The national police cordoned off the headquarters of the Citizen Participation Council, in Quito, to allow the entry of four majority councilors, who met at the headquarters and removed the president of the Council from office. Photo: Expreso.
It is six o'clock in the morning, February 9, a police cordon surrounds the headquarters of the Council of Social Participation and Social Control, CPCCS, to allow the entrance of four councilors, the majority, who were going to meet, since the president in charge, David Rosero, did not want to restart a suspended ordinary session. This was the straw that broke the camel's back, at least for the moment, because worse things could come. And they did happen: in one session, the four councilors dismissed Sofia Almeida as president and David Cordero as vice-president.
A day before, the Pachakutik bloc had announced in the National Assembly that it would lead the offensive against four members, who are the majority, of the Council of Citizen Participation and Social Control, CPCCS, which aimed, in turn, to remove Sofia Almeida from the presidency. Sofia Almeida is the niece of the Social-Christian legislator Luis Almeida (former PSP) and visible head of the (now) minority block in the seven-member collegiate body.
The PSC, now subordinated to Correism, (UNES) which is Correism and the legislators who want to leverage this "supervising" process, joined the crusade of the legislative blocks, where PK will put its face.
The argument of the PK legislator, Mireya Pazmiño, was that the four members to whom the impeachment announcement is dedicated (the other three members are co-idealists and therefore do not fit in the same bag) modified the regulations to elect the General Comptroller of the State, a process that by law is carried out by the Participation Council. The elaboration of the regulations and their eventual modification is exclusively under the authority of the Plenary of the Council.
But there is another argument: alleged audios in which one of the councilors allegedly established a dialogue with one of the possible candidates for the position of Comptroller. The Assemblywoman assured to have audios and conversations, that one of these councilors has already met with the candidates to occupy one of these control entities"; she added that "we have seen how they have been choosing the control authorities in an illegal way, they are doing it by hand, they want to do it skipping the due process that is already established in the Council". The complainant, who said she has 72 signatures of support for the impeachment, did not specify names, neither of the two councilors nor of the presumed candidates of the contests in which not a single name has been proposed yet.
In a little less than five months, Pachakutik changed its position. On September 23, 2021, legislators Ricardo Vanegas and Jose Chimbo, of that political party, filed a request for impeachment of the members of the Participation Council, for the appointment of Cesar Cordova as commissioned Public Defender and the removal of Fausto Murillo as a member of the Judiciary Council, who was later reinstated in his functions and is now the director in charge of the CNJ. And a third cause for the trial was the appointment of Pablo Iglesias Paladines as Superintendent of Territorial Planning, for an alleged conflict of interest.
IN A LITTLE LESS THAN FIVE MONTHS, PACHAKUTIK CHANGED ITS POSITION. ON SEPTEMBER 23, 2021, LEGISLATORS RICARDO VANEGAS AND JOSÉ CHIMBO, FROM THAT POLITICAL PARTY, PRESENTED A REQUEST FOR THE IMPEACHMENT OF THE SEVEN MEMBERS OF THE PARTICIPATION COUNCIL.
A judicial thriller
PK's legislative reaction, now with the support of Correism and Social Christianity, arises as a response to the judicial decisions that through constitutional actions have put at risk the autonomous management of the Council's institutionality. On January 28, 2022, Sofía Almeida Fuentes, its president, filed a Constitutional Action of Autonomous Precautionary Measures before Karly Vargas Alvarado, Titular Judge of the Multicompetent Judicial Unit of the district of Samborondón, in the province of Guayas. It was against counselors Francisco Bravo, Hernán Ulloa, Ibeth Estupiñán and María Fernanda Rivadeneira.
The fact for which Almeida Fuentes filed the constitutional action refers to the session of January 27, 2022 when the four defendant councilors presented to Vice President David Rosero the motion and resolution of removal from office, motion that was placed on the agenda at the reinstatement of the regular session. The arguments for this request were:
The non-compliance and abuse of functions of the president Sofia Almeida, among them:
Having called the sessions only 24 hours in advance, without considering the provisions of the Rules of Operation of the Plenary of the CPCCS which provides that it should be at least 48 hours.
The lack of transparency in the process of designation of authorities, since the total information of the documentation had not been uploaded to the CPCCS Web portal, such as the designation regulation, despite the fact that it was approved on January 25.
For having arbitrarily suspended sessions: eight ordinary sessions and 14 extraordinary sessions (since October 2020). Some sessions have been reinstated, others are still in suspension, the motion said. But on other occasions the president had claimed that they were suspended due to technical failures or to attend to administrative matters. The denouncing councilors said that the absence of convocations and their arbitrary suspensions have caused the absence of regulation in the processes of designation of authorities.
