Governor Pierluisi sworn in, signs 6 executive orders
By John McPhaul
Gov. Pedro Rafael Pierluisi Urrutia and Secretary of State Larry Seilhamer were sworn in on Saturday at the Puerto Rico Supreme Court in Puerta de Tierra, prior to the formal event on the grounds of the Capitol after which the new governor signed six executive orders.
“I have already entrusted myself to the Lord. I am with my close family and very eager to start working,” Pierluisi said upon his arrival at the Supreme Court. “Now the beginning of this new administration is formalized. As soon as I give my message, which is a message that I hope will motivate our people to come together in these next four years to do work, to make a difference, I am going to Fortaleza to work.”
“I am going to issue new executive orders, to review others that are going to come out from tomorrow [Sunday] on, because there is no time to lose,” he added.
One of the executive orders, 2021-001, instructs the island Department of Health to design a mass COVID-19 testing campaign to guarantee that the tests reach remote areas or areas with difficult access. He also ordered the departments of Justice and Public Safety to create an agreement of understanding with the federal prosecutor for the prosecution of corruption and white collar crimes.
“It is necessary for the government to make greater efforts to conduct testing and identify infections, for which the Department of Health, with the advice of epidemiologists, is ordered to carry out mass testing campaigns and educational campaigns that result in the identification of infection cases,” the governor said. “The design of this campaign should ensure that COVID-19 tests reach remote or hard-to-reach areas so that everyone has the opportunity to receive them.”
Pierluisi also signed Executive Order 2021-003 to decree measures of fiscal responsibility and control of expenditures, and Executive Order 2021-004 to prohibit spending on official photos of the governor and heads of agencies in government facilities. He signed two other executive orders to establish the structure of the governor’s office and to appoint its administrator.
Executive Order 2021-002, meanwhile, directs the Justice and Public Safety departments to establish a collaborative agreement with federal agencies to attack corruption.
“Corruption in public service is one of the main social ills that destroys the people’s trust in their institutions. This administration has an inescapable commitment to strengthen the institutions of public order and [ensure] that they have strong and adequate tools to eradicate corruption, white collar crimes and criminality in general,” reads the executive order. “A war is declared on all fronts against corruption and crime; the Department of Public Safety and the Secretary of Justice are ordered to begin immediate and coordinated conversations with the federal prosecutor for the district of Puerto Rico in order to establish, amend or improve any collaborative agreement for the prosecution of corruption or white collar crimes.”
Executive Order 2021-003 declares measures of fiscal responsibility and control of spending. The government’s fiscal situation continues to be critical and requires immediate attention to control spending and invest in the areas necessary to promote economic growth, the governor said.
“This order declares that this government is committed to maintaining spending control measures while we are responsible with the resources of the people,” Pierluisi said. “The executive order maintains the measures of fiscal control compliance requirements set forth above, but does not increase them, so that the agencies can function.”
Executive Order 2021-04, as mentioned, prohibits spending on official photos of the governor and heads of agencies in government facilities.
“Our administration will reflect the priorities of our people, so there is no need to be publishing and investing people’s money in official portraits and photos,” he said.
Finally, executive orders 2021-05 and 2021-06 establish the structure and organization of the Office of the Governor and designate Carmen Salgado as the office’s administrator, respectively.
Pierluisi was sworn in in a small ceremony Saturday at the Supreme Court by Chief Justice Maite Oronoz Rodríguez. He then offered his first message after the second swearing-in in front of the Capitol.
In his speech, Pierluisi, a member of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (NPP), acknowledged that on Nov. 3 the voters chose a diverse leadership in the Legislative Assembly, handing the pro-commonwealth Popular Democratic Party (PDP) the majority in the assembly.
“I know how to play as a team. I’ve done it before. When I was secretary of Justice, at the early age of 34, I worked as a team with the Comptroller [Ileana Colón Carlo], the Office of the Special Independent Prosecutor Panel, the Police and the federal government law enforcement agencies. And we fought crime, drug trafficking and corruption with success,” Pierluisi said. “When I was resident commissioner, I worked with two governors [Luis Fortuño and Alejandro García Padilla] with two very different legislative assemblies [the first chaired by the NPP and the second by the PDP], with members of Congress from both parties and with the president of the United States. And we had great achievements for our people.”
“We are going to play as a team again, because that’s what Puerto Rico needs,” he said.
The governor said he understood the message issued by the people in the recent elections.
“The new government and the new Legislature will be an example of our diversity. The five different parties and independent legislators will reflect our new political and social reality,” he said. “Fate put me here in the midst of these turbulent and historic times, faced with great polarization and with high expectations. Fate trusted that God will give me the wisdom I need to guide Puerto Rico to a safe harbor.”
Finally, the governor listed what he believes are the true enemies of Puerto Rico: COVID-19, poverty, lack of access to an excellent education, crime, economic recession, corruption, discrimination and the island’s colonial status.
Also on Saturday, new senators and representatives were sworn in in a ceremony prior to the governor’s inauguration.
The representatives were sworn in by House Secretary Carlos Fajardo, while in the Senate, Secretary Manuel Torres was in charge of the swearing-in.
Prior to Pierluisi’s swearing-in, the official certification issued by the State Elections Commission on Dec. 31 was read.
Among those attending the swearing-in ceremony was the president of the Dominican Republic, Luis Abinader.
Afterwards, the governor went to the Capitol to have a conversation with the presumptive legislative leaders, José Luis Dalmau and Rafael “Tatito” Hernández, in the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively.