Governor: OEG, PFEI ‘are doing their job’ handling cases involving ex-governor, former Justice sec
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
When asked on Tuesday about former Gov. Wánda Vázquez Garced being referred to the Government Ethics Office (OEG by its Spanish initials) for an administrative investigation, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia responded that the investigation “is in good hands” and that he does not find any relevance in the idea that political motives may have led to the filing of the referral.
During a press conference held at the Puerto Rico Police Academy in Gurabo, Pierluisi said he has trust in the OEG and the Special Independent Prosecutor Panel (PFEI by its Spanish initials) as they are doing “the appropriate thing, to evaluate and process the case.”
“Here it is important for the people to see that the law enforcement authorities do their job,” he said. “Again, what we want is that there are no accusations, that there are no irregularities, but when any possible irregularity is detected, then action must be taken, and that is what is happening here.”
Former Chief of Staff Antonio L. Pabón Batlle, former Family Socioeconomic Development Administration head Surima Quiñones Suárez, former Family Secretary Glorimar Andújar Matos and former acting Justice Secretary Wandymar Burgos Vargas were also referred to the OEG.
On Monday, San Juan Superior Court Judge Iraida Rodríguez Castro determined cause for the arrest of Burgos Vargas for violations of the Government Ethics Act and obstruction of justice after special independent prosecutors reported that Burgos Vargas allegedly held back six PFEI reports against Vázquez Garced and other government officials.
When asked for a further response on the timing of the investigations, which were conducted during the New Progressive Party primaries, when Vázquez Garced said her reputation was being harmed by an opposition with ill intentions, Pierluisi said any alleged motives that may have led to the referrals were “irrelevant.”
“The important thing is that the authorities are taking action when they have to take action,” he said. “The situation speaks for itself; the [PFEI] has already reviewed all the referrals and made the determination, the special independent prosecutors assigned to investigate this matter decided to file charges against the former interim secretary of the Department of Justice, Wandymar Burgos, and at the same time, they decided to refer the former governor to the OEG for the allegations that were made at the time, for the complaint that was received.”
“If there was no case, they would have said so. If there was no cause to bring charges before the court, they would have said so and we could ask: and what happened here? Why was this investigation initiated? That is behind us now,” Pierluisi added. “Each authority, be it the [PFEI] or the OEG, is going to do what corresponds to it. The panel did what they understood they had to do; they are independent for a reason.”
Meanwhile, when asked if it was prudent on the part of the previous administration to consider the elimination of the PFEI, Pierluisi said “not in the least.”
“I think it is positive for Puerto Rico to have the [PFEI], to have special prosecutors assigned to these types of cases of possible corruption at the highest level of government,” he said. “I think it is very good so that the people do not lose confidence in the government.”
The governor made his remarks as he, along with Public Safety Secretary Alexis Torres, handed out new protective equipment to the Puerto Rico Police, Firefighters and Medical Emergency Corps bureaus and issued a $10 million assignment for municipalities to cover operation costs in 9-1-1 Emergency System Bureau offices.