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The Justice System of Panama and Inbred Corruption

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Political parties, justice get failing grades

Party flags

ONLY 10% of Panamanians, put any trust in the country’s five political parties, while  19% trusted the executive and 22%  the judiciary. report Latinobarómetro report 2017, made public on October 26.

The study across Latin America involved interviews of 20,000 people in 18 countries including   1,000 in the isthmus.

The level of trust in political parties was similar to the response across  the board. But in neighboring Costa Rica, 45% said they trusted the Judiciary, which made it the region with the highest belief in the institutions of justice.

The study also says that 37% of Panamanians interviewed say that the country has progressed “somewhat ” in reducing corruption in state institutions. But also expressed the belief that the police, judges and officials can be bribed.

In Panama there are currently five political parties: the Democratic Revolutionary Party  (PRD), the Panameñista Party, Democratic Change (CD), the Republican-Liberal Nationalist Movement (Molirena), and the Popular Party(PP) There are also two other groupings that are about to receive the endorsement of the Electoral Tribunal (TE) to become political collectives

Until last June, 1.3 million Panamanians were registered in parties, according to the TE.



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OPINION: Panama’s perverted justice system

Where judges sit on files
Post Views: 260
Those [Panamanians]investigated for high-profile corruption offenses have revealed a sinister truth: there is a differentiated treatment by the judicial system that favors them.

Dozens of suspects have escaped the action of the Public Ministry, simply taking a plane, many times private, hiding from the investigations, until their skilled lawyers manage to ensnare the process thanks to complacent judges.

The rules are extremely flexible and what is worse, the interpretation given to them by judges and magistrates to benefit plunderers of hundreds of millions of dollars from all Panamanians. These actions are not considered in any country of the world as a legitimate exercise of due process or the right of defense.
In the fourth year of legal proceedings against those allegedly responsible for high-profile acts of corruption, hearings are suspended, judges paralyze the investigations and the magistrates of the Supreme Court sit on the files. It is clear that the Judicial Organ and the legal profession have a lot to answer to society for impunity in the country. …LA PRENSA, hoyporhoy, Apl.9



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Panama’s “stagnation of justice”

Guillermo Márquez Amado, former magistrate of the Electoral Tribunal and spokesman for the observatory; and Inocencio Galindo, president of the Chamber of Commerce
Post Views: 120
The second report on Panama’s judicial system underscores widespread public concerns and  finds that investigations are at stake “Due to the current stagnation of justice,”the Observatory of the Judicial System of Panama report was delivered on Wednesday,  April 25 by the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture (Ciac), the Justice and Peace Commission and the Santa María University.

“This situation is unacceptable, we live in times that demand transparency, justice, and surrender of accounts, not only from the Judicial Branch but also by the other State Bodies, “said Inocencio Galindo, president of the Chamber.

According to the report, poor investigations due to lack of personnel or non-existence from the beginning of a coordinated and effective case theory is one of the causes that negatively affects the end of the prescription of crimes.

Another factor that affects the prescription of processes is the lack of an audit by the Comptroller’s Office or in some cases presented long after the investigation began and precautionary measures had been applied to people.

There is also a lack of determination by the Office of the Prosecutor in requesting a date for the preliminary hearing of the case before the Court

The other factor, according to the report, is the lack of special courts that allow exhausting  the processes of the current inquisitorial system, so that more audiences can be held in less time and thus avoid prescription.



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Reform plan for Panama justice system

Post Views: 163
Panama’s Chamber of Commerce  Industry and Agriculture (Cciap) has introduced a proposal for reforms to the constitution largely aimed at resolving one of the country’s most contentious issues a proposal for reforms to the constitution largely aimed at resolving one of the country’s most contentious issues – the administration of justice.

The proposal, presented by the Chamber’s president Gabriel Barletta, would extend the time in office of the magistrates of the Supreme Court (CSJ) from 10 to 20 years.

In addition, it proposes modifying the requirements to be a magistrate be modified, increasing the minimum age from 35 to 45 years, and requiring  10 to 15 years of experience in the exercise of law.

The initiative retains the power of the Cabinet Council to appoint magistrates, but the designation would be made from a list provided by a  nine-member commission of Evaluation and Nomination, representing Associations and Guilds from the private sector, academic, and civic, NGOs, bar associations, workers and the Executive.

