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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

House speaker, fellow legislators rip SIP probe into Rivera Madera

Rep. José Rivera Madera

By The Star Staff

Speaker of the House of Representatives Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez, along with several fellow Popular Democratic Party (PDP) lawmakers, denounced on Wednesday what he characterized as an irregular and illegal process that culminated in the Office of the Special Independent Prosecutor Panel (OPFEI by its Spanish initials) investigating Rep. José “Cheíto” Rivera Madera for exercising his freedom of speech.

Rivera Madera joined a protest against the construction of an alleged illegal telecommunications tower in the municipality of Guayanilla by the firm Elite Towers LLC.

“The Department of Public Safety (DSP) conducted a poor investigation and allowed its employees and officials to appear before the Department of Justice to lie under oath, based on an arbitrary investigation, to protect its officials and employees who, on May 10, 2023, the day of the alleged facts, allowed the company Elite Towers, LLC to engage in illegal acts,” Hernández Montañez said. “That is the truth.”

The complaint referred to the OPFEI accuses the PDP lawmaker of violating Article 200 of the Penal Code, which punishes as a felony actions “to prevent, temporarily or permanently, any construction work … that has the permits or authorizations or endorsements of the agencies concerned.”

“However, on May 10, 2023, the company Elite Towers, LLC did not have any permit, authorization or endorsement to carry out construction work between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., as required by Regulation 8019 of May 9, 2011, known as the Regulation for the Control of Noise Pollution,” said Rep. Ángel “Tito” Fourquet Cordero, who chairs the House Committee for the Development and Control of Public Funds of the Southwest Region.

House Transportation, Public Works and Infrastructure Committee Chairwoman Gretchen M. Hau stated that “the peaceful presence of Representative Rivera Madera was only intended to notify the Police Bureau about the current rule of law and demand that, in the protection of the health and well-being of his constituents, the law be enforced.”

The lawmakers stated that the “DSP has a lot to explain, including why it never called representative Rivera Madera to offer his testimony, despite his unrestricted availability and the existence of conflicting evidence that showed that the high officials of the Police Bureau failed to comply with the law.”

Hernández Montañez said “the DSP has to explain to the country why it did not disclose the existence of exculpatory evidence in a figure who identified himself as Lieutenant Irrizary, who was in charge of the operation and acknowledged to representative Rivera Madera that the company Elite Towers, LLC did not have the required permits, authorizations, or endorsements to perform the work.”

“This arbitrary and abusive proceeding caused the mobilization of the state machinery, the illegal arrest of three protesters, and the violation of the basic notions of due process of law and the equal protection of the laws guaranteed in our Constitution,” Fourquet Cordero added.

Hernández Montañez reiterated that Rivera Madera did not commit any crime.

“He never entered private property. There was no perimeter or cordoned-off area,” the House speaker said. “He never occupied land, machinery or spaces, and he never prevented the entry or access of employees, vehicles or people.”

“It is up to the DSP to explain under what authority it ordered the mobilization of hundreds of police officers to protect the construction of a telecommunications tower that did not have the required permits, who gave this instruction and under what legal provision the company Elite Towers, LLC was exempted from complying with the law and current regulations, despite the fact that our ordinance does not allow this course of action,” he added.

Likewise, Hernández Montañez specified that at this stage of the proceedings it is up to OPFEI to act prudently in the investigation of facts that the Constitution and interpretative jurisprudence fully protect.

“The evaluation carried out by our lawyers confirms that there is not the minimum proof required to pass a hearing to determine probable cause for arrest, much less meet the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt at a trial stage,” the House speaker said.

“Very soon the country will know who the real criminals are when the identity of the DSP officials who gave instructions to protect a construction company that acted in violation of the law and who now intend to use the power of the state to protect their questionable acts is known,” the trio of legislators said in a written statement.

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