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Sunday, September 22 2019 @ 08:11 am EDT

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Law Regulating Private Security Companies Suspended

Law & LawyersWith accusations against the Ministry of Public Security made by opposition deputies, the National Assembly approved Law 484 which suspends the implementation of Law 56 of May 27, 2011 for nine months, which regulates private security services. Facing questions from civil society and warnings of monopolistic practices in favor the of private security companies, as well as Articles in the new law that are contrary to the Constitution, Law 484 was approved unanimously. Congressman Leandro Avila of the opposition Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), said the offensive articles in Law 56 came from the Executive, and now the National Assembly has respected the promises made to civil society groups. Deputy Minister of Public Security, Alejandro Garúz, denied that assertion and said the draft law they submitted on 7 September 2010 is different from what was passed by the Assembly. "There were 17 'goals' introduced in the law," he said. Last night president Ricardo Martinelli signed Law 484, which will take effect once it is published in the Official Gazette. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Have you noticed the unusual silence from the Panameñistas in this whole debacle? I suspect if you were to trace the business interests back to find the owners of the companies who were going to profit from the creation of this law (which has since been suspended), you'll find people sympathetic to the Panameñista political party. It's fundamentally embarrassing for the CD to have proposed Law 56 in 2010, the National Assembly passed it on their watch in May 2011, and now they had to come back and admit it was seriously flawed. I still think the biggest flaw was that the wrong guys were going to be making the money. Remember the alliance between the CD and Panameñistas broke up in the end of August 2011.

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CD Files A Complaint For Contempt With The Supreme Court Against The Electoral Tribunal

Law & LawyersMembers of Democratic Change (CD) political party filed a complaint against the judges of the Electoral Tribunal (TE) before the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) for alleged contempt after they refused to give them credentials as representatives of the Central American Parliament. The lawyer representing the CD politicians, Abraham Rosas, said the judges are in contempt, and what they want is for the Electoral Tribunal to comply with the order issued by the Supreme Court, which was to provide the credentials, a process they have delayed unreasonably. Last Friday, the TE declared the CD application as nonviable. (Siglo)

Editor's Comment: The Electoral Tribunal is dominated by the PRD, and the Supreme Court is dominated by the CD, so therefore obviously the CD will win this one on appeal.

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Assembly Votes To Suspend Implementation of Law 56

Law & LawyersThe full National Assembly passed this afternoon by a large majority, in its second reading Bill No. 484, suspending the enforcement of Law No. 56, which regulates private security in the country for six months. This bill contains only two articles and is intended to postpone the enforcement of Law No. 56, which different sectors of society have pointed out it has flaws that can not be ignored and that go against the staff of security agencies in the country. Earlier the government deputy Hernan Delgado said before the Assembly that the extension has been requested so they can eliminate the errors in the law and they can coordinate with the security agencies to improve the legal norm. Following approval in the second debate the session was adjourned for today, which also approved on third reading the bill creating the Savings Fund of Panama. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Yeah, this Law 56 was chock full of crap, errors, bad ideas, and things that are unconstitutional.

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Martinelli Filed A Criminal Complaint Against Balbina Herrera

Law & LawyersThe former presidential candidate from the opposition Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), Balbina Herrera, was notified this morning in the Office Seventh Prosecutor of the First Judicial Circuit of Panama, of a complaint filed against her by President Ricardo Martinelli. The president filed a criminal complaint against Herrera for alleged defamation, in response to allegations made ​​by her on alleged irregularities in the contract with Finmeccanica, and the disclosure of emails. Herrera was accompanied by several members of her party, including the president and secretary general of the PRD, Francisco Sanchez Cardenas and Mitchell Doens. Upon leaving the prosecutor's office Herrera said the President filed the complaint in a personal capacity, but he has been given all of the privileges as a ruler, which she questions. Doens said President Martinelli is using the justice system to prosecute politicians and Balbina Herrera in order to disable her politically. In the end, Doens predicted that the person who will end up in prison is Martinelli. (TVN)

Editor's Comment: Let's see ... Martinelli has filed complaints against Juan Carlos Varela and Balbina Herrera, who people who might be running for the office of President in 2014. I guess next will be Juan Carlos Navarro? Samuel Lewis? Juan Carlos Tapia? Are there any other potential presidential candidates who are not CD that I'm missing? If you're convicted of a crime in Panama, the sentence comes along with an inability to hold public office for the same length of time as the jail term. So, if Martinelli manages to score a legal victor against any of these players, then that can take them out of the running in 2014.

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"Guardian Angel" Program Passes First Debate in National Assembly

Law & LawyersThe Special Legislative Committee on Labor approved Wednesday in the first debate (in special session) Bill 398, which creates a special economic assistance program for people with severe disabilities who are in a position of dependence and extreme poverty, called the "Guardian Angel" program.

The committee chairman, Pablo Vargas, said starting the program would required approximately $3 million dollars, and it is authorized by law for the Executive to make appropriate amendments to the Law on State Budget for fiscal year 2013. He said he will conduct a census to ascertain the exact number of people who are to receive the benefit in an amount of $80 dollars every two months.

