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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Senate president takes dim view of court’s ruling on SEC

Senate President José Luis Dalmau Santiago

By The Star Staff

Senate President José Luis Dalmau Santiago expressed his discontent Tuesday with an island court ruling that leaves Jessika Padilla Rivera in place as interim chairperson of the State Elections Commission (SEC).

Dalmau Santiago emphasized that the stability and legitimacy of the entity in charge of electoral processes should not be subject to questions or controversies.

“Puerto Rico’s electoral system is the backbone of our democracy where voters, political parties, and elected officials from the executive and legislative branches place their trust,” Dalmau Santiago in a written statement. “The legitimacy of those who direct the State Elections Commission and, therefore, the final decisions of the processes leading to primaries and the general election and, subsequently, the counting of the votes and the allocation of officials of a new government, under no circumstances should be in question.”

He argued that the current situation, marked by the indefinite occupation of the interim position by Padilla Rivera and the governor’s resistance to presenting a confirmable appointment, has generated a legitimate dispute between the executive and legislative branches.

“The judiciary on both occasions has contributed to preserving distrust in our electoral system by circumventing what the Electoral Code says and thereby maintaining a state of instability, depriving the people of Puerto Rico of having a named and confirmed SEC chairperson …” the Senate president said. “The court’s determination allows us to be in an election year process for the first time in our democratic history without a person occupying the position of [SEC chairperson].”

“As president of the Senate, I have appealed on two occasions to the Court of First Instance to decide that the alternate chairperson cannot occupy the position of interim chairperson indefinitely and that the governor must submit the appointment of the actual chairperson as soon as possible,” Dalmau Santiago added. “I also asked the Supreme Court to hear the case and it declined to do so.”

The veteran lawmaker said he held the executive and judicial branches responsible for any conflict that arises from this point forward, stressing that the weight of any controversies will fall on them in the court of public opinion.

“Since the Judiciary does not recognize the clear letter of the law or the order that must prevail in our electoral system, and seeing its particular way of proceeding – where the basic principle of separation of powers is ignored – it is up to each person to assume their responsibility for their decisions and actions,” Dalmau Santiago said.

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