Senate president denies fellow senator was bailed out on abuse allegations
By John McPhaul
Senate President José Luis Dalmau Santiago denied on Wednesday that a “life preserver was thrown” to Sen. Albert Torres Berríos after a majority vote in the upper chamber rejected a report by the Senate Ethics Committee accusing Torres of verbally abusing his staff and pressuring them for money.
“Of course not! Of course not!” Dalmau Santiago said in response to questions from the press.
Regarding the accusations made against Torres in the case, they were conclusive, Dalmau Santiago insisted.
“This is not a court. Court rules are different,” he said. “Here the Constitution says that senators are judges of their own peers. And here an Ethics Committee, with people who are and are not lawyers, made up of all the parties, voted 9 to 4 for a recommendation to the full Senate. And the full Senate made a contrary decision 13 to 11. That is the parliamentary decision, the rest falls into the field of speculation.”
To questions about whether, as a result of the determination to end the case, Torres Berríos will resume his committee chairmanships, Dalmau Santiago replied that he has not yet met with him to find out what he is going to do with that and other matters.
The Ethics panel report not endorsed by the full Senate recommended a vote of no confidence and a public reprimand of the senator for the District of Guayama. Several employees accused the senator of verbal abuse and requests for money. The Ethics Committee report concluded that there was no pattern of workplace harassment and that it could not be proven that the senator requested money from his employees directly or indirectly.
However, Justice Secretary Domingo Emanuelli Hernández confirmed that the Department of Justice is directing an investigation into Torres Berríos.
“We confirm that the Department of Justice, through its Division of Public Integrity and Comptroller Affairs, today notified the Office of the Special Independent Prosecutor Panel of the start of a preliminary investigation related to the actions of Senator Albert Torres Berríos. As the Senate concluded its investigation, the Division of Public Integrity and Comptroller Affairs requested the file from the Senate Ethics Committee for review, as we have done on previous occasions. The report was received at the agency on Jan. 20,” Emanuelli Hernández said in a written statement. “At the Department of Justice, we are reinforcing initiatives to combat corruption. We reiterate that we will continue to evaluate any complaint or allegation supported by evidence, which goes beyond mere speculation or rumor, in accordance with our duty. Once the investigation is over, we will report the result.”