Minister of Social Development (MIDES) Guillermo Ferrufino said with this benefit many people will have the opportunity to leave the level of extreme poverty and those in other poverty levels will improve their condition. He noted the program, with the expected participation of about 60,000 Panamanians, will be included in the general budget of the Ministry of Social Development in 2013 and, once it is passed into law, they will request an additional in start in a responsible manner with a nationwide census, in conjunction with the National Secretariat for Disabilities (SENADIS) and the Comptroller General of the Republic. (Estrella)

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President of the Supreme Court Asks Martinelli To Nominate New Fifth Chamber Justices

Law & LawyersThe presiding judge of the Supreme Court, Alejandro Moncada Luna, extended a "respectful" request to the president, Ricardo Martinelli, asking him to appoint the judges who will occupy the Constitutional Chamber of the court. Moncada Luna made this request after visiting the facilities where the three new judges who will occupy the seats on the Constitutional Court (Fifth Chamber) will be working, with their alternates, in Building 228, Ancon, which were made ready more than a year ago and are deteriorating. He said this nomination and acceptance process will take several months in any case, because the judges for the Fifth Chamber will not be approved without agreement by all sectors of the population. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: The three new judges will bring the total on the Supreme Court from nine to twelve, with an outright majority being held by Martinelli appointed justices.

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ANATI Steps In To Help Local Fishermen in La Pacora

Law & LawyersIn good Panamanian (language), the National Authority of Land Management (Anati) took the Governor of Cocle, Fernando Núñez Fábrega, away from the table. And the fishermen of Playa La Pacora may breathe easier after the Anati determines which are national lands that cannot be granted to anyone. This was confirmed by the administrator of this entity, Franklin Oduber, during an inspection tour in conjunction with fishermen, lawyers and local authorities.

He went further to say there is no reason for him to say the fishermen are occupying private lands, so therefore it is not possible to enforce any kind of an eviction in the area, and he added that what will be done is to provide an administrative grant for use by the Association of Fishermen of La Pacora, so they can resume their fishing activities on the site. He added that the most important element in the case of La Pacora is that this example can be replicated elsewhere in the country, where there are many fishermen that are currently being evicted from their areas, and that an administrative concession may solve their problems.

Silvio Guerra, an attorney for the fishermen, said what happened has returned the peace to the fishermen of La Pacora, because in a matter of days they will be given recognition for an administrative concession for a long period to stay on the beach. "It has been established that governor Fernando Nuñez Fabrega never had the reason or legal justification or in fact to attack these poor people, accompanied by a local Justice of the Peace to act as an instrument of selfish interests," remarked the lawyer. Nuñez Fabrega is known in the political world as the "Captain."

Guerra also reported the Superior Court of the Second Judicial District of Cocle and Veraguas upheld the dismissal of the mayor of Rio Hato, Melquicidec Bernal, so he asked the mayor of Anton, Jorge Caceres, to stop congregating with the appropriate authorities, and to fire the Justice of the Peace who is usurping public functions. (Mi Diario)

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Special Legislative Sessions Start Today - Will Consider MEF's "Sovereign Fund" Proposal

Law & LawyersToday, at 4:00 pm on Monday 21 May, the Minister of Economy, Frank De Lima, will present to the plenary of the National Assembly - at the start of the special sessions - the bill creating the Sovereign Fund, but the Panameñistas have not yet made ​​a decision on the issue. This, according to Deputy said Luis Eduardo Quiros, who said the caucus of his party has not yet determined whether or not they will support the creation of the Sovereign Fund, because they do not yet know the contents of the document to be presented by De Lima. But he added the project sounds interesting at first, because it talks about savings for the nation, which could be used in the case of a natural disaster. Moreover, about the Guardian Angel project, which will also be included in the special sessions, Quiros said the cart was put in front of the ox, indicating it was not defined where they would get the resources to pay for this project. (Estrella)
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Supreme Court Finds Former Bank Official Responsible For $9.5 Million Dollars in Damages

Law & LawyersThe former director of the state owned "Caja de Ahorros" bank, Jaime Simons Bragin, was found to be responsible for having caused injury to the State of Panama for more than $9.5 million dollars, during the last years of the military dictatorship (1968 - 1989). This, after a ruling by the Third Chamber of the Supreme Court declared lawful Final Resolution 39-2007 of 22 November 2007, issued by the Department of Patrimonial Responsibility (DRP) of the Comptroller General of the Republic, which blamed Simons Bragin for the injury to the state.

Faced with this 2007 decision, his lawyers filed an administrative lawsuit demanding the DRP resolution should be nullified, which was admitted by the Third Chamber of the Supreme Court in 2008.

The Supreme Court ruling, with justice Victor Benavides as rapporteur, indicates that Simons is "responsible for the irregularities committed in the handling of public funds for having issued checks and debit vouchers without supportive documentation, to make payments by check endorsed in an irregular manner, and for having used the petty cash of the Caja de Ahorros (Bank)."

