By Esteban Cabrera
Santo Domingo, DR: The Central Electoral Board (JCE) of the Dominican Republic has used all legal resources and procedural tricks to deny the right of the North American newspaper, El Faro Latino, through the GENERAL LAW OF FREE ACCESS TO PUBLIC INFORMATION No.200-04 freely access financial information on the contracting by the Central Electoral Board (JCE) of the law office “Nicole R. Duclos Covington & Burling LLP.”
Specifically, the costs, travel expenses, and payments or any other expense of the resources of the Dominican State to said office related to the defense of the JCE in the case of a civil lawsuit faced by that electoral body in THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA filed by Dr. Yomare Polanco, after an alleged electoral fraud and alleged financial embezzlement of more than 4 million dollars that affected his candidacy for overseas deputies in constituency #1 of the United States in the Dominican elections in the exteriors on July 5, 2020.
Since that date, the newspaper El Faro Latino has opened an investigation that seeks to clarify all these illegal acts. In this specific case, this newspaper seeks to dismiss the public rumor circulating in the US about an alleged contract of more than 6 million dollars (or its equivalent 325.800 million Dominican pesos) that presumably involves the contract between the JCE and the American Law Office, “Nicole R. Duclos Covington & Burling LLP.”
On April 27, 2023, the newspaper El Faro Latino requested from the JCE all the financial information related to the alleged contract between this entity and the North American law firm “Nicole R. Duclos Covington & Burling LLP” through the Single Portal of Free Access to Public Information of the Dominican Republic. This action was ignored and denied by the entity.
This denial forced the newspaper El Faro Latino to make a Notification in Debt on July 6, 2023, through Sheriff’s Act No.231/2023. through which the JCE was notified of a warning that gave three frank days to deliver the required information to the newspaper, a term that expired on Wednesday, July 12, 2023, at midnight.
“In principle, the Office of Free Access to Public Information refused to receive our notification, and after a tedious process and four refusals from employees present, finally, an officer asked herself what was happening and received the act of bailiff, saying that I had already warned that they should pay attention to the request from the El Faro Latino newspaper before it became a big problem,” said the legal representative of the El Faro Latino newspaper, Dra. Fany Castillo.
See both notifications:
Information not confirmed by the newspaper El Faro Latino independently circulating in New York City, found that the JCE is not interested in the value of the contract with the law firm “Nicole R. Duclos Covington & Burling LLP”; it is not in the public domain, that is, a dark mantle surrounds it, and it could be affected by a lack of transparency, which is why El Faro Latino is investigating it.
On Wednesday, July 12, 2023, the JCE sent a letter addressed to the newspaper El Faro Latino and its director, Esteban Cabrera, delivered to the professional office of the attorney, Fanny Castillo Cedano, located at C/ Miguel Ángel Monclus, No. 105, Torre Rosa Elida VI, Apto No. 2b, Mirador Norte, Distrito Nacional, Dominican Republic, by which it denies the newspaper the right to obtain information on how the JCE spends the money of the Dominican people without due transparency to which the diaspora and society have every right to know.
In its justifications for denying the financial information on the hiring of the law firm, “Nicole R. Duclos Covington & Burling LLP,” the Plenary of the JCE resorts to “Article 17, letter d of the General Law of Free Access to Public Information, No. 200-04 and states: “The Central Electoral Board, after analyzing the terms of the indicated request, as well as the type of information requested, we kindly establish that under article 17 letter d of the General Law of Free Access to Public Information, No. 200-04, is about information subject to the access limitation clause due to preponderant public interests, whose legal text refers to that:
“Article 17.- The following limitations and exceptions to the obligation to inform the State and the institutions indicated in Article 1 of d) are established with an exhaustive nature. When the delivery of said information may compromise the procedural strategy prepared by the administration in the processing of a legal case or the duty of secrecy that must be kept by the lawyer or the official who represents the State with respect to the interests of their representation, “the JCE quote ends.
However, the newspaper El Faro Latino is not asking the JCE to reveal the legal strategy it will use to defend itself in THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA, nor its arguments or other information that you compromise the process as you allege, but what we are asking is that you provide us with the amount of money that you are paying to the lawyers to defend you in that legal process in the United States. That is an inalienable right of the press, of the diaspora. In Dominican society, neither the JCE nor any official who manages public resources can refuse to deliver; of course, in the Dominican Republic, there was a regime of consequences and transparency in the management of public resources. For that same reason, the past plenary session of the JCE disappeared almost 5 million dollars from electoral funds abroad in 2020, and there were no consequences.
See copy of letter from the JCE: