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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

NPP lawmaker wants La Fortaleza to stay out of legislative probes

Rep. José Meléndez Ortiz

By John McPhaul

New Progressive Party (NPP) Rep. José “Quiquito” Meléndez Ortiz urged La Fortaleza on Sunday not to participate in legislative investigations until a commitment to transparency and equality on the part of the majority party is demonstrated in the probes.

“We all recognize the legislative power to investigate government affairs, but that power must be used responsibly,” Meléndez said in a written statement. “It is time for Popular [Democratic Party] legislators to understand that persecuting municipal and executive officials just for belonging to a different political party constitutes the use of public funds for political purposes, and this conduct is expressly prohibited by our constitution.”

The Popular Democratic Party (PDP)-led House of Representatives suspended its investigation into the mismanagement of public funds in Mayagüez at the request of Mayor José Guillermo Rodríguez’s private attorney.

“Our administration will always be available to participate in any responsible investigative process, as long as the corresponding constitutional guarantees are observed,” Meléndez said. “Forcing selective investigations, while covering up the waste and embezzlement of public funds in municipalities controlled by the PDP, is just a sign of conduct incompatible with our constitutional order.”

The at-large representative noted last Friday that House Speaker Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez acknowledged in an interview that he stopped the investigation into municipal corporation contractors in Mayagüez at the request of Rodríguez’s lawyer, Harry Padilla.

“It is unfortunate that the House speaker ceded the Legislative Assembly’s power of investigation to a private lawyer. With this decision, the speaker established a legal precedent that, in fact, must be investigated,” Meléndez said. “What this decision not to investigate in Mayagüez demonstrates is, once again, that the only thing that the House delegation of the Popular Democratic Party investigates is the Executive [branch], because it is not from the same party. They are afraid to investigate their own, no matter that possible acts of public corruption and diversion of money from the People are pointed out to them, or that the law enforcement agencies are investigating it; no, for them the only thing that matters is the party they are a member of.”

In April 2021, Hernández Montañez, along with several other PDP legislators, filed House Resolution 346, which ordered the Public Funds Oversight Committee to carry out an investigation into the functioning and operation of commercial franchises or municipal corporations with for-profit entities created by virtue of Law 107-2020, including an evaluation of the totality of financial transactions carried out by municipal governments during the term of 10 years, where municipal assets had been transferred, recorded or used as collateral,” Meléndez noted. The investigation, according to what the House speaker himself said at the time, would begin with Mayagüez, the NPP lawmaker said.

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