The Supreme Court decision also coincides with the contents of the DRP report, which noted that "the then general manager of the Caja de Ahorros (bank) in his capacity as administrator of the economy of the state institution, centralized around him the execution of operations bank and all payments." This decision was based on the report of the DRP which included all of the testimonial evidence from several former officials, who agreed the only officials who could authorize payments were Bragin, and the manager of the bank's financial management, Osvaldo Sinisterra. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: These events occurred more than 20 years ago, and we finally have a court decision in this case. In Panama it takes forever for the justice system to make any kind of a final decision in these sorts of corruption cases. If this guy was running the Caja de Ahorros bank back during the Noriega years, that means he was a PRD guy. Therefore, you can bet absolutely nothing happened in this case during the years of the administration of Ernesto Perez Balladares (1994-1999) for example. It's sort of strange that the DRP made their decision in 2007, and the case was admitted to the Supreme Court in 2008, because that was during the administration of the PRD president Martin Torrijos. Anyway, now let's see what happens with this decision declaring him responsible for having caused more than $9.5 million dollars in damages to the state. Meaning - that's how much money they stole.

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Executive Calls Lawmakers Into Special Session

Law & LawyersThe Executive Branch convened the National Assembly in a special legislative session, from 21 May until 8 June 2012, to consider four bills. The bills to be considered, according to Executive Order 335, are: creating the Savings Fund of Panama, amending the articles of the Penal Code, which gives life to the "Guardian Angel" program, and establishing the institutional and regulatory framework for the provision of public electrical utility services. On the establishment of a sovereign fund or savings fund, the Minister of Economy and Finance, Frank De Lima, said it could be used, among other things, when natural disasters occur or there is an economic slowdown in Panama.

Projects To Be Discussed By The Deputies in the National Assembly: A project that creates the Savings Fund in Panama, amendments to the 'Criminal Code', the creation of the 'Guardian Angel' program, and the regulatory framework for the electric utility service. (Prensa)

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Martinelli Sues Varela For $30 Million Dollars

Law & LawyersWhat a number. President Ricardo Martinelli is demanding $30 million dollars from Vice President Juan Carlos Varela for alleged moral damages. Despite the amount mentioned, the president did not make the amount of the lawsuit official, but he did accept that he felt insulted by the Vice President. He continues to ask Varela to resign and to leave behind the soap opera he has created. (Dia a Dia)

Editor's Comment: That's right folks. The sitting president of Panama has apparently sued the sitting Vice President of Panama for $30 million dollars, for "moral damages." You can't make this shit up...

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Judge Orders Suspension Of Beach Eviction

Law & LawyersThe First Civil Judge of Cocle, Kitzel Vega, allowed the appeal filed by the attorneys representing the fishermen of Santa Clara, and ordered the Justice of the Peace of Rio Hato, Melquisedec Bernal, to suspend the decision ordering their eviction from one of the beaches.

The Governor of Cocle hosted a meeting, which began at 10:00 am, between lawyers and Gov. Nunez Fabrega, while outside of the house a judiciary official waited. At 12:40 pm when the Justice of the Peace Bernal left, he was informed of the decision, and subsequently he signed the notice, which required him to respond within the next to hours to the presented demand. Ramiro Arauz, the fishermen's lawyer, said he asked the authorities to rectify the administrative procedures that have led to the eviction.

The governor of Cocle, Fernando Nunez Fágrega, said it was a very revealing meeting where a number of anomalies were found in all of the processes of these evictions. "We have seen that some of the titles presented are not even remotely valid," said Nuñez Fabrega.

La Pacora Beach - On the subject of La Pacora, Nuñez Fabrega said this is a smear campaign of the lawyers, who accused former governors of having have a financial interest, and there is no evidence that Carlos Barnes, a businessman who bought the estate 5250, with the Pacific ocean as a boundary, will build a resort. When asked about the perception that there is a merciless attempt against the human rights of fishermen, Nuñez Fabrega said in a biting and threatening in tone, "I do not present myself as an implacable person, and I want to clarify that if you continue to voice these kinds of things, it's going to look like you have your own agenda."

The governor directed accusations and threats against the correspondent of the El Siglo newspaper, because of the questions about the issue of La Pacora, saying "you have a bias in favor of the fishermen and have become a mouthpiece for them, rather than an independent journalist. Be careful, because I have been told that they offered you to be the public relations representative for the fishermen, and next I will say it on camera." (Siglo)

Editor's Comment: That's hilarious. Snarl, growl, "I heard you are a biased journalist," snarl, growl. It's the job of a journalist to get both sides of the story. The fishermen are alleging that their rights are being squashed so the journalist asked him "what do you think about that?" So rather than addressing the question, he lowered his pike at the reporter. This, from the guy who was first hired to be the Anti Corruption Watchdog for the Martinelli administration. Then he was (fired?) and appointed as the Governor of Cocle.

