A legal tug of war is going on between President Ma Ying-jeou and his predecessor Chen Shui-bian.The former president, who is losing the ground, doesn’t want to call it quits, for he is always a bad loser.

The game started as soon as Chen had stepped down as president.He wants to keep his dossier on how he spent a public fund under his control for the conduct of “affairs of state.”He classified the file “Top Secret” or probably “Eyes Only,” which he had submitted to Taipei district prosecutor Eric Chen who was investigating a corruption case involving first lady Wu Shu-chen.She was indicted on November 14, 2006, charged with borrowing invoices and receipts from relatives and friends to claim a NT$14.8 million reimbursement from her husband’s “state affairs fund.”She is standing trial.Her husband, however, was not indicted, for he was immune to prosecution, but was regarded as an unindicted co-defendant who would be formally charged on leaving office.He claimed part of the money refunded to his wife was spent for the conduct of his secret diplomacy.But the district prosecutor proved the ex-president lied about his personal diplomacy, dubbed Operation Southern Line.There is no dossier on Operation Southern Line among those Chen Shui-bian handed over to Ma Ying-jeou, who might declassify the state affairs fund papers.

Special Counsel prosecutors who are now probing the state affairs fund scandal have already required President Chen not to leave country without first giving them notice.The legal curfew prompted him to warn his successor against declassifying the secret dossier.Chen argued that Ma has no right to declassify the papers he classified.If he did, Chen threatened, Ma would be sued for violation of the National Security Protection Law, which, of course, is a serious criminal offense.Moreover, Chen said he would sue Ma for “creating domestic turmoil and bringing in troubles from abroad,” a crime nearly as serious as sedition or treason.

The first round of the game is over.Ma decided not to declassify the controversial file, which, however, may remain in the hands of the prosecution.President Chen fought hard to get it back to protect himself and his wife while he was in office.His request for recovering the dossier is under deliberation at the Supreme Court, which may decide to grant or reject it.Even if the court ruled that it should be returned, it would be returned to the Office of the President, not to Chen Shui-bian, the ex-president.And Ma made it clear that the prosecutors in change could make free use of the classified documents in their investigation.That means they may determine whether those papers deserved classification and use them as evidence to indict and convict the former president.

Ma is on the high moral ground.Withholding evidence is obstruction of justice.Without his decision, prosecutors cannot invoke the secret file as evidence against or for the former first couple.So far as Ma is concerned, the entire game is over.

But Chen Shui-bian is fighting on.His attorney accused Ma of “passing the buck” to the prosecution.“The president didn’t solve the issue,” she said, adding: “he has just denigrating himself by trying to make the prosecution solve it for him.”Determined as he may be to fight to the bitter end, the chances are that he could not build a case against Ma for committing such a serious crime as he has trumped up.