21/12/2012 - The Credentials Committee of the National Assembly has on the agenda for today the ratification of Ana Belfon as attorney general.
Belfon, who has worked at the Ministry of the Presidency as a legal adviser, is strongly criticized by the opposition for his role as a prosecutor during the military dictatorship.
Opposition deputies have said that, for its ratification, due process had not been met.
BLOG FROM THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
7:50 a.m.: Session of the Credentials Committee of the National Assembly opens.
8:40 a.m.: Ana Belfon arrives.
9:20 a.m.: Deputies Mario Miller, Francisco Alemán and Abelardo Antonío arrive at the Blue Hall to resume the meeting of the Credentials Committee.
9:35 a.m.: A letter of thanks by José Ayú Prado is read confirming his resignation as attorney general.
9:44 a.m.: Opposition Deputy José Isabel Blandón has the floor and mentions that if the period of consultations is not met, there will be a complaint filed with the Supreme Court. He demanded that the appointment of Prado as a magistrate be nullified.
10:04 a.m.: Blandón continues to speak and demands an explaination over the letter of resignation of Prado, which mentioned that his resignation will not be effective until the commission and the plenary make the decision to ratify him as a new judge of the Supreme Court. Opposition MPs say that Ana Belfon can't be ratified as solicitor, since the vacancy is not available without the formal resignation of Prado. Deputies entered discussion to clarify the methodology and order of ratifications.
10:11 a.m.: Deputies took a five minute break then Blandón complained that participants of the consultation period would get only 10 minutes to speak instead of the 20 minutes that is normally allocated. Deputy Mario Miller, president of the Commission, requested a vote pn the proposal of Blandón about the duration in minutes of each participant. About seven participants were prepared to speak, among them ex-President Ernesto Peréz Balladares.
10:36 a.m.: Ana Belfon gave statements that explained that, during the dictatorship, she never chased members of the Civilian Crusade in her post as prosecutor. She also commented on the resignation of Prado, saying it is not necessary for him to leave his position for her to be ratified.
10:41 a.m.: Suntracs members arrive in the vicinity of the National Assembly.
10:45: a.m.: The session restarts and Deputy Mario Miller announced that he agreed to give 15 minutes to each participant in the consultation period. The first participant to speak was the leader of the PRD, Balbina Herrera.
11:05 a.m.: Attorney Henderson Mora, speaking as a participant in the consultation period, defends the appointment of Ana Belfon.
11:28 a.m.: Miller requests that delaying tactics are not used to extend the process to four days. In addition, he reiterated that given enough time to participants to listen to them. Miller said that he cannot allow comments that will lead to blows.
11:37 a.m.: Lawyer Carlos Richards took the floor as a participant in the consultation period. Outside of the Assembly the protest of the Suntracs stays standing.
11:48 a.m.: Richards admits that he is adviser to the Small Business Authority. Opposition Deputy Leandro Avila asked what was the reason why he is participating in the session being public employee.
11:52 a.m.: Lawyer Edward Sinclair speaks. He is the fourth participant who spoke.
11:59 a.m.: Attorney Ulises Pitti speaks.
12:08 p.m.: Deputy Abelardo Antonio said that participants are not required to answer questions from the members. Leandro Avila Deputy replied that the Assembly should be a forum of debate where every question is answered. Otherwise, Avila said the session should be closed.
12:32 p.m.: Deputy Jorge Alberto Rosas told his colleagues that they should discuss seriously the topic of ratifications regardless of the time, since the function of each is to participate fully in the session and not to go out distribute toys in their circuits.
12:35 p.m.: Jorge Gamboa Arosemena, Panameñista leader, took the floor as a participant in the consultation period.
12:42 p.m.: The list of participants of the consultation period concluded. The debate started between deputies to define the future of the ratifications.
12:59 p.m.: Suntracs withdrew from the vicinity of the National Assembly.
1:08 p.m.: Ana Belfon took the floor to answer questions about her relationship with President Ricardo Martinelli.
1:35 p.m.: Deputy Ruben De Leon spoke. After his speech the committee took a break of one hour.
1:42 p.m.: The Panameñista bench announced that it would submit a minority report to the legislative plenary on the ratification of Ana Belfon in the Credentials Committee. The report will highlight the party's contention that the appointment of Belfon as attorney general is not proper because current Attorney General José Ayú Prado has not yet resigned.
2:04 p.m.: The committee took a 30 minute break for lunch.
2:07 p.m.: Miller announced that the Commission will work both Saturday and Sunday to expedite the process of ratification.
3:15 p.m.: The plenary of the Assembly initiated a session to approve the draft law incorporating the National Secretariat for Food and Nutritional Security to the Ministry of Social Development on third debate.
3:55 p.m.: Deputy Jorge Ivan Arrocha spoke on the return from the recess.
4:02 p.m.: The plenary approved the draft law of the National Secretariat for Food and Nutrition Security in third debate.
4:45 p.m.: Deputy Francisco Eloy Vega took the floor. The Commission declared a recess because members could not agree if they should get another opportunity to speak.
4:50 p.m.: The commission resumed the session. The deputies called for a second opportunity to discuss ratification of Ana Belfon.
5:05 p.m.: The commission rejected the proposal to allow a second round of comments with six votes against.
5:47 p.m.: Ana Belfon responds to the Credentials Committee that she did not participate in the creation of the controversial 'Chorizo Act.'
6:07 p.m.: Panameñista Deputy Alcibiades Vásquez speaks on the ratification of Ana Belfon on the Credentials Committee of the National Assembly.
6:46 p.m.: Opposition Deputy José Luis Varela asks that the discussion on the ratification of Belfon be suspended, but the proposal is not brought up for a vote.
6:59 p.m.: Under questioning Belfon said she lodged a complaint against PRD leader Balbina Herrera in her role as the Secretariat of Legal Affairs of the Presidency. The complaint was over the disclosure of e-mails from President Ricardo Martinelli.
7:15 p.m.: Belfon said she "never researched Miguel Antonio Bernal, in my capacity as a prosecutor, nor Deputy José Blandón." She said reports that she has investigated both men while a prosecutor under the military dictatorship were "reported irresponsibly" because she was not the superior prosecutor.
7:35 p.m.: PRD Deputy Benicio Robinson ended his speech. He was the last speaker on the list. The commission prepares for the vote.
7:37 p.m.: The Credentials Committee ratified Ana Belfon as attorney general, with six votes in favor and two against.
7:39 p.m.: Ana Belfon, following her ratification, said: "I am not going to pursue, I will investigate. I shall apply the sanctions that should be applied. I will not use this office as an instrument of persecution." She added: "I am not an instrument of persecution and was not an instrument of persecution at the time of the dictatorship."
7:40 p.m.: Ana Belfon also said: "No politician, no journalist and no citizen will be exempt from an investigation and I shall apply sanctions to prove the offences when they are investigated."
7:41 p.m.: Members who voted in favor of the ratification of Ana Belfon: Mario Miller, Abelardo Antonío, surrogates, Rubén Medina, Francisco Ríos, Antonio Pope and Francisco Alemán. Those who voted against: José Blandón and Alejandra Sanjur.
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