as witnesses" and "against the principle of proportionality."

The principle of clarity and definiteness of law is violated when the Legislature can punish public officials for "reverse questioning" and "other behaviors considered in contempt of the Legislature," Cho said.

The principle of proportionality is violated when Constitutional Interpretation No. 585 said those who refuse to fulfill their obligations to assist in the investigation should be punished "within the scope of pecuniary fines" but the amended law subjects those "who make false statements" to criminal penalties, Cho said.

People gather at a demonstration site on Jinan Road in Taipei on Wednesday. CNA photo June 19, 2024
People gather at a demonstration site on Jinan Road in Taipei on Wednesday. CNA photo June 19, 2024

Predictably, Kuomintang (KMT) and Taiwan People's Party (TPP) lawmakers, who leveraged their combined majority to pass the amendments on May 28, had some heated exchanges with Cho and other ministers.

KMT caucus whip Fu Kun-chi (傅崐萁) said that many committee and floor meetings and public hearings for the amendments were held, so substantive reviews were in place, to which Cho said substantiveness is not about the number but the content.

TPP Lawmaker Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) accused the Executive Yuan of "spreading disinformation" when it claimed that public officials could be "criminally punished if they are suspected of making false statements," as whether punishment is to be imposed would still be up to the court.

Cho in response said suspecting officials of making false statements is a subjective judgment and lawmakers are not prosecutors.

Civic groups demonstrate against the newly passed law amendments about the Legislature's power in Taipei on Wednesday. CNA photo June 19, 2024
Civic groups demonstrate against the newly passed law amendments about the Legislature's power in Taipei on Wednesday. CNA photo June 19, 2024

Defense Minister Wellington Koo (顧立雄), in response to DPP Legislator Lee Po-yi's (李柏毅) question about national security secrets, cited Constitutional Interpretation No. 461 as saying that questions involving critical intelligence of national defense "do not have to be answered [by the Chief of the General Staff] at the Legislative Yuan."

KMT Legislator Wang Hung-wei (王鴻薇) later pointed out that the passed amendments include clauses requiring those involved in the investigations about foreign affairs and defense secrets to "keep the information confidential" so the protective measures are in place.

The meetings for reviewing the Cabinet's reconsideration request are taking place on Wednesday and Thursday, before a final vote scheduled on Friday.

The Cabinet last week submitted a request for the Legislature to reconsider recently passed law amendments that the opposition lawmakers said aimed at improving its oversight of the executive branch.

The submission was possible only after President Lai Ching-te (賴清德) signed off on the request, a required procedure if the Cabinet wants to reject bills or resolutions passed by the Legislature.

(By Alison Hsiao)

Enditem/ASG

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