Tuesday 6th September 2022

September 6, 2022

The administrator of the Authority for Consumer Protection and Defense of Competition (Acodeco), Jorge Quintero, said in the Budget Commission of the National Assembly that, due to the change in the Government’s economic policies, the institution requires a larger budget than recommended to monitor the sale of food, fuel and medicine. For 2023, $9.2 million was assigned to Acodeco, much less than the budget for the current year, which was $9.7 million, with which Quintero foresees that it will not be able to fulfill the function of protection and defense of consumers that the law assigns, in addition to the commitments of the agreements of the dialogue table. According to Acodeco’s estimate, in order to operate in 2023 they require at least $12.5 million, which was the amount presented in the preliminary draft budget. The Ministry of Economy and Finance recommended a reduction of $3.3 million. “With the new tasks and with the new provisions for verifying the price of gasoline, the basic basket and other new laws such as medicines, with the budget for this year we will hardly be able to reach the month of December,” warned the official. He said that until August 31, Acodeco had 87.4% execution of the budget, and it is possible that by October it will run out of resources to continue operating. Quintero indicated that they need more resources to invest in technological equipment that facilitates the verification function in commercial establishments, in addition to more verification personnel. They only have 75 verifiers distributed in the different provinces. During the support of the budget, and almost at the end, deputy Raúl Pineda, of the governing Democratic Revolutionary Party and vice president of the Budget Commission, demanded more “character” from Quintero to hold the position because there are a few officials that do not leave the air-conditioned offices to go to the streets to inspect.

The lawyer Ernesto Cedeño presented this Monday, September 5, 2022, two legal actions in the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ), which have to do with Executive Decree No. 215 of September 1, 2022, through which the Citizen Commission Against Corruption was formed. Said commission will be made up of two representatives of the Bastion of Struggle of Eastern Chirican, the Ngäbe Buglé people ; two representatives of the United People for Life Alliance and two representatives of the National Alliance for the Rights of Organized Peoples ; and will be under the coordination of the National Authority for Transparency and Access to Information . The first action filed by Cedeño is a contentious-administrative claim for annulment filed before the Third Chamber for Contentious-Administrative Matters and which was left in the hands of Judge María Cristina Chen Stanziola. In the lawsuit, Cedeño asks the Court to suspend the effects of this act, since one of the functions of the aforementioned commission “compromises” with what was already established by the provision that created the Council of the National Concertation for Development ( Law No. 20 of 2008). According to the provisions of Executive Decree No. 215, within the functions of the commission are: to present possible cases of corruption that have occurred within public entities and to file complaints before the Public Ministry or special prosecutors for the possible commission of punishable acts within public administration, among others. Cedeño also pointed out that in this matter there is a “discriminatory” aspect since in the aforementioned commission there will only be the three alliances with which the Executive Branch has held talks in the province of Coclé , since last July 21, in the so-called dialogue table. “The Citizen Commission Against Violent Corruption, in my opinion, the United Nations Convention against Corruption is where the possibility of opening the compass is allowed for civil society to propose ideas and now this has been closed,” he explained. . He added that he is not against the existence of an anti-corruption entity in the country, but that “it must be inclusive and not exclusive”, as established in Executive Decree No. 215.

