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  • The San Juan Daily Star

House slates meetings with experts to address spike in corruption cases

Rep. José “Conny” Varela Fernández, deputy speaker of the island House of Representatives

By The Star Staff

The island House of Representatives will hold meetings with academics, jurists and other experts on Thursday to discuss the prosecution of cases amid the alarming recent upswing in revelations of government corruption.

House Speaker Rafael Hernández Montañez said Sunday that the meetings will seek to preserve the strengths of the existing model, correct prevailing deficiencies and institute a new form of internal governance. Among the summoned officials asked to appear is Justice Secretary Domingo Emanuelli Hernández.

“The House of Representatives of Puerto Rico has assumed the historic challenge of leading a comprehensive review of our legal system with the purpose of strengthening the fight against corruption and restoring confidence in its public institutions,” Hernández Montañez stressed.

House Deputy Speaker José “Conny” Varela Fernández broadly highlighted the deficiencies of the current model of criminal prosecution.

“The current model of white-collar crime prosecution is unsustainable, based on an erratic public policy that has existed for decades, where the isolated participation of government agencies has proliferated, and the financing of a weakened structure of unconnected public entities,” Varela Fernández said.

The current model is colored by a widespread perception that a sense of impunity prevails, he added.

Meanwhile, Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Rep. Juan José Santiago, chairman of the House Municipal Autonomy, Decentralization and Regionalization Committee, listed the general principles proposed by the legislative body to guide the meetings. They include:

1. The possible elimination of the Office of the Special Independent Prosecutor and redirecting those resources to the Department of Justice’s Division of Public Integrity and Comptroller Affairs.

2. Strengthening the Office of the Comptroller by merging its resources with those of the Office of the Inspector General.

3. Restructuring the Department of Public Safety to strengthen the Special Investigations Bureau and the Puerto Rico Police Bureau.

4. Standardizing government processes in sensitive areas such as the transition process, public contracting, human resource management, and regulations on ethical reports.

5. Transforming the control of all state entities during the use of local and federal funds.

Likewise, PDP Rep. Orlando Aponte Rosario, chairman of the House Legal Committee, highlighted that, in addition to the Department of Justice, other witnesses include the Office of the Comptroller, Government Ethics Office and attorneys Mayra López Mulero, Leo Aldridge Kontos, José Andreu Fuentes, Harry Padilla Martínez, Carlos Sagardia, Osvaldo Carlo Linares, Ernie Cabán and José Capo, as well as Bar Association President Daisy Calcaño López, University of Puerto Rico Law School Dean Vivian Neptune Rivera, Interamerican University Law School Dean Julio Fontanet and Catholic University Law School Dean Fernando Moreno Orama.

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