The Puerto Rico Supreme Court has accepted to decide on the legitimacy Pedro Pierluisi as the island´s governor, a controversy of unprecedented constitutional weight in our political and judicial history, rooted in power struggles of the New Progressive Party leadership.
The Supreme Court receives today the arguments of the parties, as the Constitution mandates. Difficulties between the executive and legislative branch to overcome their differences and reach an agreement with indisputable legal basis to put an end to the governance crisis are quite clear.
The route leading to the Supreme Court to decide on the governor´s legitimacy following Rosselló Nevares’ forced resignation does not set an example.
But, amid this long institutional crisis, Senate president Thomas Rivera Schatz took the right step by leaving in the hands of the Supreme Court -the ultimate interpreter of the Constitution- the solution to this institutional instability.
In this sea of uncertainty, the Court's decision should clarify, beyond particular interpretations, whether or not Pierluisi should legitimately assume the governorship. In this decision, Supreme Court Justices face a novel issue of high public importance, two legal views clashing. The controversy would be examined under the Puerto Rican Constitution and Law 7, as amended in 2005.
Pierluisi was sworn in as governor in accordance to that Law the statute provides for the Secretary of State to assume as governor if nominated during the legislative recess. Therefore, he could fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Rosselló Nevares.
The opposite legal interpretation establishes that the Secretary of State can become governor only if he or she has been confirmed by the House of Representatives and the Senate, whose members have been elected by the people.
The Supreme Court has the great opportunity to define a legal figure that puts an end to the uncertainty surrounding the governor's position, and that protects Puerto Ricans from future uncertainties. The great lesson is to find, in this process, a solution to the controversy looking at the future.
With the Supreme Court’s decision, Puerto Rico will have a judicial precedent, not only to resolve the current institutional crisis but also to avoid that any future political disagreement will leave Puerto Rico without a governor.
The ruling political class failed to bring that guarantee, with their entrenched positions, turning their backs to the people who marched across the island demanding –and still holding that demand- a transparent, honorable and responsible government.
Inactions, mistakes, setbacks and, above all, the lack of detachment of different political actors have permeated the series of events that led to the controversy the Supreme Court will now decide.
The most recent events include Pierluisi’s series of confusing statements about him accepting or rejecting the Senate´s vote on his appointment as Secretary of State. In this difficult political and legal situation that Puerto Rico faces, there is no room for hesitations that only serve to further confuse public opinion. Neither does the aggressive attitude and the rhetoric of the Senate leader contribute to the solution.
Closing this period of uncertainty must be everyone's goal, given the complicated agenda every sector in Puerto Rico faces, and that includes the government itself with its multiple fiscal challenges and reconstruction. We hope the Supreme Court will lead us to a solution looking at the present and the future.