Torres: ‘The GEO has failed once again to fulfill its duties’ to Puerto Rico
PDP senator calls out GEO chief for ‘endorsing impunity’ by closing the investigation into the Telegram chat scandal that brought down a governor
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Sen. Aníbal José Torres, along with House of Representatives at-large candidate Enid Monge, said Wednesday that Government Ethics Office (GEO) Executive Director Luis Pérez Vargas is failing to fulfill his duties and the office is “endorsing impunity” by closing the investigation into the Telegram chat that led former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares’ administration to collapse last year.
During a press conference at PDP Central Committee headquarters in Puerta de Tierra, Torres said Pérez Vargas could have continued the aforementioned investigation given that there were public statements from former Chief of Staff Ricardo Llerandi which confirmed the chat. The minority senator said further that, according to Items G and I in Article 2.3 of the GEO’s Organic Law, the entity was capable of asking the island Superior Court to force compliance with any order issued and could have summoned, examined, ordered, requested and obtained copies of any document or evidence that forms part of an investigation or that is under controversy before the GEO.
Torres added that, according to Article 7.1 of the Anti-Corruption Law, the GEO executive director is the current president of the interagency Corruption Prevention and Eradication Group, which bears the duty of securing cooperation from any agency in the battle against corruption.
“Without a doubt, the GEO has failed once again to fulfill its duties to the country and pretends to throw in the towel as again a member of this administration fails in their public execution, as both the Department of Justice and the Special Independent Prosecutor Panel [PFEI by its Spanish initials] have done, without a doubt,” Torres said after a member of the press asked if the dropping of the investigation proved to the PDP that the top GEO official is not complying with his duties.
As concerns were raised as to what the PDP was going to do apart from issuing denunciations, Torres said the party’s mission was to vanquish the governing New Progressive Party (NPP) from their seats and demand that officials such as Pérez Vargas “not be loyal to political parties, be loyal to the country,” as the senator pointed out that the GEO chief could remain in his seat even after a change of administrations in 2021.
“The corruption issue is one of great concern for Puerto Ricans and the only way that we can get trust in public service back, especially in these agencies, is that their directors show transparency toward the country and go above any political-partisan consideration,” Torres said. “In this NPP administration, we haven’t seen it.”
Monge, meanwhile, said the actions of the GEO “did not occur out of thin air” while noting the Family Socioeconomic Development Administration supply mismanagement case in Ponce, the PFEI referral against Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced and NPP Sen. Evelyn Vázquez for allegedly mixing politics with food distribution in southern Puerto Rico during the January earthquakes, the failed purchase of COVID-19 serological tests and other cases of misgovernance that still remain unsolved.
“I think we have had enough of throwing in so many towels, we have had enough of letting [misdeeds slide] through and coming in [to report them] late on a Friday so the news dissipates and they keep fooling with our system,” the legislative candidate said. “These are [pieces of] evidence that makes the country tired, weary, fed up, discouraged; our institutions were not made for this purpose.”
Monge called on the GEO to be accountable to the public and say whether it went to court to force two of the Telegram chat participants to cooperate with the investigation.