The repeated absences of former Frente Amplio leaders to the investigative commission that investigates the alleged irregularities in teaching licenses set off alerts among ruling party legislators, who based on this situation are evaluating making regulatory changes to “force” public officials to appear before Parliament when requested.
Colorado deputy Felipe Schipani (Ciudadanos) adjusts the details of a bill to reform the law of operation of the investigative commissionsin force since 1995 and thus be able to oblige all persons who exercise or have exercised public responsibilities to testify in these spheres, and that they be summoned for that reason. The text, which previously has the approval of the other parties in the government coalition, will state that the refusal of an official to attend an area of this type will be considered a “serious misconduct”.
In dialogue with The Observer, Schipani explained that the initiative will also include people who have already retired from public service. According to the draft of the project, a refusal to comply with the researcher would imply the disqualification from holding office in the future.
Although today it is stipulated that summoned public officials must appear, the regulations do not include sanctions of any kind.
The ruling party’s proposal, inspired by what has happened in the commission that investigates teacher misconduct under the Frente Amplio administration, represents a new attempt to make the presence of officials and former public officials mandatory in parliamentary investigative commissions. In February 2016, a similar project had already been presented, on that occasion by the then Colorado senator Peter Bordaberry. that project foresaw the possibility of “forced driving” of reluctant witnesses, the intervention of the public force in the face of a refusal and responsibilities for false testimony.
Further back in time, in July 1985, the nationalist deputy Walter Santoro He presented a project that regulated the investigative commissions, and even enabled them to order raids, in a similar way to the Justice. The regulation was approved almost a decade later –and it is in fact the current legal framework–, but President Luis Lacalle Herrera partially vetoed the law, leaving behind several of the powers granted by the original project.
Last monday, during the last session of the commission that analyzes a series of complaints against several leaders of the National Federation of Secondary Education Teachers (Fenapes), Schipani raised the need for a reform, after the commission received a new refusal to attend, this time by the former Minister of Education and Culture, Maria Julia Munoz.
The former hierarch had previously confirmed her presence, but then sent an email rejecting the invitation, a few minutes before the start of the session last Monday. “It is a lack of respect for Parliament and the investigative commission,” Schipani said, adding: “It is alarming that people who exercised political responsibilities of the first order in the conduct of education in the country do not want to come to the commission to provide information on extremely serious events, such as the ones we are investigating.”
For Schipani, there is an “ignorance” towards Parliament and its investigative role. The legislator associated Muñoz’s refusal with some union leaders, such as the general secretary of Fenapes, José Olivera, who early december he was accused by the ruling party of “running away” without answering questions.
“I can’t help but think that there is an agreement,” Schipani said about the continuous refusal of several guests to testify before the investigator. “Strikingly, they are all actors who held responsibilities in previous governments, who also argue that their testimony would be irrelevant to the object of the investigation.
For Colorado deputy Gustavo Zubía (Third Way), it is a concerted strategy. “There are already numerous statements by witnesses cited who value, by themselves and before themselves, whether his statements are pertinent or not,” he said. “It is the commission that has to make that assessment.” It is, in his opinion, a “conciliation of wills that cannot be random”.
“It is possible to presume that the witnesses have planned this type of strategy, since it would be absolutely impossible for them to self-assess the capacity or not to contribute elements”, He said. Zubía attributed the fact to a kind of “childish numbness” and not “aggravate” the situation of those investigated.
For Deputy Eduardo Lust (Open Council), for his part, what is intended is to delegitimize the work of the commission. He thus recalled the decision of the Broad Front, which in mid-December decided to withdraw its representatives from the commission. In his view, with the refusal of former leaders and union representatives to attend, what is intended is to convey a vision that the researcher ends up being a “Friends Gathering”
Lust said he agreed with Schipani’s project and stressed the need to include a sanction for eventual non-compliance. “A project that does not have a sanction ends up being a moral norm,” she pointed out.
In a lengthy letter, to which he agreed The ObserverMuñoz justified his refusal by “inconveniences arising at the last minute.” In any case, he recalled that his role in the ministry was limited to “marking the general guidelines” of the management “because, depending on its autonomy, each council made its decisions.
“The ministry cannot and should not interfere in teacher attendance controls and during my administration it did not, which makes my presence in that investigative commission unnecessary and irrelevant,” the former minister noted.
In his argument, Muñoz also said he did not want to “distract more time from parliamentary work, since serious situations occur in the country that require parliamentary attention.” Among them, he listed “the pandemic situation, gender violence, greater inequality, the fall in real wages and pensions, the reduction in teaching hours, the increase in fees and violence in educational centers.” All, in his opinion, citizen concerns that legislators should be devoted to improving.
This last paragraph generated the rejection of the ruling party. “He is indicating to Parliament what are the issues that it should deal with,” observed the nationalist deputy Carmen Tort, defining Muñoz’s attitude as “lack of respect”.
lack of guarantees
To Muñoz’s refusal is added a long list of former hierarchs who also gave up attending the commission, including the former Secondary Counselor Xavier Landoni. In his message, Landoni alleged “feeling represented” by what was expressed by the former president of Secondary School Celsa Puente who presented to the investigator in November last year. There Puente had recognized the controversial form 70.10, used by Fenapes, did not serve to justify faults, despite what he questioned the “extraordinary dimension” that was being given to union licenses.
Landoni was scheduled for that same day, but Puente’s lengthy statement prevented him from participating. He promised to come back, but he didn’t.
Teacher Sandra Cunha, former inspector Jorge Barrera and former Secondary Secretary Victoria Cros also rejected the call. In his case, the refusal was based on the fact that the absence of the Broad Front in the commission “does not generate guarantees.”
The work of the commission will resume on Monday 21, with the presence of the current authorities of the Secondary Council.