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Sunday, September 22 2019 @ 09:03 pm EDT

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National Police File Appeal To "Pele Police" Court Ruling

Law & Lawyers#Panama - The National Police (PN) insisted yesterday they would request the revocation of the Seventh Criminal Court ruling (through an appeal) that outlawed the use of the handheld "Pele Police" data systems, although as of 18 October 2011 that decision was duly executed, sources withing the Gil Ponce Palace of Justice confirmed. Members of the legal advisory team of the National Police went yesterday to the chambers of the Judge of the Seventh Criminal Court, Felipe Fuentes, and presented a legal document so they could become plaintiffs in the process, and at the same time they filed an appeal to the ruling. During the development of the whole process, which dates from 2010, the police did not become an interested party in the case. Meanwhile, the Ninth Circuit Prosecutor yesterday also asked Judge Fuentes to clarify his decision, asking if the use of the "Pele Police" system was now prohibited as a result of the decision, or if this decision applies only to this one particular case.

For the constitutional and former Supreme Court Justice Aura Emérita Guerra de Villalaz, the decision handed down by judge Fuentes sets an "excellent" precedent, since it was based on the fact that there is neither a statute nor a regulation governing the used of the "Pele Police" system by the National Police officers. However, she said in her opinion the decision is not general or universal in nature with regards to compliance, but only and exclusively for the parties to the process.

Asked about the issue, Security Minister Jose Raul Mulino preferred not to make a public comment at this time, while the National Police, through a press release, interpreted that the court's decision is not for "general application" and it was only limited to a specific case, and therefore it did not outlaw the use of "a technological tool in harmony with the functions of the police force". (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Interesting. The retired Supreme Court judge interprets this ruling to apply only to those involved in the case. And now the National Police have joined the case in order to file and appeal. Logically, they are now part of the case, so now (logically) the decision also applies to them, right? Anyway, apparently you now have the right to refuse to participate in the use of the "Pele Police" system screenings, if you want to. But, be prepared to face the consequences if you do. My suggestion would be to let the Panamanians figure this one out among themselves, and that foreigners should just cooperate and go with the flow whenever possible.

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National Assistance Program Director Notified of Complaint

Law & Lawyers#Panama - The Director of the National Assistance Program, Giacomo Tamburrelli, went to the office of the Electoral Prosecutor to be officially notified of a complaint filed against him by the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) on the alleged "purchase" of National Assembly Deputies using public funds. Tamburelli met with Secretary General of prosecutor's office, who informed him that the record is open and current, and they are waiting for the Electoral Tribunal to lift the immunity of the former Minister of Economy and Finance, Alberto Vallarino, who is also linked to the case. The Electoral Prosecutor Eduardo Peñalosa also said he is waiting for a ruling from the Electoral Tribunal. He also reported that Tamburelli expressed readiness to cooperate with the examination proceedings. (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: The allegations from the PRD are that basically the ruling government of Ricardo Martinelli is using these "National Assistance Program" funds to "buy" National Assembly Deputies. Meaning, if you join their Cambio Democratico party then you and your district can get the funds, but if you don't join then you can't. Also, unless I'm mistaken, the Office of the Electoral Prosecutor is one of the few public offices in the entire Republic of Panama that remains in the hands of the PRD. So, they are literally swinging the very last sword they have. Expect the counter attack, any minute now...

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National Police Statement In Reaction To "Pele Police" Court Decision Called A "Coup" and "Subvers

Law & Lawyers#Panama - The National Police told the public on Friday that the jurisdictional analysis of the Seventh Circuit Criminal Court about the handheld "Pele Police" systems being used in the street by police officers "is not of general application." The entity responds to the ruling of Judge Felipe Fuentes Lopez, issued on October 13, 2011. The judges decision absolves Elbis Ponce Morales, who on 28 December 2010 denied to participate in a revision using the "Pele Police" system in the Albrook Bus Terminal in Panama City. He was accused by the police officers Carlos Medina Aguirre and Ángel Santos Aparicio Ávila of declining the test, and of physically assaulting the latter. Ponce Morales was acquitted by the court, and in the decision the judge also found (or decided) there is no law or regulation that permits the use of the "Pele Police" system against all citizens in the Republic of Panama.

In a press release the National Police responded to the decision by saying the acquittal was limited to a specific case and therefore "does not declare as illegal the use of a technological tool in harmony with the police function, such as the Pele Police." "The case in question, and on which the sentence was issued, refers to the commission of offenses against public administration, the possession and trafficking of firearms and explosives, personal injury and theft, against several members of a family group," the statement adds.

However, in the sentence handed down in the case against Mr. Ponce Morales, reference is made to offenses against public servants because he hit a police officer. Even though, the judge decided in his favor because he responded in self defense to the excessive use of police force because they intended to handcuff him, his mother, his brother, and to deny him the ability to use his cellular telephone.

The lawyer Ernesto Cedeño thinks if this decision comes as part of a special case, it sheds some light over the interpretation in the general spectrum in similar circumstances. He thinks the "Pele Police" is a good tool in criminal matters, but (the application of this technology) deserves a regulation in accordance with the Constitution.

The Police Statement Described As A Coup: The lawyer Miguel Antonio Bernal lamented that the police as an institution is not competent to interpret the decisions of the judges or the law, and not even the Ministry of Government has made a statement, and they are the civil authority. "This press release is an absolute violation of due process, and it violates the Constitution and the fundamental guarantees of this country," said Bernal. Bernal insisted the police "are agents of authority and they cannot be releasing statements of that nature." "In this country the law must be followed, and not the whim of the police ... They are ignoring and violating (the law), and that is even more serious - it's called subversion," he said. He deplored that with their press release the National Police are subverting the legal order established in Panama. "They (the police) can not issue such a statement, this statement is similar to a coup ... it reveals the coup attitude against the law, held by the authorities there who have issued that statement," said Bernal. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: Shortly after the administration of Ricardo Martinelli took office, they purchased and implemented the use of these handheld data devices dubbed the "Pele Police" system. It's really just a simple data input/output communications device. A police officer walks up to you and asks to see your "cedula" (identification card.) He then plugs that number into the "Pele Police" system and it quickly checks against a national database to see if there are any outstanding wants or warrants against you. If some judge is looking for you somewhere for a pending legal case - then you're arrested on the spot. Let's say you owe alimony or child support and the judge in the case has been trying to make you pay what you owe. If you run into one of these "Pele Police" checkpoints, you're caught.

No Law or Regulation: There is no existing law or regulation that either allows for or specifically prohibits the "Pele Police" or some other kind of system. The government simply purchased the devices and put them into the hands of the police officers on the streets, and in the past two years literally thousands of fugitives have been captured and hauled in to face the "competent authority" they had been avoiding, be it a judge, a prosecutor, a Justice of the Peace, or what have you. They also catch fugitives with these things, people who have already been tried, convicted, and sentenced - who have then either escaped from prison or who never turned themselves in to to their prison time after the conviction was handed down. The recent case of "Madame Thoyna" is a good example. She was convicted in two cases on charges of running a child prostitution ring - but she never did a day in jail. She was on the run and hiding since 2005. But the important issue remains - there was never any law passed or regulation issued that contemplates how and when and where and under what circumstances the National Police can apply or use the "Pele Police" system. And, lacking any formal guidance, they have been doing whatever they want.

Hard To Argue With Success: If you ask the general population at large, I suspect the vast majority would say they are in favor of the use of the "Pele Police" system, as it's being employed today. Most people are law abiding citizens, and since there are no pending cases, wants, or warrants against them - they will simply hand over their cedula, smile at the police officer, and say "have a nice day" after the check has been done. Then, they will glance over their shoulder and smile when they see the police hauling away the punk kid who was behind them in line - knowing he was wanted for theft, or murder, or drug trafficking, or kidnapping, or whatever. This "Pele Police" system makes everyone feel much safer - and in troubled times people are more willing to give up or suspend some of their personal freedoms and rights in order to clamp down on rampant crime and violence. Without a doubt, the "Pele Police" system has made it much easier for the police officers to quickly and easily screen large numbers of people, and to find the bad guys. It's been working, and it's hard to argue with success.

About The Police Press Release: I agree completely with Bernal on this one. Imagine if there was a court decision in the United States declaring that water boarding was illegal, and then the Chief of Staff of the Army issues a press release basically saying "well, that was just one case. We're going to keep doing it anyway, because it works." Whoa there, big fella... Bernal makes the excellent point that it's time for the administration of Ricardo Martinelli, the Ministers of Government and Public Security, together with the National Assembly, to draw up a new draft law which specifically authorizes and regulates the use and implementation of the "Pele Police" devices. Once the law is passed then implementing regulations can be issued, and then the Chief of the National Police will be on solid legal ground for the continued use and application of this technology going into the future. With this latest court decision on the record, now any criminal who is in prison thanks to getting caught at a "Pele Police" checkpoint could possibly mount the legal defense saying his constitutional rights were violated. OK, maybe that's a stretch. But if you're like this guy - what if you're not wanted and you simply refuse to identify yourself and hand over your cedula? Why? Because you simply don't want to. There's nothing that I'm aware of that says you have to. Hopefully moving forward the government will pass that new law and issue those new regulations. In the meantime, the future of the "Pele Police" system is questionable.

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Special Commission Recommends Boosting Prison Sentences to 70 Years for Murder

Law & Lawyers#Panama - A special commission of jurists recommended to the National Assembly that sentences should be raised to a maximum penalty of 70 years in prison in the case of homicides committed with extreme violence. They also proposed the creation of 30 to 35 years in prison for juveniles who commit multiple murders. The commission appointed by the National Assembly presented its final report which rejects life imprisonment, but in their report they said this measure (life in prison) does not violate any constitutional provision. Rigoberto Acevedo, the President of the Special Committee, said he proposed a minimum sentence of 50 years and maximum of 70 years for murder. The report also recommended an amendment to Law 40 of 1999 on the criminal responsibility of minors. According to Acevedo, we can not minors to walk free who have been responsible for multiple intentional homicides. He said any minor who is linked to a voluntary manslaughter (murder) could apply a maximum penalty of 30 to 35 years in prison. The document was endorsed by the President of the National Bar Association, Cesar Ruiloba, as well as the lawyers José Acevedo, Neftalí Jaén, Agapito González, Renato Pereira and Julio Miller who participated in the special commission. The report was handed to the Vice President of the National Assembly, Marcos Gonzalez, and the President of the Government Commission, Hernan Delgado. The Assembly will submit a bill for consideration based on the report. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: When I first got to Panama the maximum penalty for murder was 20 years in prison. Recently that was changed first to 30 years, and then 50. Now they want to boost it again to 70, while efforts to include life in prison or even the death penalty were dropped.

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Supreme Court Lessens Restrictions On CSS Board Members

Law & Lawyers#Panama - The Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) has declared illegal the precautionary measures put in place by the Special Superior Prosecutor against Guillermo Puga Rodríguez in the criminal case for for mass poisoning with the toxic diethylene glycol, according to a press release from the judiciary. Some of the measures that are without legal effect are: the suspension of his tenure on the board of directors of the CSS, that he was barred from leaving the country, and that he has been ordered to report to the prosecutor on the 15th and 30th of every month.

The ruling, whose rapporteur is Abel Zamorano, was supported in that at the moment the precautionary measures are not appropriate, because the accreditation of the offense and the linking of process has not been tested consistently and unequivocally.

Also, the Supreme Court under the presentation of Judge Virgilio Trujillo, declared illegal the measure barring him from leaving Panama without judicial authorization, and declared legal the separation from public office of Lastenia Canto Solís, a member of the Board of Directors of the CSS. Solis is charged for the crime against the collective security, especially against public health. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: Several members of the Board of Directors of the Social Security Fund have been charged in the diethylene glycol case.

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Attorney General Promises Results "Sooner Rather Than Later"

Law & LawyersAttorney General Jose Prado Ayú talked about the investigation into the scandal over the transfer of land in Paitilla, and announced he request documents from various entities, citing the Ministry of Economy and Finance, who actually offered their assistance. The Chief of the Public Ministry it's not the same thing when (a government entity) turns over two documents that reference hundreds, and with regards to the time frame required by the investigation, he said the results would be available "sooner rather than later." As for the investigation into the land in Chilibre, Ayu Prado said this investigation was only opened three days ago, and the documents came from the Ministry of Health and the Chancellery of the Republic. (Panama America)

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Jaime Jacome Wins Supreme Court Decision

Law & Lawyers#Panama - The government of Panama will have to pay an estimated $231,000 to the former Director of the old Judicial Technical Police (PTJ), Jaime Jacome, after the Supreme Court declared the resolution that removed him from office was illegal. The Supreme Court decision, which had Victor Benavides as the primary judge, ordered the payment of all salaries and expenses, from 19 March 2007, the date he was dismissed, until 17 December 2009, the date his term in office would have expired had he not been illegally removed from office. As for his return to the entity, Judge Benavides explained in ruling that the post of General Director of the PTJ was canceled when this entity was replaced by the Directorate of Judicial Investigation (DIJ), which has a different posting. Therefore, the legal phenomenon known as the subtraction of matter was declared. Jacome was dismissed through Resolution No. 10 of March 19, 2007, ordered by the Attorney General at the time, Ana Matilde Gomez, because she considered his nomination to be ineffectual. Gomez based Jacome's dismissal on Law No. 53 of December 20, 2006, which suspended the effects of two articles of the Law of the PTJ, and which also empowered the Attorney General to appoint the Director and Deputy Director of this organization, a function that before fell to the Supreme Court. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: It seems like everything in Panama is political. Jaime Jacome was appointed as the Director of the old PTJ at the very end of the administration of Mireya Moscoso. At that time, in 2004, the PTJ was different and independent from the National Police and they responded primarily to the Supreme Court. Therefore, when Martin Torrijos took over in September 2004, one of their first priorities was to get rid of this Panameñista leftover. They passed a new law which basically got rid of the PTJ and turned it into what it is now - the Direction of Judicial Investigation (DIJ). The PRD loyalist Ana Matilde Gomez fired Jaime Jacome based on that law. This Supreme Court ruling in Jacome's favor is also political. If Ricardo Martinelli had not won in 2009 then this decision never happens. Today, the Director of the DIJ is appointed by the Chief of the National Police, and that's also the reporting chain. When it was created the PTJ was supposed to be a powerful and independent criminal investigation organization, with strong anti corruption powers and safe from Executive branch meddling. The PRD did away with that, and Martinelli has not put it back in place. So literally, there is no one or any other independent organization that can or will investigate corruption, unless the Executive wants it investigated.

