Puerto Rico lawmakers threaten legal action if gov names successor without consent
Suggest parties unite ‘to protect’ the island’s stability
SAN JUAN — The leaders of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) minority in the Senate and House, Eduardo Bhatia and Rafael “Tatito” Hernández, respectively, along with Rep. Luis Vega Ramos, said Tuesday that if Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s “intention” is to swear in his successor without the legislature’s confirmation, the party will challenge the process in court.
“Rosselló’s inaction regarding his constitutional duty to fill the [secretary of State] vacancy, has kept the people anxious in facing the future in a state of total uncertainty. The lack of a clear and defined course of action by the Governor results in countless probable scenarios, one of which is to appoint a Secretary of State just before the effective date and time of the resignation of Rosselló this Friday at 5:00 p.m., so that the Legislative Assembly (House and Senate) cannot exercise the constitutional prerogative of advice and consent before that nominee becomes governor,” their joint press release reads.
The lawmakers specified that Act 7 of May 2, 2005, amended Act 7 of July 24, 1952, to require that any secretary who fills a vacancy in the office of the governor must be duly confirmed, except for the secretary of State.
“Our lawyers, as well as recognized jurists of the Country, concur that this provision is flagrantly unconstitutional because it is incompatible with the principle of the separation of powers,” they said, adding that the legislature “cannot be deprived of its constitutional duty to ratify any appointment to Secretary of State, which clearly emanates from Section 5 of Article IV of our Constitution, not to mention that a Secretary of State cannot remain in that position without being confirmed, much less take over until the end” of the four-year term.
The lawmakers assured they would be willing to take the matter to court were the governor to “irresponsibly” put “us in this situation.”
They urged the leadership of the majority New Progressive Party (NPP) “to avoid a constitutional crisis.”
If the NPP’s leaders are not fully confident that the governor “will honor his constitutional duty to send any State Department appointment for legislative advice and consent,” the lawmakers said, “we must unite immediately” and adopt a legal approach “to protect the stability of the country on behalf of the entire Legislative Power.”