February 24, 2021

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The House of Representatives will present referrals for the warehouse controversy in Ponce

The House of Representatives will refer to the authorities of law and order the Secretary of State, Elmer Román, the Secretary of Justice, Denise Longo Quiñones and the commissioner of the Special Investigations Bureau (NIE), Héctor López, for allegedly having committed perjury during the investigation into the government's response to the tremor crisis in the southwest.

The one against Román will be presented to the Department of Justice, while the accusations against Longo Quiñones and López will be elevated to the Office of the Panel on the Independent Special Prosecutor (Opfei).

The president of the Special Commission for the Reconstruction and Total Preparedness of Puerto Rico in an Emergency, Gabriel Rodríguez Aguiló, who directed the investigation in the Chamber, will be Filing this morning a partial report of the investigation, which will also be sent to the Office of the Comptroller and the Office of Government Ethics. Other issues related to the emergency such as the home repair process and the distribution of supplies in the Department of the Family would be addressed later, in case the Legislature is called again.

Today ends the last Ordinary Session of the four-year period.

In the case of Román, the commission imputes him to lie in a public hearing of the House by falsely projecting information that he had in his possession about the operations of the government and about the content of the 48-hour report prepared by the NIE before the discovery on January 18 of a warehouse with supplies from the Bureau of Emergency Management and Disaster Administration (NMEAD), in Ponce. This finding cost the ex-NMEAD commissioner Carlos Acevedo the job.

We discovered that Elmer Román lied to us, withheld information from us. He told us under oath in his presentation and in the exchange of questions and answers that Carlos Acevedo did not follow the instructions to use the warehouse and distribute the supplies and he also tells us that he was unaware of the existence of the warehouse in Ponce ”Rodríguez said. He clarified in an interview with El Nuevo Día .

The majority spokesman also maintained that the investigation revealed, through documents and testimonies of NMEAD personnel, that merchandise was dispatched to municipalities such as Guayanilla, Yauco and Peñuelas since last year and since January 9, 2020 in the context of the emergency. In addition, the Government's Joint Operational Plan for Catastrophic Incidents (Josip), signed by Román and Governor Wanda Vázquez, reflected the existence of the warehouse.

After the discovery of the warehouse by a social media user , the government gave the instruction to empty the facility, where cots and awnings were kept, as well as expired water.

Rodríguez Aguiló attributes to Román part of the poor government response to the emergency as he decided to move Acevedo to the southern zone to attend to the situation while he remained in San Juan at the Emergency Operations Center. This decision, according to the representative, was in contravention of the Josip's text, which identified Acevedo as the figure in charge of the crisis. This caused, he said, that Acevedo did not have visibility of what the municipal governments needed since the mayors made requests to him and other regional heads of the NMEAD by telephone while others made them through a FEMA form at the national level.

"The plan was violated" said Rodríguez Aguiló.

Longo Quiñones and López

According to Rodríguez Aguiló Longo Quiñones and López lied to the special committee of the Chamber when trying to project that the 48-hour report contained sensitive information that could not be released to the Legislature. The Vázquez government even contested the request of the legislative body in court, but Judge Lauracelis Roques Arroyo agreed with the House and ordered the publication of the report with some edited information.

“In the 48-hour report it is established that the warehouse has been in use since January 9. Supplies and awnings were being removed less water, which had expired, "said Rodríguez Aguiló. "The 48-hour report denies Román because he told us under oath that he was the one in charge, on the part of the governor, of the 48-hour investigation being carried out, of the writing of that report. He receives it, ensures that it has all its parts, so he read it, and he should have seen that the report said that it had been used since January 9. "

" Knowing that the report certified that the The warehouse had been in use since January 9, Román says that Carlos Acevedo did not follow the instructions and was not distributing the supplies from said warehouse and he said so in public view and that is the justification for why Carlos Acevedo is thrown away, "Rodríguez continued.

The legislator recalled how Longo Quiñones and López argued before the House that the report could not be released to the public since it contained information that was part of a fiscal summary. Rodríguez Aguiló affirmed that it was really an administrative investigation and contested other arguments by Longo Quiñones and López for not delivering the document as it contained names of agents, names of witnesses or informants and that investigative techniques and strategies were revealed.

"None of that turned out to be true," said Rodríguez Aguiló, who recalled that even López signed an affidavit before the court to oppose the press having access to the document, raising the same arguments that he presented before the House. [19659003] "They were misleading the Secretary of Justice and the NIE commissioner to the court not to deliver the report and not make it public," he added.

The government's position

In the opinion of Rodríguez Aguiló, Román, Longo Quiñones and López tried to protect the governor, who unjustly dismissed Acevedo, an official who was already in are naughtily after being denounced by several mayors for the poor communication he had with them. In addition, a group of former NMEAD commissioners was vocal in needing to be removed from their position.

"What happened here is that for some reason the governor apparently … here was a warehouse scandal in the middle of an emergency and they tried to put out the fire by firing someone, "Rodríguez Aguiló said, arguing that the governor did not have to wait for a crisis like the one that occurred on January 18 and could have withdrawn Acevedo's confidence much earlier. [19659003] “All this was a lie and a lack of respect for an investigation by the Legislative Assembly. The lie of the Secretary of Justice, Román and Commissioner López is constructed to protect the governor, who said a few things publicly that Saturday (June 18) to try to cover up all this matter, "said Rodríguez Aguiló.

Román's confirmation

Román was confirmed on June 11 as secretary of state despite the presentations that Rodríguez Aguiló made to the majority caucus on why it should not be confirmed.

“I fulfilled my responsibility and was able to demonstrate to the caucus the reason for my position against Elmer Román. I warned him that at some point he would be referred, not for his actions as Secretary of States, but for the government's response, "he said, referring to the earthquake emergency.

" I was informing the delegation and the president (Carlos "Johnny" Méndez) of how things were going, "he added.

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