In the process to elect the head of the Superintendence of Companies, it was said that the law gives 30 days for the presentation of the president's list of three candidates. This expired on January 7, 2022, but the Regulation was not approved within this term; which led to the fact that a list of three candidates was submitted without regulation. Also, President Almeida presented the list of three candidates without further information on requirements and prohibitions. She was also denounced because the last minute calls had led to the delay in the approval of the Annual Contracting Plan, the Annual Operations Plan and the General Budget of the Participation Council.
However, in the same session, the President in charge of that session, David Rosero, indicated his rejection to such motion, stating that such session and the attempt to remove a public authority without having competence constituted a criminal and political infraction.
WHY DID JUDGE VARGAS ADMIT THE REQUEST FOR PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES IN SAMBORONDON, IF THE FACTS DENOUNCED TOOK PLACE AT THE CPCCS HEADQUARTERS IN QUITO? THE JUDGE SAID THAT "IT IS STATED THAT THE PETITIONER HAS INDICATED THAT HER DOMICILE IS IN THE URBANIZATION ISLA DEL RIO KM 6.1", IN SAMBORONDON.
Judge Karly Vargas granted the constitutional action to the president of the CPCCS, arguing that the legal security of the appellant was violated, since the Plenary of the Council did not have the power to remove the highest authority of the Plenary, which could only do so through an impeachment trial in the National Assembly.
The judge said in her resolution that "according to the grounds and motivation made in the present action we find that the facts related were accredited of the configuration of the serious and imminent threat that the right to legal certainty is jeopardized by the plenary of the Council of Citizen Participation and Social Control", headed by the four defendant councilors. And that the debate of the impeachment motion violates the provisions of the Organic Law of the Council of Citizen Participation.
On February 1, Judge Vargas ordered "the provisional suspension of all acts issued by the Plenary of the Council of Citizen Participation and Social Control, in which it is intended to deal with the motion and resolution of removal of the President or any of the Councilors of the institution, for not being within its competence as determined by law. And that the precautionary measure "will be in force while the possible affectation of the constitutional right to legal certainty threatened in the terms of this resolution lasts".
Why did Judge Vargas admit the request for precautionary measures in Samborondon, Guayas, if the facts denounced took place in the headquarters of the CPCCS, which is Quito? The judge said in this regard that "it is stated that the petitioner has indicated that her domicile is in Urbanización Isla del Rio Km 6.1, and although it is true that the facts could have originated in the headquarters of the CPCCS, Article 7 of the Organic Law of Jurisdictional Guarantees and Constitutional Control allows filing the measure in the place where the effects of the harmful acts that correspond to the domicile of the plaintiff are produced. In this case, since it is presumed that the place of domicile of the applicant is located in the urbanization Isla del Rio on the Samborondón road, which is where the harmful personal effects are produced against, this Authority is competent to resolve the present request for autonomous precautionary measures".
BUT THE STRUGGLE WOULD CONTINUE. COUNSELOR HERNÁN ULLOA FILED, IN TURN, AN ACTION FOR PROTECTION AGAINST THE PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES, BEFORE THE SAME COURT OF SAMBORONDÓN. BUT IT WAS A NEW JUDGE, LARISSA IBARRA, WHO DETERMINED THE REVOCATION OF THE PRECAUTIONARY MEASURE.
Article 7 mentioned by the judge states that: "Any judge of first instance of the place where the act or omission originates or where its effects are produced shall have jurisdiction. When in the same territorial district there are several competent judges, the lawsuit will be decided by draw lots among them. (...)". In this case, the judge considered that the effects were produced in the house of the president of the Participation Council and that they were of a personal nature.
However, the case did not remain as such. Councilor Hernán Ulloa filed, in turn, a protection action against the precautionary measures, before the same court of Samborondón. But it was a new judge, Larissa Ibarra, who determined the revocation of the precautionary measure filed by Sofía Almeida. Larissa said, in the February 7 ruling, that the filing of a motion by members of a collegiate body, "is a conduct legitimized by the Constitution, and the law to do so is a constitutional and legal procedure that does not have the appearance of good law that is required to issue a constitutional precautionary measure."
"Article 35 of the Law of Jurisdictional Guarantees and Constitutional Control determines, in a precise manner, that the revocation of the dictated precautionary measure proceeds when it is demonstrated that it had no basis, which in this case happens, since the requirement prescribed by Article 33 of the same law that, in order to dictate it, it must "by the mere description of the facts become evident that rights may be violated", it was said in the judgment.
This ruling contained a controversial reference to the fact that the plaintiff, Ulloa, had submitted to the court a sworn statement that he had not filed another action for protection on the same subject matter and with the same object, before another judge or court. This court decision obliged the president of the CPCCS to convene the session that had been suspended -the object of the precautionary measure- to deal with the motion filed by the four councilors for her removal from office. And the parties were summoned for a hearing on February 10.