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"There's No Rush" To Fill Five Supreme Court Vacancies - Martinelli

Law & Lawyers #Panama - The list of 112 candidates for the 10 seats on the Supreme Court, five primaries and five alternates is undergoing "the respective assessment" by the Executive. This was announced yesterday by President Ricardo Martinelli. "There is no rush" to select the new Supreme Court judges, said the president. On Monday, 12 September 2011, the nomination period ended to fill the positions of the two current sitting Supreme Court justices whose mandate will end in December of this year: Winston Spadafora and Alberto Cigarruista. Martinelli will also select three additional justices to fill the positions created with the activation of the Chamber of Constitutional Guarantees, also known as the Fifth Chamber.

Martinelli's remarks on this subject were given during the ceremony for the delivery of the order to proceed for the start of construction of the new international airport in Rio Hato, which will be named the Scarlett Martinez International Airport, a project with a cost of more than $53 million dollars. The new airport will have a terminal with a capacity to serve 300 passengers at a time as they enter and leave the Cocle in the busiest times of flights. The work on the airport must be completed in 420 days, whose location was disputed between the four central provinces. The Costa Rican company Constructora Meco is in charge of the project.

The project has been divided into two parts: the rehabilitation of the runway and the construction of a tunnel under the Inter American Highway for a cost of $35.9 million dollars, and the construction of the terminal building, parking, platform, control tower and the perimeter fence, at a cost of more than $17 million dollars. The act of delivering the notice to proceed was made under a heavy downpour, on the side of the southern part of the existing runway, with the presence of residents of Rio Hato. Martinelli said with this project they are recovering national lands for tourism development, which were being wasted. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: President Martinelli has already named two Supreme Court judges. Between now and the end of the year he will name five more (and their alternates), bringing his total to seven. With the activation of this new Fifth Chamber of the Supreme Court, there will be a total of twelve justices on court, and Martinelli will have directly appointed seven - giving him an outright majority on the court. And most importantly, these people will be sitting on the court until 2021. This is why Panamanian politicians can do whatever they want and get away with it - their asses are covered after they leave office for at least ten years by their lingering Supreme Court nominations. One interesting fact is that you can bet none of the appointees will have a warm spot for either the PRD or the Panameñistas. If the alliance had not been broken, I bet the Panameñistas would have gotten at least a couple of these appointments.

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Esmeralda de Troitiño Rejects Proposal To Regulate Media in Panama

Law & LawyersThe former Supreme Court Judge Esmeralda de Troitiño, who is the Coordinator of the National Commission on Constitutional Reform, said she is not in agreement with a proposal to regulate the functions of the news and media this morning while speaking on the channel 2 TVN news broadcast, saying the base should be in the work of respect, trust and questioning. She said what has to be clear is that the government has to be accountable, and the media takes on an important role (to challenge them), after president Ricardo Martinelli lobbied for a change to seek to find a way to keep the media from vilifying them. Until now, the former judge said there have been no proposals to regulate the functions of the media, and she said the Constitution and the Family Code contains some provisions, and what's more the media also noted the need to regulate itself.

The National Commission on Constitutional Reforms received yesterday (September 14) the final report of the National Coalition, which includes 1,095 proposals that, according to Troitiño, will be examined intensively in October in order to have a document ready by the first week of November. Troitiño said they are analyzing a reduction in the powers of the Executive Branch of government, because there is a requirement for the three branches of government to act separately and independently, with a balance of power, as well as changing the method of choosing Supreme Court judges, the Attorney General, and the Comptroller of the Republic. In her view those who aspire to these positions should be subject to public scrutiny nationally because they require not only academic ability but ethics as well. (TVN)

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Journalists Unions Against Proposal For Pay Increases (Huh?)

Law & LawyersTwo of the journalists unions in Panama say the bill introduced by National Assembly Deputy Ruben Frias, that would increase their wages and regulate the profession, is a mockery and an attack on the freedom of expression. The president of the National Association of Journalists, Grisel Bethancourt, said the proposed bill is a "smokescreen to divert the attention of the journalists," from the political crisis that exists in the country. She added this is not the right time to introduce this type of a bill that seeks to create a divide between the journalists and media owners. However, she said the bill must be analyzed by all of the unions of the profession. For his part, the Secretary General of the Union of Journalists of Panama, Filemon Medina, also said the proposed bill that includes a salary scale has "very cute clothes" - meaning the proposal is little more than a financial reward for journalists in exchange for their freedom of expression. The proposal - Bill Number 65 - would empower the Executive branch of government to establish a base salary and phased pay increases for journalists. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: Mark your calendars. This has to be the first time in history that a labor union is lobbying against a pay raise.

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National Assembly in Permanent Session - Debating Electoral Reform Law

Law & Lawyers The full body of the National Assembly began this afternoon debates on Bill Number 292, which reforms the Electoral Code, and includes the issue of the second round of voting in national elections. Earlier, the full body was declared in permanent session in order to discuss the document. The Panameñista lawmakers had previously warned they reject the proposal. (La Prensa)

Editor's Comment: This issue caused the breakup of the alliance between the Cambio Democratico political party of Ricardo Martinelli, and the Panameñista party of Vice President Juan Carlos Varela. As a result of the breakup, the Panameñistas now find themselves sitting on the outside looking in, and they are now in third place behind the PRD and the CD in terms of members, numbers, and political power. They decided to fall on their sword over this issue, and now it will probably be a very long time before they get a taste of political power again. The CD will force passage of this second round of voting issue (despite their protests) and the Martinelli controlled Supreme Court will cast aside any challenges on the grounds of constitutionality. And besides, why would any politician position himself against the idea of a runoff, unless he's already done the math and figured out it's practically impossible to win an election in that scenario. That's exactly the dilemma trapping Varela right now, because he's just not that popular in a three-way or four-way election. And there's no chance of a PRD - Panameñista alliance. That would be like Michelle Bachmann naming a gay running mate, not very likely (she's aggressively anti-gay, in case you didn't know already.) Anyhow, the Panameñistas are now pissed, powerless, and pondering their slim chances for the 2014 elections. You can expect many more defections to the CD in coming days and weeks. Of course the Panameñistas will say their defectors are being threatened and forced to jump ship, but in reality Panamanians will change political parties at the drop of a hat and go to whatever side has the most butter on the bread. And right now, there's a pretty big tub of "Super 99" butter on the table. In addition, the CD and Ricardo Martinelli will start using the same tactics against the Panameñistas they've been using against the PRD, like prosecuting corrupt (former) government officials. Especially if the former Panameñista alliance members go overboard on the accusations, forgetting that they themselves have some really, really dirty old skeletons in the closet. Whatever, I simply love a food fight...

