Wednesday 26th April 2023.

April 25, 2023



Social networks were flooded with photographs of congressman Benicio Robinson , the same day that it became known that the National Authority for Transparency and Access to Information (Antai), fined La Prensa $5,000 for using a photograph of the politician in a journalistic note. about their business with transportation and the quotas granted by the Transit and Land Transportation Authority (ATTT) .

The Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Panama recalled that Antai was born to guarantee transparency and access to public information. “Fining the media with absurd arguments distances it from that purpose, and creates a serious precedent in terms of freedom of expression of information,” said the union, chaired by Marcela Galindo .

According to a resolution by Antai’s Data Protection Department, La Prensa had to request permission from Robinson to use his photo, since it is a “sensitive” biometric data and misuse of it can put “at grave risk” the owner of the image (Robinson).

Antai also affirmed that the databases that contain details about who owns the public transport seats granted by ATTT, material used in the report entitled Route of the seats reaches Benicio Robinson , which was written by the journalist Mary Triny Zea They are not publicly accessible.

Robinson, in addition to being a transporter, is president of the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) , of sports federations and of the powerful Budget Commission of the National Assembly.

The decision of Antai, directed by Elsa Fernández , caused multiple criticisms.

Political analyst Edwin Cabrera assured that in a “serious” country, both Fernández and Antai’s director of Data Protection, Yenelis Ortiz de Mariscal, “were already dismissed.” “No media outlet has to request permission to illustrate a news item on a public issue. What happened is a clear threat to access to information, ”he added.

The lawyer Miguel Antonio Bernal also expressed his disagreement. “There is no doubt that, to promote and apply censorship, there is no such thing as Antai. Keep sowing winds… Keep going,” he opined.

Another who joined the debate was Guido Rodríguez, a former Accounts Prosecutor. “There are absurd decisions, and this one from Antai, goes against the grain of all the regulations on transparency in public administration and international standards on freedom of expression. In short, a “legal trickery” cheap circus level. What a pity, ”.

Another who reacted was the former President of the Republic Martín Torrijos (2004-2009). “As part of my administration, we eliminated laws that threatened the free exercise of journalism. Today more than ever, Panama requires full freedom of expression that contributes to the strengthening of a true democracy. For this reason, I reaffirm my commitment to always be on the side of freedom and the right of Panamanians to share their opinion, regardless of the issue or circumstances.

Some linked the issue with the bill 625 for extinction of domain that is currently being debated in the Assembly. “In Panama, our politicians have managed to make Antai, the Transparency and Access to Information Authority, work as a weapon to attack press freedom and protect corrupt people, what will they not do with the extinction of domain?

While Roberto Eisenman, founder of La Prensa , stated that with the fine, Antai wins “the world prize for absurdity.”

While Castalia Pascual, a TVN journalist, expressed her opinion on the issue “should concern all Panamanians.” “It goes beyond freedom of the press”, dangerous.

“What is Antai playing at,” said journalist Alvaro Älvarado for his part.

Félix Antonio Chávez, presenter and reporter for Eco TV, recalled that in 2020 President Laurentino Cortizo signed the Declaration of Chapultepec, on freedom of the press and expression. He added that today his government sanctions La Prensa for publishing a photo of congressman Benicio Robinson.

While the lawyer Ernesto Cedeño, assured that he will ask the Ombudsman, Eduardo Leblanc, for his intervention in the case of the sanction of the Antai to a media outlet, since the measure violates one of my human rights.

The Communication and Transportation Commission of the National Assembly approved this Tuesday, April 25, in its first debate, bill 986, which establishes that digital transportation platforms would be required to belong to a selective public transportation provider.

The project was approved despite the opposition of drivers who belong to these platforms (such as Uber). In addition, the commission rejected the proposal of the independent deputy, Raúl Fernández, that the legislative initiative be discussed in a subcommittee to achieve consensus.