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Debate On "Moncada Law" Suspended For Lack Of A Quorum

Law & LawyersThe Government Committee of the National Assembly suspended discussion on Bill 438, known as the "Moncada Law," for lack of a quorum. Despite the absence of some Deputies, the hearing was attended by members of civil society, such as Magaly Castillo and the President of the National Bar Association, Cesar Ruiloba. Both Castillo and Ruiloba requested that the Moncada proposal be withdrawn, which amends certain articles of the Judicial Code. (TVN)

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A "Writ of Habeas Data" Will Be Presented Against The Director of IDAAN

Law & LawyersThe lawyer Victor Martinez said he would file a "writ of habeas data" (similar to a Freedom of Information request) with the Supreme Court against the Director of the National Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (IDAAN) Adbiel Cano, to explain the situation of flooding, sewage overflows, and sewer collapses that are affecting residents of the condominiums of Punta Pacifica. Martinez, who legally represents those affected, said he would be accompanied by Iván Blasser, the President of the Condominium Owners of Punta Pacifica, to present this appeal to the Supreme Court at 11 am today. Habeas data is the law, in exercising a constitutional or legal action, that has any person listed in a register or database, access to such records to know what information exists about them, and to request correction of that information if could cause them damage. (Critica)

Editor's Comment: Well, the article says that the "writ of habeas data" law can be used to verify any personal information that might be held in a government database, and that's true. But it can also be used to access information that's supposed to be public. By law government offices are supposed to make a whole lot of information available to the public, but in reality they don't. You can ask them for it, and they can decide to either give it to you, or tell you to pound sand. If they don't provide the information you've requested, then you can go through the courts to file a "writ of habeas data" and if you win, the judges will order them to turn over the information. In this case the property owners in Punta Pacifica are probably trying to find out what the IDAAN has done to fix the problem, what they know about the problem, etc.

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CODIS Letter of Agreement

Law & LawyersThe Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Assistant Director David Christian Hassell presented a signed Letter of Agreement to the Government of Panama today, authorizing the use of the FBI Laboratory’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). The FBI sponsors CODIS as part of a technical assistance program to International Law Enforcement forensic laboratories which allows laboratories to store, compare and match DNA records from offenders, crime scene evidence, unidentified human remains and relatives of missing persons.

The FBI Laboratory’s CODIS is an application that blends forensic science and computer technology into an effective tool for solving violent crimes. CODIS allows law enforcement laboratories to store and compare DNA profiles in an effort to more efficiently identify the perpetrators of crimes. It enables law enforcement to centralize DNA data to provide new information in previously unrelated investigations.

Through this Letter of Agreement the FBI reaffirms its commitment to assist International Law Enforcement Agencies in combating violent crime. The FBI will provide the CODIS software and the training necessary to operate the system. This agreement is one of the first of its kind to be signed in Latin America and will allow the Instituto de Medicina Legal y Ciencias Forenses to operate a DNA database utilizing the same platform as many of its South American and Caribbean counterparts.

Once CODIS is installed, Instituto de Medicina Legal y Ciencias Forenses will join more than 70 laboratories in greater than 35 countries in the use of CODIS for the management of its DNA data. (US Embassy Panama City Press Release)

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Constitutional Reforms Being Discussed In The Presidency

Law & LawyersStarting at 10:00 am this morning and lasting through the afternoon, the Deputy Minister of the Presidency María Fábrega is meeing with the Special Commission on Constitutional Reform, to discuss the issue that the "notables" have participated in the reform process, but now they are concerned because nothing has been done. According to the "notables," they gave their draft recommendations to the Executive on 30 January 2012, but since then they have not heard of a road map or something to indicate the future of this project. Given what happened, they have been doing outreach work in different sectors, which have been calling them to to go and explain about the reform project, but they still have several questions which they ask to be clarified. They want to know about the "road map," when the proposals will be presented to the Cabinet, and when will it reach the National Assembly, because it has to be submitted during two different sessions and they want to see the project presented now because the current session finishes on 30 April 2012. (TVN)
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Legislative Agenda Delayed Due To Ngabe-Bugle Conflicts - Gonzalez

Law & Lawyers
Marcos González Vice President of Panama's National Assembly
Marcos González Vice President of Panama's National Assembly
The Deputies of the National Assembly of the Republic are up against the clock because several bills have been stalled due to conflict between the government and the Ngobe-Bugle indigenous group. This was stated by the Deputy and Vice President of the Assembly, Marcos Gonzalez, who said not only are some bills stuck, but some conventions and others as well. Gonzalez said after the conflict at least 30 projects have been evaluated and 32 are ready to be passed from committee to the second debate, among those the project to reform alimony payments.

For his part, the President of the National Assembly Hector Aparicio said bills like the burying of electric cables underground, the moratorium of Social Security, and the electoral reforms among others, will be discussed before the end of the extraordinary session. Aparicio explained they will debate Bills such as the proposal to bury electrical cables underground, which will be breakthrough for the country. It will also be important to pass the moratorium for the social security system, because employers often owe the worker-employer share to the Social Security Fund, and it is thought with the approval of this law the government will be able to collect about $100 million dollars.

Other bills to be discussed are the electoral reforms which they plan to tackle before the end of the regular session. This issue concerns Esmeralda de Troitiño, because the package of proposed reforms to the Constitution of the Republic which was submitted to the Cabinet Council on 30 January 2012 by the "Committee of Eminent Persons," contains a draft of about 500 items which have been kept in suspense, pending a decision by the ministers of state.

