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NPP Senators Urge Colleagues To Vote Against Mercado…6 PDP Senators Won’t Support Him…NPP Candidates Blame Gov’t For RR Closing…Rossello Defeats Pesquera At NPP State Bd…Political Parties Oppose Court Nominee

NPP Senators Urge Colleagues To Vote Against Mercado

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

October 2, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

The New Progressive Party (NPP) delegation at the Senate urged their colleagues from other parties to be present at the time of the vote on the nomination of Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado as Supreme Court chief justice.

"The five female and three male senators of the NPP will vote against the nomination of Mercado for chief justice," Sen. Kenneth McClintock said.

The Senate minority leader urged fellow senators from the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) and the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) to be present on the floor at the time of the vote, especially the six members of the PDP who have said they will vote against the nomination of the secretary of State.

"I ask all citizens to urge their senators to comply with their duty; if they see a senator-at-large or district senator at a restaurant, at their homes, or at the gas station, question them," McClintock stated.

He urged PDP Sens. Modesto Agosto Alicea, Yazmin Mejias, Juan Cancel Alegria, Jose Ortiz Daliot, Margarita Ostolaza, and Roberto Prats–who sent a letter to Gov. Sila Calderon on Wednesday informing her that they oppose Mercado’s nomination–to be on the floor and to vote against the nominee.

Along with the NPP and PIP delegations–which represent 9 votes–the group of six PDP members would tip the scale against Mercado’s nomination, since there are 29 lawmakers in the Senate.

McClintock acknowledged that senators may abstain from voting on the controversial nomination but said that in this case, votes against Mercado and abstentions will prevent the confirmation if they represent the majority of senators on the floor.

The NPP senator based his analysis on the Senate rules, which he said establish that a favorable vote on the confirmation of a nominee would be counted, taking into consideration the number of senators on the floor at the time of vote.

However, PDP Majority Leader Jose Luis Dalmau explained Thursday that Mercado could be confirmed by a simple majority, which is required for quorum purposes, and said an abstention doesn’t count as a vote.

He said 15 senators must be on the floor at the time of the vote to constitute a quorum. As a result, Mercado would need only eight votes to be confirmed as Supreme Court chief justice.

If a senator abstains, according to Dalmau, Mercado could be confirmed with the votes in his favor. For example, if 15 senators attend, and six vote against the nominee and two abstain, he could be confirmed with seven votes.

During the NPP caucus, Sen. Pablo Lafontaine denied that he was considering voting in favor of Mercado.

"Yesterday [Wednesday], when I asked Mercado to apologize for insulting statehooders [during the electoral campaign], he said he did not have to apologize. Those who don’t know how to ask for forgiveness, cannot be forgiven," Lafontaine said.

The Bayamon district senator added that some senators’ aides and employees have asked him to vote in favor of Mercado but said they have not offered anything in exchange.

Like Lafontaine, Sen. Norma Burgos also said she has received calls from many attorneys asking her to vote her conscience but described those requests as part of the process.

"My answer to them and to the people is that because I will vote according to my conscience, I will vote against him," she said.

On Wednesday, during the six-hour public hearing in which Mercado defended himself against those who challenged his nomination to the island’s highest judicial post, Burgos asked Mercado to explain why 26 employees have filed lawsuits seeking damages for alleged political discrimination.

Senate Nominations Committee Chairman Bruno Ramos told Burgos to "shut her mouth," which resulted in an argument between the senators.

"Once again, Ramos tried to shut down the minority and to hide the truth, when [the background of pending cases for alleged political discrimination at the State Department] is valuable information that senators should evaluate. His attempt to shut down democracy won’t succeed," Burgos said.

6 PDP Senators Will Vote Against Mercado’s Nomination

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

October 1, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

As Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado was addressing a Senate committee that is considering his nomination as Supreme Court chief justice, six senators of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) sent a letter to Gov. Sila Calderon on Wednesday morning informing her that they will vote against the nominee.

Sens. Modesto Agosto Alicea, Yazmin Mejias Lugo, Jose Ortiz Daliot, Juan Cancel Alegria, Margarita Ostoloza Bey, and Roberto Prats Palerm said they will vote against Mercado in accordance to their consciences.

"During this phase of the Senate proceedings, we understand that it is our duty to inform you that after we thoroughly evaluated the nominee for Supreme Court chief justice, we believe that he does not meet the requirements for the post," the group of senators stated.

"As a matter of conscience, we cannot give our consent to the nominee to be confirmed for this important post," they said.

Calderon nominated Mercado to the island’s highest judicial post on Sept. 19.

Since then, all sectors of society have condemned the nomination, including two former governors, seven former Supreme Court justices, the current PDP president and three other former presidents, the presidents of the island’s major political parties, and a former president of the Bar Association.

On Tuesday evening, Calderon addressed the people through a televised speech praising her nominee and said those opposed to the nomination have acted in agreement with a public lynching strategy against Mercado’s public character.

The senators noted in their letter that their decision is firm and final.

The New Progressive Party (NPP) senators and Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Sen. Fernando Martin have said they will vote against the nominee.

But the PDP senators’ public statement does not necessarily mean Mercado won’t be confirmed, since in order to be confirmed by the Senate, only a simple majority is required.

Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora has said the PDP caucus will meet to discuss the nomination and that senators are required to accept and vote according to the decision of the majority.

The argument has been questioned by former Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon and PDP President Anibal Acevedo Vila, who said senators must act aside from the caucus and vote according to their consciences. They have also argued that caucus rulings only apply to government program issues.

The 14th Senate is comprised of 29 members, including 19 PDP senators, eight NPP senators, and one PIP senator.