According to Abel Beker, president of the commission, for several days they discussed the document to make “improvements”, for which he considered that Fernández’s proposal was not appropriate. In addition, he said that in those sessions the deputy Fernández never attended “and now that the debate is coming, he attends and wants to make that proposal.”

The Government Commission of the National Assembly approved this Tuesday, April 25, in the first debate, bill 625, on extinction of domain of illegal assets.

Now, the proposal will be sent to the Assembly plenary for its second and third debate.

Opposition deputies tried to include the crime of corruption in the reform package, but it was not approved by the official bench of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) and Molirena.

“It seems to me a fairly agreed norm in its attention to what Panama really needs and requires under current and current legislation,” said the president of the Assembly, Crispiano Adames, who was present at the discussion.

The lawyer Ariel Corbetti, who was present at the meeting, said that he feels a “bittersweet” taste with the approval of the project, since the crime of corruption and against public administration was not included.

Meanwhile, the secretary general of the Ministry of Security, Jonathan Riggs, praised the “political will” of the deputies to resume and approve this project.

“The second debate will allow the Assembly to establish what the jurisdiction is, which must be clear that it strengthens criminal prosecution, in such a way that the attorney appoints domain extinction prosecutors and that the justice administration can count on those guarantee judges to ensure due process,” he added.

The session to give the first debate to bill 625 began an hour and a half later than expected despite the fact that the deputies were summoned for 10:00 am on Tuesday, April 25.

“We are stuck,” acknowledged earlier the deputy president of the commission, Leandro Ávila, who explained that they had not started at the scheduled time due to a lack of quorum.

A minimum of four deputies was required to start the meeting. The commission is made up of nine deputies.

It was not until 11:39 am that five deputies said they were present. These are: Fátima Agrazal, from Cambio Democrático; Edison Broce, of free application; Luis Ernesto Carles, from the Panameñista Party; Leandro Avila, from the PRD, and Corina Cano, from Molirena.

Ávila maintained that the idea is to give it the first debate as soon as possible so that there is more room for consultation in a second debate in the plenary session of the National Assembly.

“I cannot speak for other deputies, but I want this debate to move forward,” Ávila stressed.

The new Dr. José Renán Esquivel Children’s Hospital, which is being built on the grounds of the former United States embassy, ​​on Balboa avenue, is 20.4% complete, informed the Minister of Health, Luis Francisco Sucre .

Sucre, who made a tour of the construction on Tuesday, April 25, indicated that the company has a delay of about 15 days. He added that the company had problems with the foundation, due to the land near the sea.

He argued that the construction company presented a proposal to recover this time, which consists of working overtime.

Despite this, the minister assured that “we feel comfortable with the speed of the project.”

The construction of this hospital began in September 2021. The company Acciona Construcción, SA carries out the work for an amount of 614 million 118 thousand 54 dollars.

According to Minister Sucre, this project must be delivered in the year 2025.

Just before the rainy season begins in the country, the alarms have gone off in Colón due to the lack of maintenance and the disuse of the rainwater pumps in the center of the Atlantic city.

In October 2022, more than 500 businesses in the city of Colon, France Field and the Colon Free Zone were affected by flooding that caused economic losses of close to $15 million, due to the lack of maintenance of the stormwater pumps of Colon and poor disposal and collection of garbage.

“At that time, only 40% of the city’s pumps and 55% of those that had to operate in the Colon Free Zone were working. While in an inspection carried out in April 2023, it was found that the situation has worsened. Only 33% of the city’s rainwater pumps are in operation,” denounced this morning, Tuesday April 25, Michael Chen, president of the Colón Chamber of Commerce.

Chen acknowledged that there has been improvement in the free zone area, with 80% of the pumps operational, but there is concern about the losses that could be experienced again when the rains hit the city of Colón.

The operation of the pumps in the city of Colón is a shared responsibility between the ministries of Housing and Territorial Planning (Miviot) and that of Public Works (MOP).

As part of the Colón Urban Renewal project, the pumps are initially in charge of Miviot, but once the works are satisfactorily received, this entity transfers the infrastructure to the MOP.


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