Aparicio also revealed there are other bills, such as the law on rare diseases or "crystal children," the Guardian Angel law, and a special law for the patients of diethylene glycol poisoning, which will pay them a pension for life, ie the salary they were receiving when they were diagnosed with the disease. He also emphasized he would personally propose a draft law establishing the discount for the family members who are taking care of children with disabilities, so that these patients will receive a 15% discount on medications, in order to have the same benefits of retirees in our country. About the Angel Guardian project, he said once approved in the second and third reading and signed into law, the budget should already exist to give assistance to parents of disabled children. (Estrella)

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IMA Seized Property Of 17 Companies For Debts

Law & LawyersThe Institute of Agricultural Marketing (IMA) has gone to court and taken legal action with the seizure of the property of companies and producers who owe nearly $1.5 million dollars. Among the companies against which they have proceeded are Dos Valles and Comexa, two of Panama's most recognized agricultural exporting companies. Dos Valles' debt exceeds $294,000 dollars, while that of Comexa is $50,400 dollars. When asked, the owner of Dos Valles Manuel Haito claimed to have no knowledge about the debt. "I have no idea, I would have to ask accounting," he said. In the case of Dos Valles, several farms were seized, according to the IMA.

The main debt that worries the IMA is the one with the company Mill-Agros SA, for an amount of $499,000. The Director of the institution, Julio Cesar Abrego, said the company's commitment was to mobilize goods, specifically flour. The IMA is investigating to determine of the company Mill-Agros has assets to seize, while they are trying to locate Jose Miranda to answer for the commitment of the company he represents.

In another case, the IMA announced it would file a criminal complaint for the alleged theft of corn against the producer Juan Fong, who ended up owing more than $42,000 dollars, which is the value of the goods. They are also investigating an outstanding bill left by the defunct banana Cooperative of Puerto Armuelles - Coopsemupar - for $154,000 dollars.

Moreover, the National Institute of Agronomy (INA), located in Herrera, also maintains an outstanding balance with the IMA for $161,804 dollars for the supply of products for the planting of 200 hectares of rice. The school is negotiating a payment arrangement.

The executive judge of the IMA, Eliseo Navarro said metaphorically that they are "fighting like a face-up cat" in trying to recover the arrears. Navarro added that most of the accounts are loans made between 2008 and 2009 for the mobilization and procurement of seed and fertilizer for non-traditional products.

Root of the problem - The president of the Union of Nontraditional Agricultural Exporters of Panama (Gantrap), Edwin Perez, said the problem started for four or five years ago, when the IMA brought a fertilizer for rice and the remainder was sold to the agro-exporters. According to Perez, a quintal of fertilizer was sold at $43, a cost he considered excessive. "They gave businesses the opportunity to use it some of them used it, so that each is responsible for their accounts," Perez said. (Panama America)

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Appointment of Fifth Chamber Judges Not On Martinelli's Schedule

Law & LawyersIt has been more than a year since the Supreme Court of Justice ruled that the repeal of the Fifth Chamber was unconstitutional, and so far the only thing that's ready are the offices where the new the new justices will work. Currently the building is vacant and the authorities from the Judicial Branch of government are only waiting for the new judges to be appointed. Meanwhile, the presidential legal advisor Ana Belfon said the issue has not yet been included on the agenda of the Executive Council. She said the package of constitutional reforms, which suggests the creation of a constitutional court instead of the Fifth Court, also has not been scheduled. The president of the Bar Association, Cesar Ruiloba, said a law must be created regulating the operation of this Court before the judges are appointed. Meanwhile, the Citizens Alliance for Justice, in a note sent to the full Court, noted that the Executive be urged that appointments are transparent. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: Yeah, everyone is kinda waiting for Martinelli to make a decision on this one. Is he going to appoint the Fifth Chamber judges, or not?

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Martinelli Signs Bill On Insurance Reform Into Law

Law & LawyersPresident Ricardo Martinelli signed Law 12 of 3 April 2012, which dictates the new provisions in the regulation of the insurance business, according to the Ministry of Communication of the State. This law, containing 305 Articles, will go into effect the day after its promulgation, except Articles 110, 112, and 138 which will go into effect two years from today. Law 12 of 3 April 2012 replaces existing legislation that dates from 1996, and since then there have been several changes in the manner of supervision and operation of the market, reforms that have been recognized internationally, and it was necessary to implement these reforms and the structure of this sector in Panama. (Panama America)
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Bar Association Asks For Withdraw Of Bill 438 (Judicial Reform)

Law & LawyersThe Bar Association of Panama requested that the President of the Supreme Court, Alejandro Moncada Luna, withdraw Bill 438 in order to form a technical work committee, and to give broad discussion to the document. The President of the Bar Association Cesar Ruiloba said on the channel 2 TVN morning news broadcast he is waiting for a response from Moncada Luna to the letter sent yesterday, demanding the withdrawal of Bill 438.

There will be no winners or losers, Ruiloba said, if the proposal is withdrawn, because the Bar Association is that if the channels of communication are cut because "the lawyers suffer the ravages of delayed justice and institutional corruption." Ruiloba refused to say if with this project the Government intends to take over the judiciary, saying he does not go into political topics.