The ratification of the judges would require the approval of two-thirds of the National Assembly instead of the absolute majority currently required.

If the qualified majority in the Legislature is not achieved, the plenary session of the CSJ could appoint the new magistrate to a temporary position as well as the substitute judge.

The Executive should send a new candidate for ratification within 60 days. This candidate would come from the list provided by the Evaluation Commission.

Regarding the judicial function of the Legislative, it is proposed that the Assembly would hear complaints

against the president and the magistrates of the CSJ, and judge them. But the investigation would be carried out by the Public Ministry (MP).

The CSJ, it would hear complaints against the deputies and judge them, but the investigation would be done by the CSJ.

The attorneys of the Nation and the Administration would continue to serve for 10 years, but those appointed by the Executive would be from the list of the Evaluation Commission.

The proposal says that the Judicial Branch would elaborate its own budget and this could not be modified by the Executive.

Barletta said that the proposal is the product of work developed by constitutionalists that met for more than a year and concluded that the “center of democracy is justice.”

Juan Planells Fernández,  rector of the Santa María la Antigua University and member of the Observatory of the Judicial System, said that the proposed changes are necessary and trusts that the deputies will put their pettiness aside and approve the reforms.

The objective of the Cciap is that the reforms are approved, in three debates by this Assembly and are ratified by the deputies elected in 2019.



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Lawyer Brandao: Panamanian justice system is a shameful disaster

Thu, 10/11/2018 - 17:22

Panamanian lawyer José Nelson Brandao expressed his concern about the general state of the justice system in the Isthmus. In an exclusive interview with Panama Today he questioned the role of those who are called to be "just and fair" in the country. "The different press conferences of the Attorney General, where she reports the scandals of the Judicial Branch, the repression of the Prosecutors regarding the decision of the judges, the public conflict regarding who is telling the truth or not, ignoring the concepts of justice, are leading us to the irremediable conclusion that the justice system in Panama is a disaster and shameful".

In reference to the investigations published by the newspaper La Estrella, Brandao said that "all public officials involved must be accountable for their actions. It is not possible that the criminal proceeding is in the hands of individuals of a Security Council that are politically biased and that determine the legal details of the proceedings. If that reality that has been claimed as true and I do not question it, then the judicial system fell into a crisis for which the responsible public officials have to be accountable".

He fears that the political spiral within the justice system will continue. "Today they are the persecutors and tomorrow they will be the persecuted. This is the worst scenario that Panama can have, which needs credibility in justice," says Brandao

The lawyer said that "the bias in the investigations, the way they persecute each other and leave them unnoticed creates a bad impression as to what is really handled in the intrigues of the Security Council, the administration of justice, the preferential interests of investigators".

Regarding the appointment of the judges of the Supreme Court of Justice, Brandao said that, "we do not know if the appointment is for hearing a trial against Martinelli or if it is because the President has not had time or in the end we have not been given a reasonable explanation with which the contempt to the Panamanian public opinion is demonstrated".

He says that the justice and institutional crisis in the country also affects the common citizen, "this affects us directly, this defines our misery, this defines that there are no medicines in the Social Security Fund, in hospitals, and there is no job; this is the economic disaster of this country, the lack of credibility in Panamanian investment".

Brandao said that the new President of the Republic is called to guarantee a transformation of the system to help justice, peace and probity prevail.



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OPINION: Panama’s legal insecurity


Abel Zamorano

Posted 15/02/2019
Faced with similar facts, with equal rights invoked, the opinion of the courts must be the same. In Panama, it is not. The erratic behavior of the Third Chamber of Contentious Administrative Matters of the Supreme Court of Justice demonstrates the legal insecurity that the country suffers. On July 3, 2017, Judge Abel Zamorano rejected the admission of a lawsuit claiming that the National Bank pay a multi-million dollar compensation, for a trust constituted with a chain of warehouses: "... The act indicated as a generating event is dealt with of an act of civil-commercial nature, whose review is not the competence of this jurisdiction ... ". What is the difference between this case and the current demand against the bank for the trust of a shopping center? The same magistrate decides in a totally opposite manner. This is the reality that all citizens face, whose lives, liberties, patrimonies, and rights are in the hands of Panamanian justice. These unexpected changes of jurisprudence leave a bad taste in the mouth and raise a terrible halo of suspicion. The Court is still in time to avoid another shame, restoring calm to our economy - LAPRENSA, Feb. 15