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Martinelli Will Be Appointing Three New Supreme Court Justices Soon

Law & LawyersMembers of the "civil society" are demanding judicial independence in the selection of new Supreme Court judges, and they are also calling for a suspension of the reactivation of the Fifth Chamber of the court. Angelica Maytín, the representative of Transparency International in Panama, said the justice system is in chaos but the only concern right now is the appointing of new justices. The protesters say this is not the right time for the appointment of new judges, besides calling for a transparent and non-political choice. (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: Several months ago the National Assembly and Supreme Court cleared the way for the reopening of the "Fifth Chamber" of the Supreme Court, which would raise the total number of justices sitting on the court from the current nine to twelve. Right now Martinelli has a 5-4 advantage on the court, however several of those votes are Panameñista party members. With this recent political divorce between the Cambio Democratico and the Panameñista party, all of a sudden Martinelli needs to get his three new dudes appointed, approved by the National Assembly, and seated on the court, and fast. In January 2012 two of the old appointees from the Mireya Moscoso years will be stepping down after having completed their ten year terms on the court. Martinelli has already appointed two, so with these two replacements and then three more for the Fifth Chamber, he will have personally named seven of the twelve justices, keeping his control of the court at 7-5. All of this comes in anticipation of a challenge against the second round of voting proposal on constitutional grounds. Getting those three new guys installed took on a new importance two days ago. Transparency International and the other perennial complainers of the "civil society" always bitch about the process to select and appoint Supreme Court justices, and they never get their way, but you can always count on them being there as background noise.

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Panama Will Begin To Implement "Accusatory Criminal System" on 2 Sept 2011

Law & Lawyers#Panama - Starting on 2 September 2011, the new "Accusatory Criminal System" will be implemented in Panama. This new justice administration system will first be introduced in the provinces of Veraguas and Cocle, according to Ana Matilde Gomez, the former Attorney General. One of the key guarantees of this system is that any person who has been held under arrest for 365 days awaiting trial, but who has not yet been tried and convicted of a crime must be released, under certain parameters. This measure only applies to simple or common crimes, and those not involving organized crime, a plurality of victims, drug trafficking and others. (Telemetro)
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Spanish Judge Dismisses Charges Against Rasfer International In Diethylene Glycol Poisoning Case

Law & LawyersThe President of the Committee of Relatives and Victims of Poisoned Syrup in Panama, Gabriel Pascual, was outraged by the decision of the Spanish National Court, which today confirmed the closure of the case against a pharmaceutical company in Spain involved in the tragedy. The Spanish company Rasfer International was hired for the transfer of a shipment of glycerin from China to Panama, to be used by the Social Security Fund of Panama to produce medicines, which turned out to be Diethylene glycol (DEG), a toxic substance that killed more than 100 people in Panama in 2003. "The attitude of the Spanish Judge of the National Audience of Spain is unfortunate (and) shameful, who ordered the dismissal of this case, when there is evidence, there is strong evidence that Rasfer International is to blame," said Pascual.

The decision by the second section of the Criminal Division of the High Court confirmed the dismissal ordered by Judge Ismael Moreno in June, thus rejecting the appeal filed then by the victims and by the Social Security Fund. Pascual insisted Rasfer International did not meet safety standards and said the case file shows an attitude of Spain's National Court to give "little importance" to those affected by the massive poisoning and the Panamanian state. He said the committee will schedule and lead a protest march against the Spanish Embassy in Panama, in order to pressure the Panamanian government to adopt a "harder and critical" position for the benefit of those affected. He also said today they will gather at the Cathedral Square in the Old City to mark the fourth anniversary of the beating by the police officers from the Institutional Protection Service of the Presidency (SPI) given to some of their members while protesting the lack of attention to their problems paid by the former government of President Martin Torrijos. In this case, four former members of SPI will be brought to trial next October 13 in the Eighth Criminal Court.

In 2003, Panama's Social Security held a public bidding process to purchase 9,000 kilos of pure glycerine to make cough syrups to be distributed free of charge. The Panamanian company Grupo Comercial Medicom won the bid and was awarded the contract, which in turn ordered the product from Rasfer International SA, a company based in Catalonia, in northeastern Spain. But the glycerin, which instead of being fit for human consumption, was in fact an industrial grade containing a poisonous substance (diethylene glycol), which has so far killed more than 170 people from a total of about 8,000 people estimated that could be affected. Last December, the Attorney General of Panama filed charges against 23 persons for this case, including the manager of the Spanish company Rasfer International, the company responsible for shipping the product to the Central American country. Judge Ismael Moreno dismissed criminal responsibility from Rasfer International, saying they were a "mere commercial intermediary" and had not tampered with or replaced the product purchased in China and shipped to Panama. (La Critica)

Editor's Comment: China executed the people responsible for this shipment years ago.

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Harry Diaz Takes Office As New Supreme Court Judge

Law & Lawyers It's official. The Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court has a new judge, Harry Diaz, who took his post, replacing José Abel Almengor. In early June, Harry Diaz was ratified by the plenary of the National Assembly, despite the vices of a possible violation of the provisions of the Constitution of Panama. Diaz took office before President Ricardo Martinelli, in an act witnessed by Jimmy Papadimitriu, Minister of the Presidency. (Telemetro)
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The Local, Low Level Justice System in Panama (Can Be Very Frustrating)...

Law & Lawyers By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - People often contact me as a last resort. They have some kind of a problem they've tried to resolve themselves, and they write me when they are totally and completely frustrated, pissed off, angry, and at their wits end. Usually these kinds of people are very wound up and it takes awhile for them to cool off and gather their wits to the point where they can logically explain what's going on. Over the last couple of days I've been exchanging emails with a guy who lives in the interior, and I'm going to omit the details of this situation, where he lives, and his name (you'll see why later.) I was trying to help the guy but he apparently just wanted to rant, rave, and vent his spleen. Anyway, I hope he feels better now, but the exchange with him prompted me to write this article about "how to get justice when living in the interior."

Welcome To The Jungle: So, you thought it would be a good idea to move to a remote area of a third world country, buy a house, settle in, and then start a running feud with your Panamanian neighbors about a barking dog. You get yourself all pissed off and worked up, and for "some reason" no one wants to come running to your aid. And then you can't understand why the entire world has apparently turned against you. So you contact your local English language website guy, and end up fighting with him (me) as well. Good call. I hope that shit works out for you. Obviously we're looking at the end result of a whole string of poor decisions. Let's break it down a little...

The Content Of The Complaints: The apparent details of this bitch-rant are all mixed in with other stuff, but here's the beef...

  • "...the neighbor's accross the street have been terroizing us for about one year to the point of threatening with machetes..."

  • "...on two separate incidences, have throw large baseball size rocks at our home and us."

  • "...they have a cow in the front yard."

  • "...the main problem with them is a dog that barks continually day and night."

  • "Our property is continually assaulted by their dogs and chickens, this is a daily occurance, as it is with the dog, it may start barking at 5AM and not stop all day."

A Barking Dog Problem: OK, so there's a guy and his wife who live in the interior, and their neighbor has a barking dog that keeps them awake. Got it. I imagine they have had verbal confrontations with the neighbors, asking them to keep the dogs quiet, and that apparently escalated to a fight or argument, and now someone has thrown rocks at their house. Great. A little slice of heaven in a tropical paradise. So, for those of you who are following along at home and keeping score - barking dogs and rocks thrown at house...

