Former governor Garcia Padilla asks “What did the Federal Supreme Court say about ELA?” (El Vocero, April 26). The 2016 Sanchez ruling to which the ex-governor refers rejected his administration’s legal position in that case, another catastrophic national government rejection of the “enhanced commonwealth” platform.
Still, the ex-governor argues the court’s Sanchez Valle ruling somehow means “commonwealth” is a separate sovereign political status. Anyone who disagrees is a liar.
Ignoring the truth that all three branches play co-equal roles in making and interpreting national law, Garcia Padilla claims the federal high court exclusively determines “what the law is,” not the Congress and U.S. Department of Justice. It is not coincidental that both of those other two branches of the federal government repeatedly have rejected “enhanced commonwealth” as unconstitutional.
Like other colonialism deniers before him, the former governor misrepresents judicial rulings by selectively quoting from the court’s preliminary review in the Sanchez Valle case of largely undisputed facts and law about Puerto Rico’s political status.
In doing so, Garcia Padilla neglects to inform El Vocero readers that the court’s ruling rejected his argument that the court alone – rather than Congress acting under the Territorial Clause – is the “ultimate source” of any delegated sovereignty exercised locally. But instead of endless circular dueling opinions about court rulings, here is the actual content of the Sanchez Valle decision the Governor somehow forgot, addressing actual disputed issues:
“We agree that Congress has broad latitude to develop innovative approaches to territorial governance…But one power Congress does not have, just in the nature of things: It has no capacity, no magic wand or airbrush, to erase or otherwise rewrite its own foundational role in conferring political authority. Or otherwise said, the delegator cannot make itself any less so—no matter how much authority it opts to hand over…there is no getting away from the past…Because the ultimate source of Puerto Rico’s…power is the Federal Government—because when we trace that authority all the way back, we arrive at the doorstep of the U. S. Capitol—the Commonwealth and the United States are not separate sovereigns.”
The court recognized that the 1952 constitution was a “transformative event” in which the U.S. Congress delegated powers for “local self-rule” on purely internal civil matters not otherwise governed by federal law. But the Puerto Rico “commonwealth” regime is organically not materially different from what Congress also authorized as a “unique,” “distinct,” local “commonwealth” relationship “like no other” under a local constitution for the U.S. territory of the Philippines in 1934.
Similarly, in 1976 the U.S. Congress approved a local constitution for the “Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands,” with local autonomy features more advanced than Puerto Rico’s constitution. Yet the Philippines (before independence), Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands remained unincorporated territories with local governments organized under federal territorial law, just like Guam, American Samoa and U.S. Virgin Islands.
Former governor Garcia Padilla also forgot to mention that the Sanchez Valle ruling held Puerto Rico is a territorial commonwealth lacking both original dual sovereignty of Native American Tribes, as well as 10th Amendment co-sovereignty which the States of the Union retain in all matters not exclusively federalized. Instead the court’s ruling compares federally authorized territorial constitutions to municipal city charters under state law.
Faced with the realities of federal rejection of “enhanced commonwealth,” the ex-governor and his political party junta may boycott the upcoming legitimate act of self-determination, even though the ballot includes status options recognized by the U.S. and the United Nations. We all know it is the “enhanced commonwealth” party’s demand for inclusion of that false choice on the ballot that is anti-democratic.