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OPINION: Panama condemned to impunity


The Supreme Court

Posted 11/06/2019

A year ago, the Government of the United States gave extradition to Panama, to the ex-citizen of the Republic, Ricardo Martinelli. With the accusatory criminal system, it was supposed that the Panamanian justice could effectively ventilate the case  of the wiretaps. A year of delays, delaying tactics and the forced change of the Supreme Court's jurisdiction to an ordinary court have demonstrated the ability of the accused and his expensive army of lawyers to influence. The expense has not only been  to the former president, but also the State, which has invested public funds and thousands of hours of prosecutors, magistrates and other officials to carry out this trial. This is an example of why the Panamanian justice system is a source of frustration and bitter dissatisfaction, that make them pay all citizens a high price. Whatever the final outcome of the wiretappunctures case, it is urgent to focus on rebuilding justice. It is intolerable that Panama is condemned to impunity and legal uncertainty, the result of courts and judges trapped in a tangle of great interests.-LA PRENSA.June 11



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OPINION: Culture of Corruption

Posted 28/06/2019

The revelations of the Odebrecht scandal, shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, shed light on the dark fabric of the Brazilian company. For Panamanians, this means that more bribes were paid in our country and emblematic works, such as the Panama Metro, served to bribe local authorities and those of other countries. Who are Aguia, Friend of Onca, Salary, Cachaça, Canario, Periquito or Yemanja, Cavaleiro or Stalin? Among these nicknames is the spearhead of the culture of corruption of the Panamanian political class. It is obvious that the Judicial Branch must grant the Public Prosecutor the extension of the investigation or, otherwise, we will lose the opportunity to see justice done. If it is verified that an executive of the company lied or hid information from prosecutors, the whole weight of the law must fall, without contemplations. The new government must take up the fight against corruption as a state policy, and it has to commit to the legal changes that put the country in step with the challenge of the Odebrecht case. Failing to do so is equivalent to maintaining the mechanisms that made this robbery possible.- LA PRENSA, June28



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Corruption decisions by non-specialized judges


Ronaldo Rodriguez

Posted 15/07/2019

Corruption decisions by non-specialized judges

Recent decisions of judges in high profile cases where businessmen and former government insiders with close links to the Ricardo Martinelli administration walk free are raising concerns in the Public Prosecutor's Office and civil society.

The attorney general's secretary, Rolando Rodríguez, has called on all judges in the country to "become aware of the complexity of anti-corruption investigations.” Reports TVN

Anticorruption prosecutor Lizzie Bonilla made an investigation of the concession granted for the parking lots of the Tocumen International Airport, linked to Gabriel Btesh, who has fled the country.

The Second Court of Justice recently revoked the preliminary injunction against Btesh and declared the nullity of part of the proceedings against him.

Bonilla said that in the investigation it was determined that the concession was delivered to the company one month after it was created. "It did not have quality or experience."

He even argued that the company required to deliver an operational and market report that addressed feasibility and did not do so.

With the investigations, a patrimonial injury of $1,883.000 that the State stopped receiving was determined. According to the prosecutor, when the parking lots were administered by the airport, even more, money was received.

The judge argued that Btesh had his rights violated because he was not notified of procedures, however, the prosecutor indicated that he always had a lawyer in Panama, despite not being in the country.

Rodriguez said that, " as it can be established that the right to defense has been violated to a person with a lawyer, but absent in Panama and from the process. There is an inconsistency. "

In other cases such as Rogues de Tonosí and the dismissal of 18 involved in the case of the extinct National Assistance Program (PAN), the reality has not been different.

Rodriguez said that several months ago, the Attorney General, Kenia Porcell warned that she had received notice that several cases of anti-corruption "were going to fail, despite the efforts and elements of conviction," provided by the prosecution.

" They are complex investigations, they are not easy to develop. They involve amounts of operations, people and requires time, "he said.

Rodriguz said that they have prosecutors specialized in money laundering, financial crimes and the citizenship knows them. "There are no specialized judges



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