The Local "Corregiduria" - In each little village there will be a person known as the "corregiduria" which is best translated as "Justice of the Peace." This person is hired by and works for the local mayor. Their job is to keep the peace between neighbors, in situations just like this. But what can you do about a barking dog? The guy who wrote said he has complained several times, hired lawyers, and nothing has been done. I would submit - what would you have them do, shoot the dog? Hey, dog's bark, it happens. I suspect "nothing has been done" because in fact there is little the Justice of the Peace can legally do. And so, the guy remains frustrated.

It's Not An Anti Gringo Thing: This guy is completely convinced his problem is one of anti-gringo discrimination, and I would respectfully submit that's probably not the case. If a Panamanian had made the same complaint, the Justice of the Peace would still be in the same position. It's not illegal to have a dog that barks on your property. In any case, set aside the details of the complaint for a minute. I just wanted to point out a couple of things about the "chain of command" for the local Justice of the Peace system.

Appeal To The Local Mayor: If you take a complaint to the "corregiduria" and if you don't like the decision, then you have the legal right to appeal that decision up to the local Mayor. When the mayor decides the case, if you don't like that decision, then you can appeal up the chain again to the Governor of the Province (where ever you might live). And then if you are still unsatisfied with the decision of the Governor, then you can appeal to the Supreme Court of Panama. Really. No kidding. If this guy wanted to, he could have appealed the decision of the local Justice of the Peace about the barking dog issue all the way to the Supreme Court. So, there is a chain of command, and you do have recourse if a local, low ranking judge decides a case against you. Many times the locals are all friends or maybe even relatives. By appealing to the Governor then hopefully you might be able to break out past that. Assuming, of course, that you have a case more compelling than a bitch about a barking dog next door.

Then There's The Public Ministry: If you don't think you will get help from the Justice of the Peace, and if someone has broken the law (such as throwing stones at your house or threatening you on the street with a machete) then you can file a formal "querella" (complaint) with the Public Ministry. A "querella" is similar to a regular "denuncia" (also a complaint) except that with a "querella" you are the victim of the crime, or the plaintiff. If this condition you are an active participate in the case and investigation, and the prosecutor has to keep you informed as to what is going on. If you file a normal "denuncia" about a crime, then the prosecutor will just take your statement and investigate the case, but they don't have to keep you in the loop. Like, "I saw some guys stealing a truck" but it wasn't your truck, and you're not the victim, so that would be a "denuncia", follow me?

That Office Is The Personeria" - The Public Ministry covers the entire country of Panama with a network of prosecutors. The lowest level of local prosecutor is the "personeria" - and this guy works for the Attorney General, and not the local Mayor. If someone attacks you, threatens you with a machete, throws stones at your house (or breaks any other law against you) then you do NOT have to go to the local corregidor, especially if you've already gone that route and had no success. When filing your complaint (querella) be sure to say you've already tried to take action in the office of the Justice of the Peace (if that's the case) and that you've had no success. Your complaint should be for a crime - something more important than a barking dog.

The Language Barrier: Here in Panama City the prosecutors have access to formal and official government translators that they can ask for and schedule to help people who don't speak enough Spanish to make the complaint themselves. Out in the interior you might want to go there with a trusted bilingual friend who can help you through the process. It's up to the prosecutor to decide if he wants to use the services of a friend off the street, or if they want to coordinate for official government translator support, and to schedule a date and time for you to return. It's a slow and painstaking process, in which the clerk will ask questions and type up your responses using the hunt and peck method - so take a large dose of patience pills before you walk in there. However the "Personeria" is more likely to actually investigate the case and press charges against someone if the law has been broken. The "corregiduria" or Justice of the Peace system is really hit-or-miss, and it depends largely upon the personality of the person sitting behind the desk. In some towns it works well, in others it's completely broke.

Keep Smiling: I know these kinds of barking dog problems can be very frustrating, but getting all pissed off and going on a rant will not help your situation, not even a little. Panamanians really understand and generally respect people who can keep their cool and treat low level and poorly paid civil servants with grace and respect, even when they are completely frustrated and pissed off. About the worst thing you can do is to blow your lid and vent your spleen in the wrong direction - in an outburst of inappropriate and childish lashing out. When that happens, the right hand inches toward the "pound sand" lever. This guy even accused me of trying to "turn him from victim to criminal" or something equally stupid. I was just trying to get a few basic answers about what he had done (which he refused to answer) so I cut him off. Anyway, it turned into a good opportunity to write about the justice system, such as it is, in the lower level and local courts in the interior of the country. You might want to find the Mayor and his Corregidor and take them to lunch now, before you have a problem, so when something turns to shit they will be more likely to lend you a sympathetic ear.

Copyright 2011 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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Court Clears "Mi Diario" Reporter

Law & LawyersThe Seventeenth Criminal Court yesterday issued an acquittal of Mi Diario journalist Rubén Polanco, who had been indicted on charges of defamation after publishing the results of an audit in the Sixth Criminal Court in 2008. Judge José Félix Sánchez based his decision on the fact there was no "dolo" established in the case file. (Meaning, the reporter acted without malice or unwittingly.) However, the judge did draw attention to the reporter to avoid making other inaccurate reports in future publications. The complaint against Polanco was presented by Juan Vega, who in 2008 was an official of the Sixth Criminal Court and who the journalist mentioned as one of the employees who as dismissed for irregularities found in this study, after complaints to the Supreme Court by the then Anti Drug Prosecutor Edwin Guardia. In his remarks, Vega said he was not fired but rather he had resigned. (La Prensa)

Editor's Comment: In these kinds of cases "the truth is the ultimate defense." This case shows reporters and journalists can make honest mistakes in their reporting as long as there is no malice or intent to do harm. The defamation and slander laws are designed to protect people from those who would use the media to unjustly or unfairly attack or defame them. However if something really did happen then it's just reporting of the facts and events, and that's not a crime - it's freedom of the press. The reporter in this case might have made a mistake when he reported that the person in question was fired, when in fact he says he resigned. I'm glad to see the judge let him off with just an admonition to "be more careful next time."

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Credentials Committee Approves Harry Díaz As Supreme Court Judge

Law & Lawyers The Credentials Committee of the National Assembly this afternoon approved the appointment of Harry Diaz as the new judge of the Supreme Court. Diaz was ratified by the committee by six votes in favor and the absence of the deputies of the PRD. Miguel Fanovich, deputy chairman of the Credentials Committee, reported the approval of Diaz will be sent tomorrow, Wednesday, to the full membership of the National Assembly. Diaz comes to the Supreme Court as a replacement for Jose Abel Almengor, who resigned his post last April. Special sessions were convened by President Ricardo Martinelli to discuss electoral reforms and the ratification of Diaz and Abdiel Cano, who was appointed as the new director of the National Institute of Aqueducts and Sewage Systems (IDAAN). (La Prensa)
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Martinelli Calls For Special Sessions in the National Assembly

Law & LawyersPanama's president, Ricardo Martinelli announced during a meeting of the Cabinet Council, a call to the National Assembly for special sessions to evaluate three specific issues: Bill number 292 to reform the Electoral Code and to establish the electoral districts, the ratification of the new Executive Director of the IDAAN Abdiel Cano, and the appointment of Harry Alberto Díaz González De Mendoza as the new Supreme Court judge. Martinelli called upon the National Assembly to begin special sessions for three weeks, starting on Monday 23 May and lasting until Friday 10 June 2011. Last night Executive Decree No. 382 of 17 May 2011, convening the special sessions, was published in the Official Gazette 26786-C. The document, signed by President Martinelli and Minister of the Presidency, Jimmy Papadimitriu must be addressed by the Legislature and the members summoned, many who are traveling.

