Pedro Pierluisi's ascent to the governorship seeks to close a dark chapter in Puerto Rico's governance, caused by the lackluster way in which his predecessor left the government, and by the rushed and non-transparent transition that led to the change of governor.
Now former Ricardo Rosselló and Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz, whose long struggle for power resulted in the inaction that plunged Puerto Rico into uncertainty, are responsible for these dark days we have gone through. The genuine controversy over the legal interpretation that brought Pierliuisi to La Fortaleza must be tempered by his will to be ratified by the Senate, in order to complete the advice and consent process in both legislative chambers.
It is also positive that, in order to respect the legal system, Pierluisi has committed himself to the people and the Senate that if he is not ratified as governor he will then ask and the Secretary of Justice Wanda Vázquez to occupy the position, following the line of succession.
Intransigence forced a legal solution for the succession, whose outcome should not be found in court but in the Senate constitutional responsibility. Faced with government instability, it was crucial that the House of Representatives opened its doors yesterday to hold the hearing to confirm the appointment of Pierluisi as Secretary of State, following the route to the governorship.
For four hours, the House Government Committee, open to the participation of other representatives, was able to ask questions and weigh the nominee's answers. With validity and respect, they inquired about Pierluisi's loyalties to Puerto Rico. They asked about his professional ties with the Fiscal Oversight Board, which he has served as a lawyer; his positions on critical decisions for the island; and the independence of judgement and decision-making from the government he inherited.
Pierluisi answered the questions calmly, which led to the positive recommendation of the appointment. House Speaker Carlos Méndez called for a voting session that afternoon where each representative had the opportunity to declare his or her decision. The process was completed with time enough to notify La Fortaleza.
Up to its historic responsibility, the House fulfilled its duty, without prejudging the nominee to take the reins of the island.
Meanwhile, the Senate president, who has been forced to reschedule such a significant process for Monday, seems to have taken the other way. On Thursday, Rivera Schatz used his high-ranking position monologue and launch flawed judgments to Pierluisi denying him the opportunity to respond or defend himself against the insolence of the senator. It's time for the other senators to distance themselves from that outrageous attitude and allow Puerto Rico to have peaceful governance. Senators relievethe people of the uncertainty, acting as they are required to in such a crucial moment for the island.
In the interest of restoring governance with Pierluisi´s swearing-in as governor, the alternative has been to apply the Succession Act - Law 7 of 1952, as amended in 2005. This statute allows a nominee for Secretary of State to take office if the nomination comes during the legislative recess. The Secretary of State is the first in the line of succession to occupy the position of governor.
The new governor, whoever takes on that mission, has a loaded agenda ahead. Once governance and stability are restored, it is necessary to rebuild relations with the U.S. government in order to put Puerto Rico's fiscal order, reconstruction, and development projects on track. It can be done with the governmental transparency and accountability that our people strongly demand.
Fifteen months ahead of the 2020 elections, Puerto Rico has learned an important lesson: we have to participate and vote to ensure that the public clamor for change becomes true.