As soon as it met in the afternoon yesterday to begin the fifth extraordinary session, the House of Representatives did not hesitate to reject, out loud, the appointment of the alternate member to the Panel of the Independent Special Prosecutor (PFEI) that he had made hours earlier in the day Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced, who is part of a group of officials who are under investigation by that body, for the possible commission of various crimes related to the distribution of food and supplies after the tremors in the south.
Earlier in the day, around the same time as the PFEI Office was circulating details of the investigation assigned Monday to an FEI and linking the governor, senator Evelyn Vázquez and other government officials, the First Executive of the Country announced the appointment in recess of Carlos M. Rodríguez Muñiz as alternate member of the panel.
In written statements, Vázquez Garced had said that he would present the appointment of Rodríguez Muñiz as Alternate Member of the PFEI before the Senate of Puerto Rico and the House of Representatives for the consent of both bodies. For this, he pointed out, the convocation of the extraordinary session would be amended, in order to include the appointment and that it be considered in it.
"I appreciate your availability to occupy this position and assume the responsibilities that this entails to serve the people of Puerto Rico, ”the governor had expressed in a written communication, referring to Rodríguez Muñiz.
The announcement provoked the reaction of many, including political detractors of Vázquez Garced, who alluded to the appointment it was a "totally improper" act. The governor's primary contender, in his aspiration to govern by the New Progressive Party (PNP), Pedro Pierluisi, made his download on social networks. "I cannot remain silent in the face of an apparent attempt to improperly intervene in an entity that is conducting an investigation against him. It is unacceptable, "he noted.
Likewise, the president of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), Aníbal José Torres, maintained that the appointment is imprudent. “The historical moment through which the current administration is going through makes the appointment lend itself to misinterpretations, including the power that the governor has over the OPFEI. What happened today in the House of (yesterday) Representatives is the result of the process to which the governor submitted the nominee, which was inappropriate and untimely. ”
Meanwhile, the alternate spokesperson for the PPD in the House of Representatives, Ramón Luis Cruz Burgos said that, “we unanimously defeated in the House of Representatives an appointment that should never have been submitted. The Panel on the Independent Special Prosecutor carries out an investigation against Wanda Vázquez for the second time, so that, in recess, and before the start of today's session, a close friend of that body plans an improper intervention by the governor. ”
After rejecting the appointment, in an interview with Primera Hora, the representative Juan Oscar Morales reported that he considered the appointment of the governor "reckless". He criticized that the nominee had made statements against the investigation he led on the failed purchase of millions of tests for COVID-19 by the Department of Health. He also questioned that Rodríguez Muñiz's wife, the former chief of prosecutors Olga Castellón, and their son work in La Fortaleza with the governor.
The pro-independence representative Denis Márquez considered it an "untimely" appointment that brought " many doubts ”and occurred“ in the midst of an investigation and referring to the FEI. ”
They give details of the investigation
On the other hand, when asked for more information from various media, OPFEI circulated yesterday a press release with details of the investigation involving the governor and several officials.
In general terms, the investigation is based – according to the document – on possible irregularities and infractions of the Ethics Law and the Code of Federal Regulations, supposedly related to supplies for victims of the earthquakes at the beginning of the year.
In addition, OPFEI establishes that the report of the Department of Justice (DJ) concluded that there was "interest from Fortaleza to go beyond the decision of the secretary of the Family". He further argued that from the record forwarded by the DJ, "undue pressure arises from La Fortaleza, to revoke summary suspension" of an official.
Next, the statements of the OPFEI, as they were sent to the media :
* An essential point that deserves to be highlighted in any analysis of public discussion is that the Panel of the FEI does not initiate investigations . The cases have to be referred, with investigations. We provide in detail step by step how this case came to the attention of the Panel.
1. On January 16, 2020, the first analysis occurred, in this case, it is carried out by Ms. Corallys Veguilla Torres, from the Legal Division of the Department of the Family. Ms. Veguilla Torres recommended summary suspension for irregularities when considering violations of law and regulation. In addition, that an administrative investigation be carried out.
2. On January 22, —second analysis — lawyer Ernie Cabán delivered his report. Mr. Cabán concluded that there were irregularities and deviation of procedures. In addition, the possible intervention of politicians in the delivery of food. It also pointed out possible violations of the criminal legal order, among others.
3. On February 24, the report of the third investigation was presented by attorney Ismael J. Ortiz Roldán. During this process, photographs, videos, email messages, Facebook pages and photocopies of apparent “screenshots” of text messages were obtained. It relates irregularities and infractions to the Ethics Law and the Code of Federal Regulations that governs food distribution (TEFAP Program).
4. As of July 3, 2020 and under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice, the fourth investigation by the Assistant Prosecutor, Pedro Tomás Berríos Lara, is reported. It was supervised and reviewed by District Attorney Phoebe Isales Forsythe, Director of the DJ's Division of Public Integrity.
5. On July 6, attorney Denisse Longo Quiñones, then secretary of Justice and former federal prosecutor, endorsed the content with the evidence gathered, and forwarded it to the Panel with her recommendation to assign an FEI. The Acting Secretary of Justice ordered to withdraw the referral, which was finally received the following day, July 7. The pertinent documentation began to be received from July 8 to 13.
6. All investigations concur with the existence of evidence that could confirm violations of law and regulation. The information and evidence in all these instances was sustained through interviews and documents. Possible infractions of state and federal laws. Specifically, at the state level, Art. 252 of the Penal Code and Art. 4.2 of the Government Ethics Law and Art. 4.2 of the Anticorruption Code for a New Puerto Rico.
Furthermore, in the investigation of the DJ, they attribute retaliation because the secretary of the Department of the Family, Ms. Glorimar Andújar, after firing a subordinate for acts contrary to the law, did not agree to reinstate the official as required by La Fortaleza.
7. It is at this referral stage that the members of the Panel evaluate the documentation received and determine if the appointment of an FEI to carry out the investigation is appropriate. The case is still in the investigative stage.
8. The Law prohibits making other specific details public at this time.
9. The DJ concluded in his report that the evidence in the tax investigation contains sufficient cause for a thorough investigation. Fortaleza's interest in going beyond the decision of the Family Secretary was demonstrated by consulting the DJ (Query No. A-06-20). From the record forwarded by the DJ arise undue pressure from La Fortaleza, to revoke summary suspension. The report shows Fortaleza's interest in relation to the official who violates the law.
10. On July 20, the Panel issued its Resolution concurring with the DJ's recommendation. The Panel's opinion is limited to the objective and legal analysis of the record that was presented by the Department of Justice.
11. If the Panel did not exist, it would be the DJ himself who, with his investigation, had already filed the accusations for accusation.
12. With the existence of the Panel, the evidence passes through an additional sieve that is much more rigorous, objective, impartial and free of influences to assess the aforementioned evidence, and to determine whether complaints are finally filed by a Special Prosecutor before the Court of First Instance.  13. The defense of the integrity of Justice is validated with this process of independence, objectivity and impartiality.
Finally, the OPFEI reiterated that it will not carry out additional public expressions, in order to "thus protect the independence of the work of the FEI "