The President of the Bar Association said he agrees with tackling corruption, but Bill 438 has serious problems with unconstitutionality, such as giving the Supreme Court the power to name judges of inferior rank, or to suspend and punish a judges on the basis of a single complaint. He also expressed his rejection or surpassing the limits on human rights, giving the Justices of the Peace the power to order raids or execute search warrants, functions that currently fall to prosecutors, although they are cutting their power. Ruiloba said on the full body of the Supreme Court, the judges do not project, do not read on time, there are delays in justice, and what they do is pass from one case to the next. "Corruption must be faced by all, using constitutional mechanisms, due process and the judicial career," concluded Ruiloba. (TVN)

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Judicial Reform Bill Submitted By Moncada Luna Was An "Errand" For Martinelli

Law & LawyersOpposition politicians and lawyers see Bill 438, presented before the National Assembly by the President of the Supreme Court Alejandro Moncada Luna, as an "errand" requested by president Ricardo Martinelli, in order to gain full control of the Judicial branch of government. Yesterday President Martinelli did not hesitate to express his satisfaction with the project presented by the President of the Supreme Court, saying it is necessary, because the judges in Panama appointed for life, and "when someone is perpetuated in power, they become corrupted."

Unconstitutional - The president of the Partido Popular, Milton Henriquez, it is not that the president now agrees with the project, but rather it was he who commissioned Moncada Luna to present it (to the National Assembly.) "With this proposal, Martinelli will make the Judicial branch of government his factory of injustice," he said. The Constitution, in Article 165, paragraph c, states that laws will be proposed: "By the Supreme Court of Justice, by the Attorney General, and by the Solicitor General, provided they deal with the issuance or reforms to the National Codes."

On 12 March, Moncada presented the draft to the Assembly, without which this proposal would have been under discussion by the full Judicial branch. According to Henriquez, the way this project was presented was unconstitutional, because the president of the Supreme Court is not entitled to submit proposals to the Assembly, unless they have been been approved by the full body of the Supreme Court. He said the Assembly, warned about the case, should reject it immediately, but since most of the Deputies respond to Martinelli's interests, they have not done so.

The former president of the National Bar Association, Ruben Elias Rodriguez, agreed with Henriquez that this project should be removed because it does not favor democratic stability or the rule of law in the country.

Moncada said with this project they are only seeking to streamline the processing of cases, and he denied that it would affect the judicial career. (Siglo)

Editor's Comment: I thought there wasn't any centers of political power left for Ricardo Martinelli to take over. As it turns out, there are still a few more left that he just has not gotten around to grabbing control of, yet. Consider this. All of the justices and judges who serve as on the Superior Tribunals throughout the country, all of the circuit court judges (family, civil, criminal, and administrative) and even down the to the Municipal level are appointed by the "hierarchy" - meaning - the Supreme Court appoints the judges to the Superior Tribunals. Then the judges of the Superior Tribunals appoint the judges who will serve as the Circuit court judges, in their circuits, below them. And all of these judges are appointed for life. That means practically all of them have been appointed by either the PRD or the Panameñista hierarchy, and practically none of them have been appointed by the relatively new Cambio Democratico hierarchy. They want to change it so that all sitting judges will serve a maximum term of ten years, and after that time their service will be reviewed. In other words, they can be fired and replaced by someone with more of a CD bent. And of course all of the sitting and existing judges are dead-set against this change - they hate it. So yeah, Martinelli is trying to take over the "rest" of the judicial branch. He already has the Supreme Court locked up. But in order to get the rest of the judges, he will have to wait for them to die (literally) under the current rules. So, change the rules. Isn't that obvious?

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Former President Sues Panamanian Newspaper for $5.5 Million Dollars

Law & LawyersThe former President of the Republic Ernesto Perez Balladares filed a civil suit against the Corporation La Prensa before the Fifteenth Civil Court, in the First Judicial Circuit of Panama, confirmed the judiciary. The confirmation of the legal action came through the publication in local media of a certificate from the court clerk of the Fifteenth Civil Court, Enith Arauz. According to the certification, Perez Balladares presented an ordinary proceeding, filed against the the Corporation La Prensa, and the publication of the notice was done "at the request of the interested party, to comply with the provisions of Article 669 of the Judicial Code." Article 669 of the Judicial Code states: "The presentation of the demand shall interrupt the period for prescription of any claim that is attempted, if before the expiration of the term of prescription the demand has been served to the defendant, or published on in daily national newspaper or in the Official Gazette of a replacement edict or a certificate from the Secretary of the respective court in which the said filing is proven." The information published in the local newspapers says the demand is for $5.5 million dollars. The lawsuit was filed in the Fifteenth Civil Court of Panama at 11:47 am yesterday, Monday March 19, 2012, by the law firm Castillo, Moreno & Associates, the legal representatives of the plaintiff. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Most importantly, why? What news article did La Prensa publish to cause Ernesto Perez Balladares to sue them for $5.5 million dollars. This article just states the suit was filed, but does not say why, or what promoted the legal action.

