Wednesday 9th August 2023.
August 8, 2023
The director of the National Authority for Transparency and Access to Information (Antai) , Elsa Fernández , promotes the repeal of Law 6 of 2002 , ensuring that a new legislation will streamline processes, incorporate technology and be more “guaranteed”.
“Each of the citizens who submit a request for information will be given a quicker response. We are talking about 15 business days; before it was 30 days”, Fernández said this Tuesday, in the Government, Justice and Constitutional Affairs Commission of the National Assembly (AN).
Although it is up to this instance to approve bill 1031 in the first debate , which eliminates Law 6 of 2002, Fernández was there this Tuesday to support Antai and not to discuss the legislative proposal.
The Government Commission agreed on Tuesday to send Antai’s proposal to a subcommittee, made up of deputies Corina Cano, Eugenio Bernal and Luis Ernesto Carles.
Project 1031 includes much more than what was briefly stated by Fernández. Here are some points, to get a better understanding of this proposal.
Bill 1031 was presented by José Simpson , Minister of the Presidency, on April 27, 2023, according to him, in order to “modernize and adapt [Law 6] to the current reality,” using a model law of the Organization of American States (OAS) and -according to him- with the technical assistance of Unesco .
Antai, which did not even exist when Law 6 of 2002 was approved, acquires a leading role, since it assumes the role of governing entity and guarantor of access to public information.
Project 1031 proposes that each entity have a “transparency administrative unit” and an “information officer” to receive requests for access to public information from citizens.
The information may be classified as reserved for a period of up to 10 years. Current law allows it to be up to 20 years.
The bill proposes to reduce from 30 to 15 days the period for officials to provide the requested public information.
Antai would become the main entity responsible for the Escazú Agreement and not the Ministry of the Environment, as it is at present.
Complaints for non-compliance must be submitted to Antai, who will initiate a process before the authority that has the public information required by the applicant. In Law 6 of 2002, if the entity does not comply with the delivery of the information, the applicant can file a habeas data action before the superior courts or the Supreme Court of Justice. Now, with the bill, you have to go first to Antai and then to the courts.
Sanctions are made more flexible. The bill proposes fines for up to 50% of the monthly salary (“during the time the offense lasts”) of the offending officials. Ley 6, meanwhile, contemplated fines equivalent to twice the monthly salary and, in case of recidivism, dismissal from office.
The rule proposed by Antai shields information from the beneficiaries of social programs and scholarships, invoking Law 81 of 2019, on personal data projects . This would make it impossible, for example, to have access to those favored with scholarships and economic aid from Ifarhu.
Currently, if the offender is a representative of a corregimiento or mayor, the habeas data is filed before a municipal court and, if it is a governor, it is filed before a circuit court. Project 1031 eliminates the municipal judge and the circuit judge from knowledge of habeas data. If there are mayors, representatives or governors of two or more provinces involved, the action is filed in a higher court. What will happen in the provinces and counties where there are no higher courts?
The president of the Banking Association of Panama (ABP) , Carlos Berguido , described as populist the proposal to sanction financial institutions and companies that refuse to have as clients people or companies that are being investigated for a crime or that have been mentioned in some media or even on social networks.
Berguido thus referred to bill 7065 , presented by the pro-government deputy Raúl Pineda on August 1, which seeks to “protect the fundamental right of the presumption of innocence of the financial system”, according to the explanatory statement of the bill, with the aim -said Pineda- of “avoiding arbitrary and inquisitive practices of our authorities” towards those accused, investigated or even mentioned for any crime.
The PRD deputy maintains that not allowing access to financial products is a “de facto sanction”, alien to the penalty that limits “the right to work and the free development of personality.”
The initiative would prevent any financial, banking, leasing , sales, transportation, factoring , investment and fund managers, insurance and reinsurance companies, marketers, cooperatives, remittances, free zones, brokerage houses and pawnshops, casino and jewelry stores, among others, to disconnect a client who is being criminally or administratively investigated, “under any concept, reason or circumstance”, or who is mentioned in any journalistic investigation or on social networks.
Berguido highlighted that many corruption scandals that have come to the fore have been prosecuted precisely because of the information provided by the banks to the Financial Analysis Unit (UAF) , which provided the initial financial intelligence for the authorities to continue with the cases.
For this reason, Berguido rejects that banks be attributed the status of accomplices or participants, while denying that banks close accounts without being “totally sure” of the information they handle and after an exhaustive analysis that this relationship would entail reputational or legal consequences with its correspondent banks, for example.
From January to August, the Authority for the Protection of Consumers and Defense of Competition (Acodeco), registered 117 sanctions in the first instance for 331,200 dollars for irregularities against Law 24 of 2002, referring to credit history, being the second category with a greater number of fines.
Acodeco explained that economic sanctions were imposed on 40 banks with fines amounting to $91,900.
Sanctions were also applied to 24 financiers for $54,300 dollars, to a used car sales business for $50,000 dollars, to 12 cooperatives for $48,800 dollars, and to 17 collection agencies for $40,100 dollars.
Acodeco also reported economic sanctions against furniture stores for $5,000, two department stores for $3,000, among other establishments.
The irregularities detected by the Acodeco in these banks, finance companies and businesses are mainly due to breaches of the credit history legislation, such as eliminating by prescription, for this case 32 sanctions were imposed for 111 thousand 500 dollars.
Another reason for the fines was failure to rectify credit history, which led to 34 fines for $65,200, among others.
The agency recalled that Law 24 of May 22, 2002, establishes that in the event of erroneous, inaccurate, equivocal, incomplete, late or false data, in credit information or economic, financial, banking, commercial or industrial transaction, that is registered in the credit history of a consumer, is reason to file a complaint, to be rectified or eliminated.
The Drug Enforcement Administration of the United States (known by its acronym DEA), offered a seminar to the personnel of the Social Security Fund (CSS) in the handling and dispensing of controlled substances, to reinforce the controls.
At the meeting, Carlos Nazario, supervisor of the Drug Diversion Control Division of the DEA, discussed the controls that are maintained in the United States on these substances and the sanctions to which those who fail to comply with them are exposed.
The seminar arises as a result of the situation that originated in the pharmacy of the Dr. Arnulfo Arias Madrid Hospital Complex, where the loss of at least 19 thousand vials of fentanyl, a synthetic drug, was reported.
This drug is often mixed with heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine. It began to boom in 2005, although its consumption increased significantly from 2013.
During the activity, Enrique Lau Cortés, director of the CSS, recalled that it was the institution that informed the Public Ministry of the disappearance of the fentanyl vials and that from the outset it asked the DEA to collaborate in reinforcing controls. internal management and dispensing of these substances.
Lau Cortés assured that corrective measures have been taken for the handling and issuance of prescriptions for these controlled drugs, however, he did not specify the details about the corrective measures.