President Juan Carlos Varela is becoming increasingly isolated over the naming of Supreme Court (CSJ) judges, as the pressure increases for him to honor a campaign promise
The State Commission for Justice agreed on Wednesday, February 7, to send letters to Varela, to the president of the National Assembly, Yanibel Ábrego; and the president of the Commission of Credentials, Luis Eduardo Quirós, to suggest that they follow the guidelines of the State Pact for Justice in the appointment of magistrates of the Court.
The pact has been in place since 2005 and calls for civil participation in the choosing of those who are supposed to see that justice is done, but little attention has been paid to the agreement and successive presidents have made their own partisan choices, leaving a justice system in tatters and widely perceived as corrupt.
The Attorney General of the Administration and coordinator of the commission, Rigoberto González, said that the measure was agreed after a meeting attended by representatives of the Legislature, Judicial, and Executive branches, and the Public Ministry and civil society.
The meeting followed the rejection by the National Assembly of the appointments of Zuleyka Moore and Ana Lucrecia Tovar de Zarak, sent by the Executive.
During the session behind closed doors, the commission gave space to organized civil society, who voiced their disagreement about the method used by the Executive in the latest appointments
Present were Annette Planells, of the Independent Movement (Movin) Olga De Obaldía, director of the Panamanian chapter of Transparency International; and Juan Diego Vásquez, of the Youth Network for Transparency (law students).
The coordinator of the Commission, Rigoberto González, said that, if the Executive accepts the suggestion, a special commission composed of member of the National Bar Association, of the Faculty of Law of all universities of the country, a representative of the Public Ministry, another of the Judicial Branch and one of civil society. would ensure greater citizen participation and in addition they would follow a minimum criterion of evaluation of the candidates presented by the Executive.
González said that the commission does not seek to take away the constitutional power of the president to appoint but is only asking that before the president and his cabinet choose the magistrates, the procedure is adopted.
In 2015, the State Commission for Justice examined 10 candidates presented by Varela for magistrates of the CSJ. He appointed Cecilio Cedalise and Angela Russo. Both were ratified by the Legislature.