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Former Supreme Court Judge Doesn't Like Proposed Changes to Judicial Code

Law & LawyersThe former Supreme Court judge Esmeralda de Troitiño said Bill 438, which changes some of the articles of the Judicial Code, and which was presented by the President of the Supreme Court Alejandro Moncada Luna, undermines judicial independence and public safety. Troitiño said the project seeks to eliminate the judiciary career, and threatens the independence of judges, and there are constitutional provisions that prevent it.

She said the proposal would make many changes to the administration of justice, such as the appointment of judges, that according to Troitiño there exists a norm which says the judges of the Superior Tribunals are appointed by the Supreme Court, and that the judges of the judicial system are appointed by their hierarchy, however there is an an article in the project which says the Supreme Court will appoint all judges, breaking the constitutional rules. She said with all of the changes to the judicial career and the system, there would be a sway in the balance of powers between the Executive, Legislative and Judicial. She added this would mean that the decisions of who is appointed as the administrators of justice would remain in the hands of politicians, which would destabilized the platform and there would be judges who do not respond to the principle of independence.

On the issue of giving the power to a local Justice of the Peace to issue search warrants, this goes against security, because there is a fundamental right which is the inviolability of the home. (Telemetro)

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Concerns Over Proposal To Allow Police To Conduct Searches Without Warrants

Law & LawyersBy definition, a police state is undemocratic in nature. In this direction, according to some opinions, Panama would be moving if the initiative presented by the President of the Supreme Court Alejandro Moncada Luna on Monday before the National Assembly thrives. The bill, among other things, would give the Supreme Court full powers to investigate and separate the judges of the Superior Tribunals.

Several legal experts warn in the project there is an article that could be described as a "shrimp", to give police authorities the power to order and carry out raids on homes, private buildings, rural or urban land, without having to have the flagrant commission of a crime, as currently required by the Judicial Code in accordance with 12 clauses stipulated in the Administrative Code.

For the former Supreme Court magistrate Esmeralda de Troitiño, the power that is being given to the police authorities for conducting searches without proper authorization contrasts with the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code, which grants this power to judges.

Of the same opinion is the former Attorney General Rogelio Cruz, who warned that although the term "law enforcement" is clearly defined and refers to the President, his ministers and other officials, the fact remains that the proposal gives authority to the National Police (PN) to conduct searches.

Jaime Abad, former director of the (defunct) Judicial Technical Police (PTJ), said Moncada Luna is trying to "put a shrimp in another sausage law."

Meanwhile, Carlos Bares, former director of the National Police during the administration of Mireya Moscoso, said if this article is not clarified and specified, it might be a danger to democracy. (Prensa)

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There Are Dangerous Aspects Of The Proposal Submitted By Moncada Luna

Law & LawyersThe former Attorney General Rogelio Cruz believes there is a concern within the proposed bill submitted by the presiding judge of the Supreme Court, Alejandro Moncada Luna. According to Cruz, who made his statements on RPC Radio, one of these areas of concern is the provision intended to make it so that the judges who sit on the Superior Tribunals, as well as the Circuit and Municipal court judges, will be appointed with a term of ten years in office, and eventually the judicial branch (Supreme Court) will determine whether the judge stays or goes at the end of that term, he said. Cruz expressed concern that it has not been determined in the draft law, a procedure that would lead to determine the reasons why a magistrate or judge should leave. In this regard, he added that if a judge goes, the document does not define how he or she will be replaced. He added that the situation defined as "discretionary, that is the source of arbitrariness, is dominant in determining what magistrate or judge or whoever is going to replace the judge who left." Cruz believes the project aims to maintain absolute and total control, not only in the case of judges of the (supreme) court, but also over the judges of the Superior Tribunals as well as the Circuit Court judges and Municipal Court judges throughout the Republic.

The former alternate judge Zulay Rodriguez yesterday described the draft law presented my Moncada Luna before the National Assembly on 12 March as "harmful, dangerous, Machiavellian, and evil." According to Rodriguez, the bill is a weapon that Moncada Luna will use to to appoint judges and magistrates from the ruling Democratic Change (CD) political party. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: The lower court judges - Superior Tribunal, Circuit Courts, Family Courts, Municipal Courts - are basically appointed for life once they are hired. The people who work in these jobs are there until they die or quit, and it's really (really) hard for anyone to remove them from their positions for practically any reason. This proposal would try to break the iron-hold grasp these lower judges have on their job security. The ten year review thing would allow for some kind of accountability and a review of their job performance. Lower court judges blatantly sell decisions to the highest bidder in some cases. The judicial system in Panama is corrupt as hell. So yeah, they clearly want to get rid of some of the bad apples.

