Friday 21st October 2022.

October 21, 2022

The Electoral Court (TE) presented this Thursday afternoon, three complaints to the Electoral General Prosecutor’s Office for possible irregularities in the use of the app for the collection of signatures in support of applicants for free application. Osman Valdés, national director of the Electoral Organization, explained that the first is for the Electoral Administrative Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the possible commission of a “contravention for the validation of false support signatures” by activists who used the signature collection application, designed by the TE, wrongly. And the other two electoral criminal complaints are to investigate the possible commission of electoral computer crimes related to identity theft in digital procedures before the TE by “activists who engaged in malicious activity, in addition to the manipulation of digital media with the purpose of affecting the integrity of the electoral process. In a statement, the institution reiterated that the app for collecting signatures in support of pre-candidates is a “reliable technological tool that is equivalent to the digital version of a mobile book, with the advantage that it performs an instant biometric validation of the people who give their support, and that the facts denounced today were motivated by the negligence of some activists and candidates when using the app and manipulating information to alter the trustworthiness of citizens in the applications developed by the TE in compliance with its constitutional and legal powers, ahead of the General Election of May 5, 2024″.

The Electoral Court (TE) published the breakdown of the 1,019 signatures purged and canceled to a total of 53 pre-candidates, due to anomalies in their capture. The list is headed by the deputy of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), Zulay Rodríguez, who aspires to two positions by way of free application: the Presidency of the Republic and re-election in San Miguelito. According to the list published by the TE, 280 support signatures have been canceled for Rodríguez: 199 for the presidential position and 81 for the deputy position.  They are followed by Heriberto González Lee and José Luis Blandón Díaz, pre-candidates for representative in Parque Lefevre and deputy in the 8-2 circuit, respectively, who had 167 and 86 signatures annulled. For their part, a group of pre-candidates for the free application to different positions of popular election presented several requests to the TE so that all the stages of the digital process of collecting support signatures at the national level be audited. They ask for forceful sanctions against those who incurred faults. At least 20 pre-candidates who are part of the electoral structure of the Vamos Coalition attended the court’s atrium to present their applications. They say they want to ensure a fair process from the start. “There are no fair and democratic elections if the process is not fair… It is not only on election day, but also that the entire process has the guarantees that we pre-candidates are looking for,” said David Bernal, a pre-candidate for representative for the corregimiento of Juan Diaz. “We are requesting a review of all the videos that are being collected,” said Luis Duque, a candidate for deputy for San Miguelito. Duque called for a fair process at the national level. In addition, more transparency was requested from the Court regarding the causes for the rejection of the signatures after the revisions that the electoral entity assures have been carried out.

Deputy Zulay Rodríguez Lu , of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) , came out in defense of the “economic aid” that, for $61,000, was granted by the National Institute for the Training and Use of Human Resources (Ifarhu) to pay for her university studies. daughter Paola Testa Rodríguez , in the United States. “To be clear, not even adding my net salary for 5 years could have covered the entirety and you know that I am not a millionaire. All that talk about gold and other nonsense is a lie. So I used how much personal resources I had and it didn’t reach the figure,” Rodríguez said on his social networks, a day after the digital portal Foco reported on the scholarship that Ifarhu awarded to the deputy’s daughter and that in Last July it was endorsed by the Comptroller General of the Republic, where Rocío Rodríguez Lu works as executive assistant. “She [Paola] presented the documentation to Ifarhu for its evaluation, stating that the requested support was in her capacity as an athlete and that the resource was to cover the missing segment. The entity’s response, after evaluating the case, was positive,” added the deputy, who stressed that her daughter “has participated since she was a child in the ITF [International Tennis Federation] tournaments, the last being the World Tennis Tour 2022, organized on the island of Cuba, where she represented Panama”. “A year ago, because of her score , she was selected by a university in the United States. There we had to analyze our options and see the costs that these high-performance centers have. You basically get in for your grades and sports performance, but it’s not free,” she wrote. She added that the American university offered Paola “a partial scholarship.” There was a “remnant”, which is why Ifarhu contributed $61,000. Paola’s father and husband of the deputy is Álvaro Testa, who appears as a pilot on the payroll of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) , with a base salary of $18,300 per month. The director of Ifarhu, Bernardo Meneses , personally defended the “economic aid” to the deputy’s daughter. “I understand perfectly that we live in a country with diverse political thoughts and that is respected; Hopefully before pointing and judging we can read the full story, ”said the official in a message on his Instagram account. “Nobody studies with 60 thousand dollars in the United States for four years, therefore the merit of the student is much greater. Before commenting, I ask you to read the full statement, ”said Meneses, referring to a statement that Ifarhu issued on Wednesday, October 19, to justify it’s actions.