What is also strange, noted President Almeida in a statement, is that Councilor Ulloa had made the ruling public on February 7, when she, the party involved, had not been notified by any means, neither electronically nor physically. How did she have access to this information?, he wondered. For Almeida, all this dispute was due to the fact that four councilors wanted to "illegally take over" the Participation Council. For the dissident councilors, president Almeida and the councilors who support her: David Rosero and Francisco Dávalos, are trying in any way to maintain control of the Council to prevent the reform of the regulations for the election of the new comptroller, which according to civil society observers already has a name and has the support of Correism and the Social Christian Party.
THEY HAVE DISCREDITED THE CONTESTS TO BE ABLE TO DO WHAT THEY ARE DOING: TAKE OVER THE PARTICIPATION COUNCIL, TO ELECT THE AUTHORITIES ACCORDING TO THEIR INTERESTS AND SPONSORS, THESE FOUR COUP PLOTTERS: SOFÍA ALMEIDA.
According to President Almeida, this revocation was not applicable because the Organic Law of Constitutional Guarantees expressly prohibits the filing of a constitutional injunction action against another similar measure.
In the midst of this dispute, and once the precautionary measures obtained by Almeida were revoked, one of the councilors of the new majority asked the President in charge of the session to reinstate the Ordinary Session 03, which was declared permanent by Rosero, but whose continuation has not materialized. Then, the four councilors entered and took the meeting table and started a session, although without internet or light, because they were removed.
"These four coup plotters": Sofía Almeida
Sofía Almeida, president of the CPCCS until she was removed from office by four councilors on February 9.
These four councilors have boycotted the designation of the State authorities, said President Almeida, in a press conference, as a reaction to the "seizure" of the Council. Months ago, she said, "I have been denouncing these councilors, who put protection actions through independent citizens, to paralyze the processes. They have discredited the contests to be able to do what they are doing: to take over the Council of Participation, to elect the authorities according to their interests and sponsors, these four coup plotters".
Almeida revealed that the four councilors have been denounced before the Attorney General's Office, because they wanted to benefit applicants for the control bodies and competitions to be carried out.
Every time I want to advance in the designation competitions, these councilors, said Almeida, either do not attend or leave the sessions. They do not want to move forward and are boycotting the processes of designation of authorities in order to handpick, at their convenience and that of their sponsors.
Today they have entered the Participation Council in violation of the law, said Almeida, "destroying public property, without the authorization of the highest authority, which is me, with the apparent help of the National Police that cordoned off the room since six in the morning. Is it or not interference from other State functions? We are facing an institutional crisis generated by groups of power and by these four counselors and by the National Police, which has given rise to the entry without notification", she said. She assured that she spoke with the officer in charge, Colonel Juan Carlos Soria, and he told her that it was a verbal disposition, without written notification.
"I WANT TO CALL THE AUTHORITIES TO SANITY, TO RESPECT THE CONSTITUTION, THE LAW AND THE RULE OF LAW, THE INSTITUTIONS AND THE COUNTRY. THIS SHOULD NOT BECOME A CIRCUS. IF THEY WANT TO ELIMINATE THE CITIZEN PARTICIPATION COUNCIL, DO IT AT THE BALLOT BOX": ALMEIDA.
Almeida requested the President of the Republic, Guillermo Lasso, to put order and verify that there is institutionality in the country. The Constitution and the legal framework are being violated. It cannot be possible "that these four coup perpetrators have committed a flagrant crime with the apparent support of the National Police", she said.
Who do the four councilors want to benefit? the president was asked. She said that the citizenry can verify that with the evidence. "I want to call the authorities to sanity, to respect the constitution, the law and the rule of law, the institutions and the country. This should not become a circus, if they want to disappear the Council of Citizen Participation do it at the ballot box, not through media shows or against the Rule of Law," she said. She also made a call to the National Assembly to be aware of the action of the four councilors, and to "accelerate any auditing process, because they want to take over the Council, revoke me as its president, take over the Council and choose the authorities by force.
Has the government got anything to do with all this? she was asked. Almeida said that the Police depends on the National Government, and was cordoning off the CPCCS on that February 9 since 6 a.m. Why were the Police there since 6 a.m. without a single legal document? she asked in turn. "The four councilors, with a locksmith, broke into the Council building and took over the session room and try to hold a session when there is a precautionary measure in force in my favor and when a hearing is summoned. They did not respect the laws and it would seem that the Government, with the Police, is supporting them, because if this is not the case, the Police should withdraw, she said.
If the Government is not behind this, I ask the National Police to remove these four counselors, she said. I am the president, and I ask that they be removed, she said.
They did not remove them, and the four councilors dismissed her. Almeida said she did not understand what was done and announced that she will go to national and international courts.