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Supreme Court Admits Case Against "Pele Police" in Panama

Law & LawyersBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - The Supreme Court has admitted a case filed against the National Police over the use of random police checkpoints, and the use of the handheld "pele police" data units. The "pele police" systems are handheld data devices used by police officers on the street, which allows them to quickly and easily check to see if any person is wanted by the authorities for any reason. The ATTT even included traffic tickets and suspended driver's licenses in the system. This decision by the Supreme Court has a "suspension" effect, meaning the Director of the National Police Gustavo Perez will have to order his officers to stop using the "pele police" systems - as of right now - until the case is decided by the court. In addition, they will no longer be able to conduct random checkpoints in Panama City or in other areas around the country. A spokesman from the Judiciary reported this afternoon Director Perez has been notified of the decision. While detractors argue the "pele police" system and the random checkpoints constitute an illegal search, proponents argue these are tools and tactics used by the National Police to filter pedestrian and vehicular traffic, resulting in hundreds if not thousands of arrests of people who have been fugitives from justice, as well as the recovery of stolen vehicles and the arrest of criminals who were basically caught in the act.

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Paychecks Of 42 Judges Withheld For Failing To Disclose Assets

Law & LawyersPenalty - The Comptroller ordered the withholding of paychecks for the second half of Januart 2012 for 42 judges of the judicial branch, for failing to file an affidavit of assets and thereby violating Article 304 of the Constitution and Law 59 of December 29, 1999. The information was disclosed yesterday in a press release stating their salary will be withheld until the judges file the required statements. Among those who were sanction are a mix of civil, criminal, and family judges from across the country. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Yeah! Enforcing the law. What a concept...

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Yelling, Pushing, Slapping, And "Heavy Caliber Gestures" In The National Assembly

Law & LawyersThose who thought that not allowing the public to enter the viewing stands of the National Assembly would return calm to the floor were wrong. The absence of spectators yesterday, Tuesday, in the second debate of Bill 402, which would have defined the roles and functions of the Fifth Chamber of the Supreme Court, did not stop the fighting that came from another sector. This time the protagonists of the brawl were not paid hooligans or thugs, but the deputies themselves. The blood was almost flowing when Deputies Marcos Gonzalez and Jose Blandon were about to go to blows. It all started when the Deputy from the Democratic Change political party Abraham Martinez presented a proposal on behalf of the official caucus to request the withdrawal of Bill 402. After reading a letter sent by the President of the Supreme Court, Alejandro Moncada, they proceeded to call the vote on the proposed withdrawal.

That annoyed the Deputies from the Panameñista party, who requested they be allowed to intervene. However, when this possibility was denied they rushed against the President of the National Assembly Hector Aparicio, and his Vice President Marcos Gonzalez. What followed was pushing, slapping, more words, and heavy caliber gestures. In the end a recess was declared after the vote, with 37 votes to withdraw the project.

¿Irregularity? - Panameñista Deputy Jose Luis Varela said the CD Deputies violated the rules of procedure, because a Bill that is in the second debate and has been modified can not be removed that way. He said they could reject it or return it to the first debate, but not remove it that way. However, the proponent of the law, Hernán Delgado, denied that the project has undergone any modifications, so there was no such violation.

Complaint - The Panameñista caucus filed a complaint with the Secretary of the National Assembly against the President of the Supreme Court, judge Moncada, for the alleged offense against public administration and breaches of his judicial duties, over the censure he issued to the other branches of government.

Appointments - About the appointment of the new judges to the Fifth Chamber of the Supreme Court announced Monday by President Martinelli, the President of the Bar Association, Cesar Ruiloba, said Martinelli should not appoint the new judges because the Fifth Chamber requires some adjustments to the law to adjust to modern times.

Meanwhile, the former judge of the Electoral Court, Guillermo Marquez Amado, said what the country needs is the creation of a Constitutional Court, and that proposal is included in the proposed amendments to the Constitution. (Mi Diario)

Editor's Comment: The Deputies in the National Assembly fight like 12 year old girls. And the public is lapping it up like puppies on crack. And I love the "heavy caliber gestures" line. "Step back, or I shall be forced to use a heavy caliber gesture against thee..."

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Martinelli Calls National Assembly Antics A "Kiddie Show"

Law & LawyersThe President of the Republic, Ricardo Martinelli, lamented the fighting that occurred in the National Assembly, calling it a "chiqui show" (kiddie show). According to the president these cases are a political show, because if they (the Panameñistas) had been responsible for the appointment of the three new judges to fill the Fifth Chamber of the Supreme Court, there would not have been any problem. He added that he is limited to complying with the decision of the Supreme Court with regards to the appointment of the three new judges to the Fifth Chamber. "I, as the president, accept the court's verdict and will comply with the appointment of the judges," he said.

Martinelli criticized that the news media broadcast yesterday's session of the National Assembly live. According to him, the media interrupted their programming (unnecessarily) to broadcast the strong arguments among the Deputies of the National Assembly, which almost came to blows.

The president made his statements during a tour of Las Garzas de Pacora, where today a new rehabilitation center for minors who have committed illegal acts was inaugurated. Martinelli said it was unfortunate that a good news story such as this has been marred by the events in the National Assembly. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: When Martinelli called the antics in the National Assembly a "kiddie show" he was only talking about the role played by the Panameñista Deputies, not his guys who were on the other side of the scuffle. And his position of "I'm just following the orders of the Supreme Court" is what he always does. Nobody plays the "who, me?" card better than Martinelli.

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