PDP candidates call out Pierluisi for staying silent amid health system debacle
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
Popular Democratic Party (PDP) legislative candidates on Sunday called out New Progressive Party gubernatorial candidate Pedro Pierluisi for not speaking out against the administration’s handling of the island’s public health affairs and said they will initiate an in-depth investigation and delineate public policies that will allow a better response in future emergencies as soon as they are sworn in as lawmakers in January 2021.
During a press conference at PDP headquarters in Puerta de Tierra, San Juan, Rep. Jesús Manuel Ortiz, along with Senate at-large candidate Juan Zaragoza, District 35 candidate for th House of Representatives Sol Higgins and District 15 House candidate Armando Legarreta recounted a chronology of the administrative mishaps at the Department of Health (DS by its Spanish initials) during the current four-year term, for which each candidate demanded that Pierluisi assign accountability.
Higgins, who currently works at the Humacao Diagnosis and Treatment Center, focused on the lack of organization and communication from the DS before, during and after hurricanes Irma and Maria ripped through the island. Higgins said the lack of organization was evident as “the government did not have a plan to make hospitals work that had to shut down because they had no electric power and, therefore, could not provide health services to people who needed them the most.”
Meanwhile, Legarreta, who has worked for decades managing 330 Centers, focused on the arrests of Puerto Rico Health Insurance Administration Executive Director Angie Ávila and subcontractor Alberto Velázquez Piñol, who were charged in a $2.5 million wire fraud scheme. The candidate said “the most concerning thing about this outrageous accusation was that it [involved] agencies that were supposed to look out for the people’s health and not for external interests to fill their pockets.”
Ortiz, a member of the House Health Committee, focused on the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the administration minimized the issue when the then-island epidemiologist said the coronavirus would not arrive in Puerto Rico “because we are far from China” and then-DS Secretary Rafael Rodríguez Mercado said “he was only concerned about the ‘illegal Chinese immigrants’ on the island as a possible source of infection and claimed to be more worried about influenza than COVID-19.”
Likewise, Ortiz referred to “how the country watched live through House hearings how the government conducted a negligent procedure and, in some cases, fraudulently spent millions of dollars on tests to detect the coronavirus that didn’t arrive on the island or were useless.”
Zaragoza, meanwhile, said “three words can summarize what my colleagues said: managerial incapacity, corruption and insensitivity,” as he pointed out how the current government risks losing over a $1 billion in Medicaid funds.
“This is unacceptable in any government responsibility, but it is worse when that responsibility has to do with our people’s health and lives,” the former Treasury secretary said.
PDP legislator Ortiz weighs in on ‘La Comay’ controversy
As for the recent controversy involving puppeteer Antulio “Kobbo” Santarrosa, host of the TV show “La Comay,” used a doctored image of Citizen Victory Movement gubernatorial candidate Alexandra Lúgaro’s daughter Valentina with San Juan mayoral candidate Manuel Natal and sexualized the minor, Ortiz called it “unacceptable” and added that he condemns any and all such attempts.
“Although I did not watch the incident, truly, I don’t sponsor any use of minors for this kind of controversy. I personally know who Valentina is, she is extraordinary, very loving, and kind,” Ortiz said. “Therefore, I don’t sponsor, patronize or support any expression or comment where children are used for public controversies. Public and political controversies are handled by adults, and minors should not be involved in any way, shape or form.”