Some members of the "civil society" have said they plan denounce the appointment of Diaz, who was a Vice Minister (in charge) during this administration of Ricardo Martinelli, which violates Article 203, paragraph 2 of the Constitution, which states that no person shall be appointed judge of the Supreme Court who has exercised control and jurisdiction over the executive branch during the current executive term. The Cabinet Council, in an extraordinary session on Wednesday April 20 unanimously approved the appointment of Diaz, who is currently the prosecutor of accounts.

The members of the National Assembly finished the regular session last April 31 and opted to recess until July 1, when they will start their third term. At that time the lawmaker and member of the Panameñista political party Alcibiades Vásquez is expected to take control as the new President of the National Assembly, backed by his party members and the members of their political alliance. (La Estrella)

A meeting of Panama's Executive Cabinet Council

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Lawsuit Admitted in US Against Makers of HC-12a Used in 8B-06 Bus Fire

Law & LawyersAttorney Victor Martinez, who is in the United States representing the families of the victims of the fire that occurred on bus 8B-06, told Telemetro Report that a court in Kansas as admitted the lawsuit filed against the manufacturer of HC12A gas, which is why he is asking for assistance from the Panamanian authorities to gather evidence. On 23 October 2006, 18 people died in a fire that occurred on a bus with license plate number 8B-06 - of the Northern Corridor to Mano de Piedra route. Many others were injured. Martinez said now that the case has been accepted, in the coming weeks representatives from the company would be traveling from the United States to Panama to question the experts of the Judicial Technical Police (the entity that was responsible for the investigation at the time) who found chemical components of the gas HC-12A in the air conditioning system of the bus. According to Martinez, in the United States HC-12A is prohibited from use in public transportation. (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: This really pisses me off. This is exactly why someone should take all of the lawyers out back and beat them with whips and sticks. In my opinion, the only reason this case is being sought is because the American company that makes HC-12a has money, and the people who are truly responsible for this tragic bus fire do not. Let me explain this for you. I know what's going on because at the time of this fire I collaborated with the investigators from the Fire Department of Panama. In fact, I was on the bus and taking photos of the engine compartment for them while the officials from the Public Ministry were still removing the bodies from the bus. This is what happened in this fire;

First Safety Violation: First of all, the air conditioning system on bus 8B-06 never should have been charged with the HC-12a gas - but it was. HC-12a has the same approximate chemical properties as butane. Meaning, it's highly flammable. And HC-12a is NOT supposed to be used as a refrigerant gas on any moving vehicle. However, there are situations and settings in which HC-12a is commonly used as a refrigerant gas, specifically in large industrial settings where you have to cool very large spaces. Think, chicken processing facilities, for example. Factories don't move. They are not barreling down the highway, and they don't smash into one another, so it's no big deal if the gas is flammable. The crime occurred when the irresponsible idiots who did the maintenance on the air conditioning system of that bus used HC-12a gas to recharge the system. That never should have happened. HC-12a is readily available on the industrial market in Panama. Everyone knows you're not supposed to use it in buses, but they did it anyway because it's a cheaper gas. For that, the people responsible for the maintenance of the air conditioning system of bus 8B-06a should be tried and prosecuted. As a matter of fact if memory serves me correctly, I think there are still a couple of guys in prison in this case - the owner and driver - who were found to be responsible for he deaths. So, the HC-12a never should have been used in the air conditioning system of the bus in the first place.

Second Safety Violation: The air conditioning system on bus 8B-06 contained a fuse system designed to automatically shut the system down if it overheated. In fact the air conditioning systems on these types of buses were never designed to handle the tropical heat and humidity found on a bus in Panama that's packed full of people. The air conditioning systems would always overheat, and the fuse (like a circuit breaker) would kick in, and effectively turn off the air conditioning. Once again the dumb asses who were screwing around with this bus disabled the safety system - which was designed specifically to prevent just such a fire - by taking it out the the loop and wiring around the circuit breaker. With this configuration they effectively forced the air conditioning system to run constantly, even if it was overheating. And that's exactly what happened.

First A Small Fire - Then An Explosion: The fire on bus 8B-06 started small. The air conditioning system overheated to the point where a small smoldering fire started that was contained within the engine compartment. In that fire one of the rubber hoses (containing the HC-12a under pressure) ruptured. The gas was rapidly ejected from the ruptured hose. At this point the passengers on the bus were complaining first about the heat because the air conditioning system had shut down (due to the fire). Then they said they smelled smoke, and many people complained to the driver and told him to pull over. He did, and then he make the third fatal mistake...

A Burst of Oxygen: As soon as the driver stopped the bus, he reached down and opened up the engine compartment hood that was right next to him. As soon as the fresh oxygen rushed into the compartment, the small smoldering fire burst into flames, which ignited the HC-12a gas that had been released into the engine compartment, causing the explosion of hot flames which quickly spread through the cabin of the bus. People were trying desperately to escape from the bus, breaking windows, tossing children out of the side, and many of them died in the extreme rear of the bus -stacked up like cordwood - because there was no rear emergency escape door.

Are The Makers Of HC-12a Responsible? - In my humble opinion and for what it's worth - no. They make a flammable product that was improperly used. I think it's terrible that the 18 people lost their lives on that bus, however the only reason these lawyers are going after this American company is because the bus owner and driver - who are the ones truly responsible for this tragedy - don't have any money and they are not worth suing. This legal action is the definition of what's wrong with the civil legal system - in my opinion. Unfortunately you never know what a jury will decide, and of course the lawyers on both sides will argue their positions in court, where the issues will be decided. I hope it gets tossed. The families of the victims should be compensated, and I think the government of Panama should compensate them, because they failed to adequately inspect the buses and enforce the laws regarding upkeep and maintenance.

And For The Record: Back when all of this happened I wrote and published articles stating basically the same information that's contained in this article with regards to the bus fire, HC-12a, and how the fire occurred. Shortly after the fire I was contacted by a scum-sucking lawyer (an established member of the English speaking expatriate community) who told me he intended to bring a lawsuit against people in the United States - either the makers of HC-12a or the air conditioning system on the bus. This son of a bitch was actually trying to recruit me to help him do his investigation. I told him in no uncertain terms what I thought about him - that he is a real bastard who is only trying to make money for himself by exploiting the grief and suffering of the victims of this bus fire, by using the situation to go after a company in the United States (that has money) in hopes of getting a settlement. I told him to fuck off, pound sand, and warned him that he should never even think of my name again. I think I ended the conversation with "was that clear enough for you, asshole?" And then I hung up. Does anyone need any further clarification of how I feel about this issue - and in particular the lawyers who pull this crap? Just ask, I'll be more than happy to elaborate ... sometimes I can be kinda shy.

