The San Juan Daily Star
Immunity not likely for Jobos Bay squatters
By The Star Staff
The island departments Justice and Natural & Environmental Resources (DNER) and the Natural Resources Committee in the House of Representatives announced Monday they will not grant immunity from prosecution to squatters at the protected Jobos Bay National Estuarine Reserve in Salinas.
Officials from the three government entities spoke following a closed hearing on illegal structures at the reserve and the environmental impact in the protected area.
The House Natural Resources Committee wanted to evaluate the possibility of granting immunity to four witnesses in exchange for information as to the identity of individuals inside and outside government agencies who granted illegal permits to reside in the protected area.
Justice Secretary Domingo Emanuelli Hernández, however, said doing so would negatively impact the agency’s separate investigation.
“We do not support granting immunity under any circumstances, except in cases where it is something really super extraordinary, but at this time we do not foresee granting immunity,” Emanuelli told reporters.
The Justice secretary said some 80 to 100 witnesses will be cited in the investigation, which will include the possible forgery of documents and property deeds.
Natural Resources Committee Chairman Edgardo Feliciano Sánchez announced that one of the four people who have properties with “fraudulent” permits in the maritime-terrestrial zone at Jobos Bay will be cooperating with them.
“The person made himself available,” the legislator said. “Today we had this meeting; some information will be passed on to the prosecutor and they will communicate with him.”
The Justice chief reiterated that while the Legislature is conducting a separate probe, the agency rejects any type of arrangement in which immunity from prosecution is granted.
“Although it is a power of the legislators, it seems to me that the consensus of both the Legislature and the Committee is heading toward that [not granting immunity],” Emanuelli Hernández said.
The DNER has filed a lawsuit to evict some 12 squatters from the area who are responsible for environmental crimes. The agency wants to reaffirm its managerial authority over the area.