The legislature: oozing rather than melting

Were his parents dyed-in-the-wool Arnulfistas, who named him “Adolfo” after one of Arnulfo Arias’s European friends? Well, he mostly goes by the name “Beby” these days and as a legislator who’s not totally clueless, he has noticed the growing public outcry to vote against all incumbents. But Beby Valderrama has a plan – he’ll run for mayor of Panama City instead! Several of his colleages have the same idea, and so do other deputies who are running to be alcaldes of lesser pueblos. But pesky auditors and journalists are bugging him. They pointed out that his nephew was on Beby’s legislative payroll. The immediate response was Chicago-style: He works! He’s no botella! But the thing is, said nephew lives in Mexico. Archive photo by the Asamblea Nacional, wherein Beby leads the clamoring masses in a holy crusade to protect businesses – see, companies are people too, even the US Supreme Court says so – from the scourge of discrimination.

Were there more heat you might call it a systemic meltdown

by Eric Jackson

Comptroller General Federico Humbert’s revelations about the legislature are ever more astounding. The latest set is about deputies putting people from their private businesses on the National Assembly’s payroll. There were at least 900 such private sector workers being paid on the public dime, and Humbert is starting to file criminal complaints about it.

It’s the Supreme Court that has original and exclusive jurisdiction over criminal cases in which legislators stand accused. The legislature, in turn, has original and exclusive jurisdiction when a high court magistrate is the defendant. Over the years there has been at least the appearance of a non-aggression pact between judges and legislators, wherein they do not hold one another accountable for improper acts or omissions.

One of the first complaints that Humbert filed was against Cambio Democratico legislator Marylin Vallarino, who had employees of the family customs courier business on the government’s payroll. “It’s MY company,” Vallarino indignantly protested. Plus, of course, she’s a Vallarino. Shes aunt to former Panama City mayor Bosco Vallarino. (He admitted taking the bribe back in 2015, quickly got out on his own recognizance, got that revoked and did a tiny bit of time in jail awaiting trial, then got out with travel restrictions pending trial, and through one procedural delay after another has still avoided coming to trial for corruption of which he made a public admission.) She’s sister to Arturo Vallarino (who when he was vice president of Panama for some reason vouched for this Atlanta swindler, Tom McMurrain, the latter who brought criminal defamation charges against this reporter and embellished the process with an extortion note).

Humbert is not just picking on CD. He has also filed a complaint against PRD deputy Leandro Ávila, erstwhile VP of the National Assembly, for putting former president Mireya Moscoso’s maid on the payroll for a no-show “job.” And Panameñista deputy Jorge Alberto Rosas, for apparently paying several employees of his law firm out of public funds through a legislative payroll. (But fear not. There is no disbarment in Panama. Rosas can even practice law while he’s in prison, if that’s where he ends up.) PRD honest government and social reform maven Athenas Athanasiadis? She has 15 employees of the family chicken business being paid via the legislature, so the comproller’s comlaint alleges.

It’s a mess and some will say one contrived to make the alleged Motta family favorite, independent legislator and former attorney general Ana Matilde Gómez, the next president. But then there are all manner of denials and spins and counter-charges. But precious few are the direct denials of the specific allegations that Humbert makes. It’s being treated something like a rough patch which the gravy train will soon get past.


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