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Cabinet Council Appoints Harry Diaz To Replace Almengor On The Supreme Court

Law & Lawyers This afternoon the Cabinet Council appointed Harry Diaz, who is currently the accounts prosecutor, for the position of Supreme Court judge to replace Jose Abel Almengor. According to the Minister for Canal Affairs Romulo Roux president Ricardo Martinelli picked Harry Diaz because he was looking for a person who is both serious and independent. The minister added, while speaking to channel 13 Telemetro, that Diaz is a leading lawyer, considered to be an independent person who has held government positions in various administrations. According to Roux, Diaz serve honorably as a judge on the Supreme Court. Diaz will replace Almengor, who resigned last Thursday amid reports linking him with the alleged plot to remove Ana Matilde Gomez from the position of Attorney General. The Assembly did not interfere in the choice of Diaz, as Resolution 67 of the Cabinet Council, dated April 19, 2011, published in the Official Gazette number 26,768-B, repealed Cabinet Resolution 121 of 18 September 2009 and Resolution 133 of 13 October 2009, that "regulates the procedure for approving the appointment of judges of the Supreme Court and his deputies, subject to the National Assembly." (La Prensa)
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Cabinet Council Approves Bill To Thwart Human Trafficking

Law & LawyersPanamanian authorities may better combat trafficking in persons and related activities, after the Cabinet Council approved a draft law against these bad practices. The initiative, launched by Security Minister Jose Raul Mulino, was the product of an interagency technical committee appointed by the President last September in order to adapt national laws to the guidelines established in various international instruments. This project, said Mulino, looks to launch a series of actions by the Government to comprehensively address human trafficking, the third most lucrative crime for organized crime, exceeded only by drug trafficking and arms trafficking, according to the United Nations. The aim of the project is intended to apply to the prevention, investigation and prosecution of all forms of human trafficking and related activities - both national or transnational - whether or not connected with organized crime and to attention and protection of the victims of these crimes. (La Estrella)

Panama's Security Minister Jose Raul Mulino

Editor's Comment: Panama has frequently been used as a route or way-point for human traffickers, who bring their cargo from Africa or Asia with the ultimate goal of entering the United States, usually through Mexico. Panama has also occasionally intercepted would-be Somali terrorists, men who said their were poor Somali cattle farmers, who were discovered in the Darien with $5,000 in cash and brand new Venezuelan passports. The terrorists use the same routes and networks as the human traffickers to get into the United States. Now that the Cabinet Council (of the Executive branch) has approved the adoption of this project (bill), it will be passed to the National Assembly for debate and a vote.

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Zulay Rodriguez Presented Her Complaint

Law & LawyersZulay Rodriguez went to the National Assembly at 3:00 pm yesterday afternoon to present a formal complaint against Supreme Court Judge José Abel Almengor. She had two large boxes of evidence. Rodriguez in a series of reports released by the La Estrella newspaper revealed the possible participation of officials linked to the Executive in the implementation of a plan to dismiss former Attorney General Ana Matilde Gomez and to manipulate the course of justice. Rodriguez explained that she came with sworn and notarized statements that link Justice Almengor to the PAMAGO case, which at this moment the Public Ministry is not investigating, which also names the lawyer Italo Antinori as the leader of the group created in January 2010. "I hope the National Assembly will do its work ... and the truth will come out," she said.

Rodriguez reiterated her desire to submit to a polygraph exam together with Almengor and she said "Jose Able Almengor should be investigated." She defended herself against Justice Almengor's request that the Supreme Court should make an audit of the drug trafficking and money laundering cases she heard as an alternate judge, saying "I have nothing to fear, my decisions were based on law, and 90% of those decisions I handed down during the hearing." "I want the public and the people to put in their two cents, and for this man to really be investigated, because the sworn affidavits we have collected establish how they manipulated the justice system for their personal purposes," she said. Her request is clear: "to investigate Jose Able Almengor, for the witnesses to appear, for the documentary evidence to be analyzed, and to investigate."

The Judge Says It's Political - Justice José Abel Almengor, amid the storm, dismissed her claims on the grounds that "it is a political issue" which will face: "We will challenge all of the evidence." "I am a law-abiding person and when I am called to testify I will participate in the respective proceedings," he said. Almengor said he will defend in the judiciary and respect the constitutional guarantees and the defense. The Supreme Court Justice on TVN predicted that "in the end they will determine that the evidence is false."

The first complaint came from the civil society against the judge became effective this morning when the Citizens' Assembly, which has about 80 groups, presented their document and demanded that the judge be called to trial. Global complaint - On Monday March 28 the lawyer Rolando Botello filed a complaint in the legislature against the judges who voted in favor of the removal of Ana Matilde Gomez. The five judges who found the former Attorney General guilty on 11 August 2010 were Aníbal Salas, the current President of the Supreme Court, Alberto Cigarruista, Wiston Spadafora, Alejandro Moncada Luna and Wilfredo Saénz, the deputy for Almengor. Almengor was appointed to the Supreme Court by president Ricardo Martinelli in mid-December 2009 and ratified on 24 December that same year with the deputies present, 40 in favor and 16 against. (La Estrella)

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Rodriguez's complaint against Almengor will be a priority for the Assembly

Law & LawyersOnce the lawyer Zulay Rodriguez submits her formal complaint against Supreme Court Judge Jose Abel Almengor before the National Assembly, the investigation will become a priority according to the Chairman of the Credentials Committee, Miguel Fanovich. Fanovich's clarification comes after PRD National Assembly Deputy Yassir Purcait suggested that the Assembly should initiate a public inquiry into allegations made by Zulay Rodríguez. Fanovich said the investigation should follow procedure established by law. Following the submission of complaint to the General Secretariat of the National Assembly, the documents will be forwarded to the Credentials Committee, which will immediately assume a judicial role to initiate the review procedure, explained Fanovich. After the first phase, the 9 commissioners will decide whether or not to appoint a sub commission to take a review and to conduct an investigation, because according to Fanovich, it (the procedure) will be clear and supported by the validity of the evidence submitted with the complaint, and after the preliminary proceedings the investigation will eventually be submitted to the full membership of the National Assembly. The lawyer Zulay Rodriguez will present her complaint against the Supreme Court Judge Jose Abel Almengor at 3:00 pm accompanied by members of various civil society groups. Rodriguez said the public will be surprised by the allegations she is making against Almengor once they are made public. (La Estrella)

Miguel Fanovich is the Chairman of the Credentials Committee of the National Assembly of Panama

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Zulay Rodriguez Will Present Evidence Today

