Center for Investigative Journalism Urges Gov’t to Disclose Public Information
SAN JUAN — The Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI by its Spanish initials) is urging once again the Puerto Rico government to stop dragging its feet in disclosing certain information related to commonwealth creditors, following a local Appeals Court decision that asserts public access to the requested data.
Last April, a three-judge panel ruled in favor of the CPI, establishing that the identity of those who bought commonwealth bonds in March 2014 and the amount each obtained constitutes public information. On Thursday, the Appeals Court denied the government’s request for reconsideration.
“The government’s conduct in this case shows that the [Alejandro García Padilla] administration’s problem of transparency, which has been pointed out in multiple forums, is not an accident nor the result of circumstances that are not under its control, but rather a deliberate strategy to hide information from the people,” stated CPI’s executive director, Carla Minet.
Last month, Caribbean Business asked Public Affairs Secretary Jesús Manuel Ortiz about the appellate court’s decision. “We are an administration of law and order, and if in the end [the court’s ruling] prevails, we will comply with the court’s decision,” he said at the time.
Minet, a journalist by profession, is calling on both La Fortaleza and the Government Development Bank (GDB) to provide the requested information immediately, which would allow for a better understanding of the island’s fiscal crisis.
The organization believes the information is “of great public interest because the investment firms seeking to collect the debt were trying to influence economic and public policy decisions to ensure their profits, which would mean essential services for the citizens of [Puerto Rico] would be affected due to the government’s lack of liquidity,” the CPI had previously stated.
For CPI attorney Osvaldo Burgos, Puerto Rico deserves to have access to all public information — a freedom of expression
In its April ruling, the three-judge panel ordered the First Instance Court to hold an evidentiary hearing in which the government would explain what damages would result in producing the requested information, in order for the court to determine how to proceed with the CPI’s disclosure petition.
According to attorney Luis José Torres Asencio, who is also representing CPI, the court agreed with the organization in that “the contracting of third parties for the distribution and sale of bonds issued in March 2014 does not eliminate the public nature of the information requested,” the decision reads.
Following last month’s ruling, Minet stated, “It is essential to learn the bondholders’ profile and anticipate the scenarios Puerto Rico could face,” while stressing that the government has been an obstacle to achieve this.
The CPI is an independent nonprofit that promotes freedom of information through investigative journalism, education and advocating transparency.