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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Lawmaker lauds high court ruling against compulsory association membership for doctors Urges same for CPAs

By The Star Staff

Rep. José Aponte Hernández on Thursday described the decision of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court reiterating the elimination of compulsory membership of doctors in the island’s professional organization for physicians as a triumph for the “freedom of association.”

He also called for speeding up the de-registration of certified public accountants.

“The right to freedom of association is one of the most sacred rights we have under our democratic system of government,” the veteran New Progressive Party lawmaker said in a written statement. “Freedom of association is guaranteed under the Constitution of our nation, the United States, as well as that of Puerto Rico. Yesterday, the highest judicial forum on the island reiterated its decision to eliminate the requirement to oblige doctors to register, which is, without a doubt, a triumph for democracy. Today, Puerto Rico’s doctors are free to choose, as lawyers did a few years ago, which association, if any, they want to belong to.”

For more than a decade, the at-large legislator and former speaker of the island House of Representatives has promoted the elimination of the requirement of association membership in order to practice different professions. Aponte Hernández has filed legislation to make affiliations with the associations that group professions on the island, from barbers to artists, producers and doctors, among many others, voluntary.

“In March 2011, in the case of the automotive technicians and mechanics association, the Supreme Court ruled that ‘voluntary membership is also not in tension with the constitutional right to freedom of association. On the contrary, it is the compulsory membership of a professional class that creates an inevitable friction with the freedom of association of those affected,’” Aponte said. “That should be the rule for all professions, including Certified Public Accountants, who expect the same principle to apply to them. We will continue to work to defend the freedom of association of our professionals.”

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