Law & LawyersThe former judge Zulay Rodriguez said that at 3:00 pm this afternoon she would go to the National Assembly to present her evidence against Supreme Court Judge Jose Abel Almengor who, according to her, "participated in a plot against the former Attorney General Ana Matilde Gómez." On channel 13 Telemetro Report, Rodriguez said that after she gives the documents to the Credentials Committee of the National Assembly, she would provide copies of the criminal complaint to the people who accompany her, and to the media. She said that those documents would explain each email in which - she added - unveil the "motivations" and "routes" of this alleged conspiracy against Gomez. "This will allow the public to know the truth, " said Rodriguez, who said that it is not "rioting or rumors." For his part, Almengor has denied the allegations made by Rodriguez. He also asked the president of the Supreme Court of Justice, Aníbal Salas, to audit the actions taken by Rodriguez as alternate judge. (La Prensa)
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The "Citizens Alliance for Justice" Will Present Complaint

Law & LawyersThe "Citizens' Assembly for Justice" will present a formal complaint to the National Assembly asking that the allegations being made by the lawyer Zulay Rodriguez against the Supreme Court judge José Abel Almengor be made into a formal investigation. Magaly Castillo, Carlos Lee and Victor Lewis, of the Citizens Alliance said today on the Noticias AM morning news broadcast, that it is the duty of the National Assembly to create a commission to investigate the alleged conspiracy case against the former Attorney General. They emphasized the chaos being generated by the allegations against the judge, so an official investigation should proceed automatically. The Alliance has not called for the resignation of Judge Almengor, but asked for the allegations in the case as reported by the lawyer Rodriguez to be clarified, that have caused controversy nationwide. For his part, Lewis called it regrettable that Almengor has accused the Citizens Alliance for Justice of having double standards. In that sense the Citizens Alliance for Justice, sustained that at no time have they participated nor will they participate in any kind of anonymous smear campaign against any candidate up for election. (La Estrella)

Editor's Comment: The members of the "Citizens Alliance for Justice" apparently care most about getting their names in the paper. Like most things in Panama, it's political.

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Tapia and Moreno Confirm Antinori Sent About 50 Emails To Rodriguez

Law & LawyersThe sportscaster and journalist Juan Carlos Tapia, and the President of the Panamanian Foundation of Ethics and Civility, Luis H. Moreno, participated as witnesses in order to verify the presence of the emails sent by Doctor Italo Antinori to Zulay Rodríguez and other members of the group known as PAMAGO, in order to conspire against the former Attorney General Ana Matilde Gomez. Rodriguez appeared this morning on the channel 13 Telemetro Reporta morning news broadcast, where she showed the two witnesses - Tapia and Moreno - the inbox of her personal email account, which place emphasis on her accusations against Antinori and the Supreme Court Judge Jose Abel Almengor.

Tapia said he has seen the emails sent by Dr. Antinori to the members of the PAMAGO Group. "We saw the personal email of Ms. Zulay Rodriguez and indeed, there are about 45 or 50 emails, most sent to her or othyer persons, and almost all of them sent by Dr. Isaac Italo Antinori. On the content we will will make no comment ... what's more I have asked her to not even send me a copy, I was simply invited by her to see if they do indeed exist, and in her email inbox the emails do appear. If they are originals or not, this will have to be determined by a technical specialist."

Moreno, who like Tapia saw the emails, noted that as soon as he saw them, according to Rodriguez they are going to be turned over to the authorities, "so that our testimony by tomorrow will be formally surrendered, and it will no longer matter what we have seen or read, nor to verify exactly the technical side." Rodriguez will present her evidence on Tuesday to the National Assembly.

Fanovich Is Waiting For A Formal Complaint: Meanwhile, National Assembly Deputy Miguel Fanovich, the Chairman of the Credentials Committee, said he is waiting for Rodriguez or anyone else to file a formal complaint before they can start a formal investigation into the allegations of corruption which involve justices of the Supreme Court. Fanovich clarified that Almengor could be investigated by his committee, or by a special committee. (La Estrella)

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Almengor Might Be Investigated Or Removed From Supreme Court Position

Law & LawyersThe President of the National Assembly, José Muñoz, said this morning that if the evidence warrants it, then the Supreme Court Judge José Abel Almengor will be investigated. And if Almengor has to be removed from his position or judged, then this too will be done. Recently, Almengor has been involved in an alleged plot to oust the former Attorney General Ana Matilde Gómez from her position. Almengor has been accused by the former judge Zulay Rodríguez.

Procedure - The former judge (Zulay Rodriguez) has said she will turn over 45 emails, which should reach the General Secretariat of the National Assembly and then be evaluated by the Credentials Committee. According to Munoz, the committee will evaluate all of the evidence that is presented and they will determine if they are original and if they have validity. After that, the committee will send a report to the Attorney General, Jose Ayu Prado, for him to issue his opinion on the investigation, explained Munoz while speaking on the channel 13 Telemetro morning news program. After this procedure, the Attorney General's opinion issued by Ayu Prado will pass to the full National Assembly, where the 36 Deputies will have to determine whether or not there are grounds to try Almengor and appoint a prosecutor, he said. 'We will get to the final consequences," he said.

On the other hand, Muñoz said that until there is proof or evidence, the allegations "are simply comments." However, he said, once the evidence has been presented "the people must have confidence that the case will be investigated." If at the end Almengor has to be separated from his position, then we will follow through to the final consequences, he said. It would take the votes of 47 lawmakers to remove a Supreme Court judge from his position, said the President of the National Assembly. (La Prensa)

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Antinori: Zulay Rodríguez Did Not Have Authority To Publish Emails

Law & Lawyers The former ombudsman Italo Antoni in the company of his lawyers, appeared Friday in the office of the Attorney General where he denied involvement in the group called PAMAGO. According to reports, Antinori was the head of the PAMAGO group that allegedly plotted to remove Ana Matilde Gomez from her position as the Attorney General. Antinori said he hoped for an investigation as soon as possible in this case. He also said the lawyer Zulay Rodriguez did not have the right or authority to publish the emails that they sent some months ago. The lawyer Italo Antinori, announced this Friday to President Ricardo Martinelli, by letter, his decision to withdraw as a coordinator for the consultations with various sectors of society about possible reforms to the Constitution. (TVN Noticias)
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Mayor of Panama Defends His Team's Actions During Eviction

Law & Lawyers"The most important thing to note is that the action was suspended in order to avoid endangering the public," said Panama City Mayor Bosco Vallarino on Thursday, following a meeting convened by the Transparency Commission of the City Council to discuss the irregularities committed during an eviction in the armory American Range and Gun Shop. Vallarino says his officials acted in the right way to stop the eviction, because in the room they discovered more than 500 weapons and 50,000 rounds of ammunition. "Imagine if a gang decides to ambush the convoy of weapons ... therefore my officers acted correctly and no, nobody has asked for even a single penny." The Mayor reiterated that there are irregularities in the record that should be investigated. Moreover, it was learned that the Justice of the Peace of Calidonia, Liliana Flores, who executed the eviction and against whom the Mayor has ordered an administrative investigation, submitted her resignation today. (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: A couple of days ago the Justice of the Peace of Calidonia ordered the seizure of the weapons located inside of the American Range and Gun Shop on Ave. Balboa. At the scene and once the seizure started, other representatives from the Mayor's office showed up and stopped the procedure. Apparently there were lawyers from all sides yelling at one another, and now the local justice who ordered the action in the first place has resigned. What's really going on behind the scenes - I have no idea. It was a bit of a flap on the news a couple of days ago, however.

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