At least eleven people have been arrested this Monday, September 5, for their alleged link to the commission of financial crimes, through the modalities of phishing and SIM swapping . The so-called “Operation Sim Swapping” consisted of 14 raids carried out in the provinces of Panama (center), Panama Oeste and Colón, detailed the first superior prosecutor against Organized Crime, Emeldo Márquez. Márquez said that among those apprehended – who were due be taken before a court of guarantees – there are nationals and foreigners. The investigation of the First Specialized Prosecutor for Crimes against Organized Crime reveals that this criminal group, through false documents, requested and obtained the sim card (small plastic card that has a chip attached to it) of its victim, with which They took control of the number. After this, the criminals carried out fraudulent banking transactions, it has been reported. During the development of the operation, cash, computers, cell phones, sim cards , a money counting machine and other evidence were seized, reported the Public Ministry. Phishing is a computer term that distinguishes a set of techniques that seek to deceive a victim by gaining their trust by posing as a trusted person, company or service, to manipulate them and make them perform actions that they should not perform. Meanwhile, SIM swapping, SIM duplication or SIM card impersonation, is a type of fraud carried out using the SIM card. The Third Section of Crimes against Economic Patrimony of the Metropolitan Prosecutor’s Office, together with the National Police, reported the arrest of a man wanted for the alleged crime of fraud in the province of Los Santos. According to the investigations, this citizen would be linked to some 40 cases of fraud, in which he posed as a seller of repossessed vehicles, achieving an affectation of more than 170 thousand dollars.

In order for them to be investigated, the National Authority for Transparency and Access to Information (Antai) sent 15 files to the Public Ministry and the Comptroller General of the Republic. According to Antai, these files were sent to the aforementioned entities “because they are possible acts of corruption typified in the Penal Code ” of the country. In a statement released this Monday, September 5, Antai explained that the entity’s Legal Advisory Office detailed that seven files were sent to the Public Ministry “for possible crimes of abuse of authority.” Cases for alleged “infractions of the duties of public servants, concussion and exaction and corruption of public servants” were also sent. Meanwhile, eight files were sent to the Comptroller General of the Republic between May and August for audits due to alleged mismanagement or misuse of public assets. Antai recalled that the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic “is the competent entity for the due control” of the management and use of public assets. According to Antai, the sending of these investigations to both instances of the Panamanian State is based on Law No. 33 of April 25, 2013 and Law No. 38 of 2000. The aforementioned norms regulate the administrative procedure, which establishes that upon receipt of a complaint, Antai must determine if it is competent to hear it and, if not, it must refer it to the competent authority, in these 15 cases the Comptroller’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office.

The candidates for free application keep their foot on the accelerator in search of the largest number of support signatures to achieve a chance on the ballot for the general elections of May 2024. During the first three weeks of the official period for collecting signatures of support, they have managed to obtain 193,384, according to data from the Electoral Tribunal published on its website on the morning of September 5. A record figure when compared to what happened prior to the 2019 general elections. Judge Eduardo Valdés Escoffery explained that in 2018, in the first four months, the candidates for free candidacy for President of the Republic, deputy, mayor and corregimiento representative had collected 90 thousand signatures. “That is, in a short period of time they are doubling the number of signatures they are collecting,” said the magistrate on the Cara a Cara program . Of the total number of signatories, 63% belong to a political party, he maintained. Of the five methods that the TE has made available for citizens to offer support to applicants, the most used has been the user service center. “56% have used it,” said Valdés Escoffery. It is followed by the mobile device method, whereby applicants use an application (app) to capture the signature. At the beginning, those from multi-service kiosks were in second place, the magistrate recalled. For the position of president, the pre-candidate for free candidacy and current deputy of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, Zulay Rodríguez, heads the list. From August 15 to date, she has collected 10,976 signatures. Followed by the lawyer Francisco Paco Carreira with 7,844. In third place is the former minister and former deputy Melitón Arrocha with 6,122. Arrocha displaced Eduardo Quirós in this third week. The latter has collected 5,977 signatures.

Solaris Barba , finally received the crown of  Miss Universe Panama 2022 , months after receiving this title. The 23-year-old model and television presenter was crowned by the president of the Miss Universe Panama organization, Ricardo Canto, at a gala held at the Vasco Núñez de Balboa on Friday, September 2. The event began with a choreography where the miss danced. She then paraded in an evening dress: a  strapless  pink dress that fitted her body, designed by Carlos Joel Morales from Tableño and made by Amparo Caicedo. Solaris, who was Miss World Panama in 2018  , had been chosen in May as the new Panamanian representative to Miss Universe. At that time, she received the sash but there was no crown.

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