Road clear for confirmation of Pierluisi as Consumer Affairs secretary
SAN JUAN – After a laughter and praise-filled hearing Tuesday, Senate Appointments Committee Chairman Thomas Rivera Schatz said the Consumer Affairs Department’s (DACO by its Spanish acronym) secretary-designate, Michael Pierluisi Rojo, could be confirmed during Tuesday’s session.
“It seems [he will be confirmed]. He is a very capable person, has a lot of energy and is immersed in the department’s role, wants to move it in the right direction with technology…,” said Rivera Schatz, who presided over the public hearing in which the designee’s father, former Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia, was present.
During the confirmation hearing, Pierluisi Rojo emphasized that his priority will be DACO’s digitization, which could conclude between a year or a year and a half, if the agency received the necessary number of employees and resources. This way, citizens could access requests for all the agency’s licenses and services on its webpage, as well as formal complaints and the list of suits presented against different businesses and their reasons.
He will also aim to address citizens’ complaints promptly–for which he developed a special protocol to prioritize delayed complaints–increasing oversight of laws and regulations that protect consumers, and developing a project to assist people when executing legal sentences for infringing DACO regulations.
When questioned by Puerto Rican Independence Party Sen. Juan Dalmau, the secretary-designate committed to carrying out a study on medicine control, an matter currently under the agency’s control when dealing with name-brand pharmaceuticals, but generic drugs are out of its reach. The latter are covered by the government’s health care plan.
Upon this, New Progressive Party (NPP) Sen. Henry Neumann made the Senate’s resources available to address the medicine issue, “which is completely out of control.”
Moreover, Pierluisi Rojo pointed out the agency’s role in protecting consumers and defended its permanence before the breadth of issues it deals with, which range from gasoline, coffee and milk, to plastic bags, child pornography, and everything related to weights and measurements.
He said DACO has nearly 400 employees, some of them transferred after the approval of the Single Employer Act (Act 8-2017). Out of these, 12 are inspectors that monitor rule compliance, and 14 are weights and measurements inspectors.
Thw agency designee added he could use volunteers to help around the agency, which already has student practitioners and agreements with universities. He also spoke about the possibility of reaching agreements with municipalities to help with oversight.
Amid the audience, Rivera Schatz went off-protocol and invited Pierluisi Urrutia to seat at the bench with the senators, from which he gazed upon his son with pride as he testified.
Before the hearing concluded and amid good-natured banter, Pierluisi Rojo said that although he has a positive relationship with his father, the former resident commissioner always challenges him.
“I told my dad that I got the fourth highest grade in the bar exam, and his answer was: ‘I got the third highest,'” said the secretary-designate, who was a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Villanova University, and a Juris Doctor from the University of Puerto Rico (UPR).
He also worked as a judicial officer in the Supreme Court and in law firms Fiedler, González & Rodríguez, and O’Neill & Borges. The former resident commissioner currently works at the latter.