Presidential hopefuls react to Supreme Court corruption scandal

Jose Isobel Blandon

Three of the five presidential candidates already proclaimed for the 2019 general election have spoken out on the growing scandal surrounding Panama’s Supreme  Court with allegation ’s flying of judges for sale on the eve of one of the country’s most vital hearings announcing the future of the wiretapping case against ex-president   Ricardo Martinelli.

They agree that Panama needs structural changes to clean up the judicial system although similar promises have been made before, including Varela, who while president-elect had said he would call for the resignation of the court president Ayu Prado. who while Attorney  General was accused of questionable actions related to a Financial Pacific investigation. Soon after Martinelli appointed him to the Supreme Court. Ayu Prado abruptly resigned as court president earlier this year, soon after claiming he would run for re-election. He gave no reason for his overnight resignation, which set tongues wagging.

José Isabel Blandón, candidate of the Panameñista Party  candidate and current mayor of Panama Told La Prensa,  “all these scandals do nothing but reaffirm the need for a profound transformation that must go through a constitutional change.”

Rómulo Roux, candidate of the opposition CD Party whose future will be dramatically affected by what happens to Martinelli, the party founder, is emphatic that the country’s institutions have collapsed, and also advocates a “push”  for constitutional reforms. “The reforms to strengthen the three organs of the State cannot wait any longer. I invite the other presidential candidates to support this initiative, “he said.

The representative of the opposition Broad Front for Democracy (FAD), Saúl Méndez, said  the population must take action against these “acts of corruption that occur almost daily.”

“We are facing a crisis of morals and ethics, a crisis of values. The Mafia took over the Panamanian state and turned it into a practically bankrupt state, and these are the consequences, “he says. “The negotiation of decisions is not a new issue and is a sample, together with the irregularities in the subsidies of Pandeportes, of “the rottenness” in which the institutions are submerged.”

Laurentino Cortizo, the PRD presidential candidate, is in Texas and told La Prensa he doesn’t have a handle on the case. Some of the judges in the eye of the storm were PRD era appointees.

José Domingo Mimito Arias, of the Alianza Party, has not answered calls for his opinion, nor has it been expressed in the party’s social networks.

The issue arises from the filing  of complaints by  businessman César Alvarado Taylor filed in the National Assembly and the Public Ministry – in which he states that Oydén Ortega Collado, son of magistrate Oydén Ortega Durán, asked for money in exchange for a ruling  in his favor in a cassation appeal filed on a litigation for eight farms in Boquete.

Appeal drafts
Alvarado Taylor attached checks, documents, and reports of conversations that prove  he paid $15,000 to Ortega Jr. for the admission of the appeal by the rapporteur Hernán De León. He also indicated that Claudia Purcait, the assistant of Supreme Court Judge  Ortega, participated in the drafting of the appeal.

The businessman also contributed a draft decision in which De Leon orders to return two of the eight farms. Alvarado said that when he protested the decision and requested the full return of the land, Ortega Jr. informed him that De Leon had an offer of $ 250,000 from the other side and had to match the sum. If not, another ruling would be drafted, this time against him.

That was when Albarado Taylor brought the complaint to the Assembly, which filed it on June 26, 2017.

In August, this year he denounced the case before the Public Ministry.