Vázquez Garced: ‘Do I really have to respond to that question?’
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced denied repeatedly on Thursday giving instructions to anyone to leak the Special Independent Prosecutor (SIP) Panel report that holds a resolution to designate an SIP against her for violations to the Anticorruption Code related to the supply mismanagement case from the Family Socioeconomic Development Administration that was investigated by former Justice Secretary Dennise Longo Quiñones.
During a press conference in Ceiba, as a member of the press asked if she had any involvement with the recent leak of the document as it does not confirm that it was received by the panel and news outlet Metro sources said the leak was a defensive move on the part of the governor, Vázquez raised her voice and said she thought it was “disrespectful” to ask such a question.
“Do I have to respond to that question? Do I really have to reply if I gave orders [to leak the SIP panel report]? I will answer the question. Do I have to answer a question like that, that, at a certain point, I think is disrespectful?” Vázquez said. “It is disrespectful to say that I gave instructions so someone would leak a report. I will take it as not granted, and the answer that I will give to the people, to whom I owe [an answer], is to tell them I have absolutely nothing to do with this and whoever leaked it must be investigated by the agencies. Here is my phone, to see if there is an e-mail, a text message, something that I could have sent.”
Meanwhile, the governor said she did not hinder the SIP investigation as she, in fact, let the investigation go along and that the panel would make its own determinations. However, she also said that the SIP report held no evidence against her, adding that there was a political agenda against her as the report was filed two weeks before the primary elections, where she is running against former Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi to be the gubernatorial candidate of the New Progressive Party.
“It’s a political agenda; why do I say that? Because today, we know that, after the report was leaked, there was no evidence to [justify] designating an SIP attorney,” Vázquez said. “First, it is a report where there was no evidence of any law violation; second, we do not have any knowledge as to where that third judge from the SIP [panel] was and if she had any access to evaluate the reports, as it is not mentioned in the resolution, and I tell them that, as an attorney with 23 years of service and as [a] secretary of Justice, I saw a lot of reports and a lot of resolutions from SIP and each and every one of them said how many judges were involved and, if someone recused themself, it was consigned under the resolution, and -- what a coincidence -- that was not in my report. Third, the judge [Rubén Vélez Torres], along with attorney Nydia Cotto Vives, decide to assign a panel in a case without evidence. It’s an opponent that is involved in my opponent’s political campaign, where not only does he give a ‘like’ on Facebook, he also participates in fundraising events when an SIP judge cannot do that, as the law says. And his daughter also participates in my opponent’s events. I think that those three questions clearly were answered and prove an apparent political agenda to harm me two weeks before primary elections.”
The governor also said she authorizes the news outlet to reveal who the person was who provided the SIP panel report, as the one who led the aforementioned document “violated the law.” She insisted further that the outlet that had the original document should reveal who the source was.
“To that outlet, to that journalist who received the report, I authorize them to say who sent it, and there, we are even,” Vázquez said. “They should say who sent it, because it is very easy to make accusations against any official, because I have been a woman of law and order who always respects it. But if there is respect, let’s put the cards on the table and say that report was provided by this or that person. We will take measures against the person who violated the law.”
Meanwhile, although she said a week ago during a press conference that her political campaign staff had cancelled all activities that would draw a crowd in order to prevent coronavirus infection, according to El Nuevo Día newspaper, the governor participated in a fundraising event for her gubernatorial primary campaign with members of the Puerto Rico Hospitals Association. She said the recent event, where 25 people participated, complied with every safety measure and did not violate the executive order she signed.
“[The news article] said it [the event] went by the rules of the executive order and did not promote the crowding of people,” Vázquez said. “That event was held as a part of a political process, but as I said before, they are the same activities that every other candidate is doing. I am only seeing mine being put under the spotlight. I don’t have any problems with that because I will comply with law and order, but that kind of activity, that kind of information, that comes with the intention to harm, two weeks before the primary …, what are the intentions? Why does that information get released when I did everything correctly?” “Because there is a political agenda that wants to prevent and harm me two weeks before primary elections because I am interested in protecting the people of Puerto Rico against healthcare insurers,” the governor said.