Bhatia Doubles Back on PFEI Appointment Controversy
SAN JUAN—Although Senate President Eduardo Bhatia had said Wednesday that an absolute majority in the House of Representatives was not needed to approve appointments to the Independent Special Prosecutor’s Panel (PFEI by its Spanish initials), explaining that a simple majority of the legislators in attendance was sufficient, he changed his tune Thursday.
During a radio interview earlier in the day, the senator acknowledged that, contrary to other appointments that the House evaluates and can be approved with simple majority, the PFEI Act specifies that the appointments to that entity must be made with an absolute majority of the legislative chambers, meaning 14 out of 27 senators and 26 out of 51 representatives.
With his remarks, the outgoing Senate president recognized the validity of the claims by the New Progressive Party (PNP) delegation in the House, which has threatened to go to court to challenge the designations of Emmalind García Garcia and Rafael Ortiz Carrión as alternate members of PFEI, two of the 30 appointments that were included by Gov. Alejandro García Padilla in the latest special session.
On Tuesday, Popular Democratic Party (PPD) Majority Leader Charlie while serving as interim House speaker during the special session, confirmed the two appointments to the PFEI, despite only having 24 votes in favor and 14 absentees. No representative voted against the nominees.
Hernández then closed the proceedings of the extraordinary session in the House in a haphazard way, provoking protests among some of the legislators present. NPP Rep. Lourdes Ramos said minutes later that the minority delegation would go to court to challenge the decision.
When the appointments were seen in the Senate on Wednesday, Bhatia took a turn to defend the House’s actions. Although the NPP delegation abstained from voting in the House, the minority delegation Senate it objected to the appointments and stated that the matter must be brought to court.