On a simple majority basis, Senate quorum means that there has to be 15 senators on the floor at the time of the vote. As a result, Mercado’s nomination would need only eight votes to be confirmed as Supreme Court chief justice.

NPP Candidates: Government Is To Blame For Base Closing

September 30, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The four New Progressive Party (NPP) candidates for resident commissioner agreed Tuesday that the imminent closing of the U.S. Roosevelt Roads Naval Base in Ceiba is a consequence of the current administration’s alleged policy to remove the U.S. Armed Forces from the island.

Sen. Miriam Ramirez, former Senate President Charlie Rodriguez, former Gov. Carlos Romero Barcelo, and businessman Luis Fortuño said in a radio forum that they regret the eventual closing of military operations in approximately six months but it is necessary to prepare a plan to maximize the use of the base’s land.

Ramirez said the closing of military facilities could continue on the island, with Fort Buchanan being the next to close "in approximately a year."

She also warned that Puerto Rico could be left without a military presence.

"We’re not going to have a military presence in Puerto Rico as a consequence of the efforts to remove the U.S. Navy [from Vieques]," Ramirez said.

Romero Barcelo was a little more restrained and said that before proposing uses for Roosevelt Roads, it is necessary to evaluate the facility’s infrastructure and resources.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez agreed with them but said, "The fact is that the base will close. We have to prepare it for the best development."

Fortuño also said the closing of Roosevelt Roads, approved last week in Congress, was because of the "concerted action of separatist groups."

Rossello Defeats Pesquera At NPP State Board

September 30, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

YAUCO (AP) — In another decision opposite to the wishes of New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera, the party’s State Board approved Monday night a motion for the party president can’t be the gubernatorial candidate or the governor.

Taking effect in January 2005, the proposal of Pesquera’s challenger for the NPP gubernatorial candidacy, former Gov. Pedro Rossello, was approved by an overwhelming majority, such that the opposing votes were not even counted.

"It was a vote that a count was not done," a serious Pesquera said later.

"I didn’t see more than seven people raise their hands against the resolution I presented," Rossello said in a press conference.

However, Rossello did not consider the vote a reflection of what could occur in the Nov. 9 primaries.

"This is not a primary process. This was a proposal presented to the State Board that had overwhelming support," the former governor said.

Rep. Anibal Vega Borges, who supports Pesquera’s candidacy, said he voted in favor of Rossello’s proposal because he understands it to be "beneficial" to the party.

Pesquera was booed by some 300 people when he arrived at Rancho 13, where the NPP State Board meeting was held.

However, Rossello was received with applause and shouts of support.

NPP Secretary General William Rosales said of the 436 members of the NPP State Board, 146 attended the meeting, which makes a quorum.

Political Parties Oppose Mercado As Chief Justice

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

September 29, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Statehooders and independence advocates stated their opposition Monday to the nomination of Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado, claiming the nominee does not have the favor of the people and does not meet the meets the necessary requirements to fill the chief justice post.

"The governor’s constitutional prerogative of appointing judges is not a blank check to appoint people who do not have the merits, and whose nominations result in an offense to the people," New Progressive Party (NPP) president Carlos Pesquera said.

Pesquera described Mercado’s nomination as a whim of Gov. Sila M. Calderon, and as an example of political opportunism because Pesquera believes it is expected that the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) will loose the 2004 general elections.

The NPP president added that Mercado’s political activism throughout most of his professional career minimizes the nominee’s capability to serve as chief justice.

"What makes you think Mercado will change his [political] behavior from one day to the other?" Pesquera said.

Pesquera said that, if confirmed, Mercado will have the power to designate judges and to comprise circuit judge panels according to his criteria, and noted that since Mercado left the PDP secretary general post to become secretary of state in 2001, he has not been able to separate his political interests from his government tasks.

Pesquera also rejected Gov. Calderon’s attempts to convince her fellow party members at the Senate to endorse Mercado as chief justice, something PDP senators confirmed on Monday.

"I reject styles from the past," said Pesquera.

Calderon arrived on the island during the weekend, after interrupting her honeymoon to deal with the tidal wave of opposition to Mercado’s nomination.

Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) executive vice president, Maria de Lourdes Santiago said Mercado’s nomination reaffirms a reason for an increasing trend among people to lose their faith in public institutions.

The PIP vice president said the replacement for present Chief Justice Jose Andreu Garcia must strengthen the Supreme Court.

"If the Senate confirms the nominee, it will turn its back on the consensus, which has rejected Mercado as chief justice," she said.

She also refused to make specific arguments on Mercado’s possible limitations to occupy the highest judicial post, but said Mercado’s nomination goes against the people and sectors of society.

She also noted the executive branch lost a great opportunity to nominate another woman to the Supreme Court, and said that the people of Puerto Rico will have to wait until Justice Myriam Naveira’s resignation before another female justice is appointed.

Pesquera and Santiago’s arguments agreed with those of Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Anibal Acevedo Vila, who testified against Mercado’s nomination on Monday morning.

Both made their remarks during the first day of hearings of the Senate Nominations Committee held at the Severo Colberg Toro Room in the House of Representatives.

Initially, public hearings were expected to be held in the Senate’s Leopoldo Figueroa room, but a malfunction in the cable TV system caused Senate personnel to move the hearings to a room in the House.

Fas Won’t Sanction Senators Who Vote Against Mercado

September 26, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora indicated that he will not sanction senators who decide not to comply with the majority in the vote to confirm Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado as chief justice of the Supreme Court.

"I’m not the type of person who would sanction," Fas Alzamora said in published reports.

The Senate Popular Democratic Party caucus plans to meet to decide how to vote on Mercado’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

The public hearings on the confirmation begin Monday, and Mercado needs 15 votes to be approved.

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