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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Suspension of in-person work in House said likely to be lifted by March 4



Judge Anthony Cuevas Ramos

By The Star Staff


House of Representatives legal counsel Jorge Martínez Luciano said late last week that in all “probability,” on or before March 4, which is the deadline established by House Speaker Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez, the suspension of face-to-face work in the lower chamber due to COVID-19 infections will be lifted.


“It is more likely than improbable that the restriction will be lifted on March 4,” Martínez Luciano told reporters following a court hearing Friday before Judge Anthony Cuevas Ramos, after Dignity Project Rep. Lisie Burgos Muñíz was not allowed to enter the House earlier in the week because she was not wearing a mask, a restriction imposed in the face of an alleged increase in coronavirus cases.


As an alternative, Martínez Luciano proposed that the legislator can carry out her work virtually, through the Zoom platform, for which he noted that, at this stage, a “reasonable accommodation” will be sought.


“We have until Wednesday. The plaintiff asked for until Tuesday to oppose our motion to [dismiss] last [Thursday] night and we, before Wednesday, are going to prove what the facilities are that exist for the representative if she does not want to be in person in the chamber, because she does not want to put on a mask, then she can exercise her right to debate and vote,” Martínez Luciano said. “Certainly the representation that was made to us is that it was only the face-to-face appearance, the one that requires a mask of course, it has been used for committees and I don’t see why it cannot be used, certainly we are going to meet with the speaker, then there will be a statement on what will be the mechanism of special accommodation or reasonable accommodation of the beliefs of the representative, if it’s required.”


Juan Manuel Fronteras, the lawmaker’s lawyer, said the option of legislating by Zoom is not available.


“Well, the situation here is that none of the orders issued, which are the ones we are elucidating in court, open that option and the statements of the speaker of the House publicly and through orders that he has issued do not provide space [for that],” Fronteras said. “So that issue of bringing that up now, right, and I know the court brings it up as a measure of a possible analysis of the speaker’s perspective, at present that’s not an option. Therefore, we are not going to continue with our process, our claim, and we are going to proceed to oppose the motion that has been filed and amend the complaint aimed at including the last order, which we believe to be worse than the first.”

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