An initial transfer for an amount of $5 million in favor of the Ministry of Public Works (MOP) approved this Thursday, October 20, the Budget Commission of the National Assembly . Rafael Sabonge, Minister of Public Works, explained that the money is to buy at least 50 tons of asphalt to repair the streets with holes and for the maintenance of some highways in the country. The work will be carried out in the “dry season,” the official said. He indicated that this asphalt will be distributed in all provinces through the different regional departments of the ministry. During the session, several deputies asked Sabonge to include in his list the circuits they represent, among them the deputy from Veraguas, Luis Cruz; the deputy of Capira, Yanibel Ábrego; and the deputy Cenobia Vargas, from 8-10.

On September 29, the day on which he supported the budget of the National Assembly for 2023, the deputy Crispiano Adames, president of that State body, assured before the Legislative Budget Commission that he “welcomed” the amount recommended by the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), despite the fact that $56.8 million was subtracted from the amount he had requested. “We welcome it as a qualified body that understands the process that implies, not only the evaluation of the conditions of the macro-indicators that accompany the region, but also how these macro-indicators affect the reality of the economic life of this country,” he said. Adames before his colleagues, in committee. At the time, Adames seemed to welcome the MEF’s considerations, namely $150 million by 2023, instead of the $206.8 million he initially requested. However, everything remained in speech, because in Resolution 67 of October 13, 2022, in which the Budget Commission recommends to the MEF to increase the budget to 26 entities, a contradiction of the president of the Legislative is evident. The Assembly was one of the 54 institutions that requested (unsuccessfully so far) more funds for the coming year. He precisely asked for the $56.8 million that the MEF cut him.

In the few details reflected in Resolution 67, one aspect is striking: it specifies that the $56.8 million requested by the Assembly would supposedly be used for investment. But, last September, in his presentation of the budget hearing, Adames explained that what was cut by the MEF mainly affected the budget requested for operation. He reported that $51 million corresponded to operations and the other $5.8 million to investment. The bulk of the operating funds, Adames said on that occasion, was going to be used to pay payroll and temporary staff benefits. In this line are grouped those people who operate under the umbrella of the form known as 002 or who work by contract, either in the work commissions or in the offices of the deputies.

Around 500 patients with rare and chronic diseases are affected by the lack of medicines. This was reported by the Network of Rare Diseases of Panama and the Federation of Associations of Patients with Critical, Chronic and Degenerative Diseases , who demanded yesterday, the Ministry of Health (Minsa) and the Social Security Fund (CSS) to take measures that allow rapid and continuous access to medications. “The Social Security Fund is discriminating against patients with less prevalent diseases, by not equating the conditions for access to medicines for these people with the rest of the patients,” said the representatives of the associations at a press conference. In addition, they added that for the purchase of these medicines, the Minsa uses a mechanism called “very exceptional”, however, patients with rare and chronic diseases state that for this procedure the institution does not have a defined budget and the supply is not opportune. Given the complaint from the patient representatives, the Minsa reported that the National Directorate of Pharmacy and Drugs acquires products for the treatment of rare diseases at the request of the clinics established for the care of this group of patients.

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