Minister Luís Roberto Barroso, of the STF (Supreme Federal Court), ordered Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco (DEM-MG) to install a CPI for the Covid-19 pandemic.
In his decision, Barroso stated that the necessary requirements for the opening of the Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry are present, including the favorable signature of more than a third of the senators, and that the head of the Senate cannot be omitted in this regard.
In addition to the potential to aggravate the political crisis, the determination of the STF minister sparks a new discussion – heated in recent months – about the dispute for protagonism and the interference between branches of government.
Barroso submitted his decision for analysis by the court. The case will be heard in the next virtual session of the Supreme Court, which begins on April 16 and runs until the 26th of the same month. During this period, magistrates must include their votes in the system.
The decision is a defeat for President Jair Bolsonaro’s allied base in Congress, who had been trying to bar the commission to investigate the conduct of the pandemic. Since the beginning of the health crisis, the Supreme Court has imposed defeats on the government, which, in statements, tests the limits of the court.
One of the authors of the action, Senator Jorge Kajuru (Citizenship-GO) informed Pacheco about Barroso’s decision during the session this Thursday (8) and questioned whether he would comply with it.
Pacheco only replied that he would “wait for the Senate presidency to be notified”. In an interview, the president of the House had already stated that a judicial decision in this regard was “imminent” and that he would comply with it if it occurred.
In the decision, Barroso stated that the context justifies the urgency needed to act individually in the process.
“The danger of the delay is demonstrated due to the urgency in investigating facts that may have aggravated the effects resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
The STF minister stated that the Constitution provides for three requirements for the installation of CPI and all “appear to be present”. They are: signature of a third of the senators; indication of fact determined to be ascertained; and defining the right term for duration.
The opposition managed to collect 32 signatures, five more than the 27 required.
The pressure to install a CPI to investigate the government’s role in tackling the pandemic represented one of Pacheco’s first challenges in the Senate presidency.
Three days after his inauguration, on February 4, the opposition announced that the application by the opposition leader, Randolfe Rodrigues (Rede-AP), had collected the necessary signatures.
The Planalto Palace had been working to prevent the opening of the CPI and was taken by surprise with the decision of the STF minister. The president’s assistants assessed the decision as interfering with another branch of government and came to classify the magistrate’s position as absurd.
In the decision, Barroso stated that it is not the responsibility of the Senate president to make a convenience analysis in relation to the opening of the CPI and that he is obliged to do it when the requirements of the Constitution on the subject are fulfilled.
Barroso’s decision was taken at the request of senators Alessandro Vieira (Cidadania-SE) and Jorge Kajuru.
The minister stated that the Constitution is expressed in stating that there is no political judgment by the president of the Legislative Houses to decide whether or not to open a CPI.
“This is a guarantee that stems from the democratic rule of law clause and that makes it possible for parliamentary minorities to exercise democratic opposition. So much so that the quorum is one third of the members of the Legislative House, and not a majority, ”he said.
Therefore, the minister stated that the Senate manifestation sent to the Supreme Court on the subject does not deserve to prosper, as it has no legal basis.
“The reasons presented by the illustrious co-authoring authority, although they have deserved careful consideration, follow a strictly political logic that, in the case under examination, cannot prevail”, he said.
The minister also affirmed that the action filed by the senators in the STF discusses the right of minorities to inspect the federal government’s “actions and omissions” in facing the pandemic.
Barroso also cited that the Supreme Court has already taken similar measures and that its decision respects the court’s case law.
“The plenary of this court has already decided that the failure of the President of the Federal Senate to adopt measures that give effect to his duty to constitute, install and regularly operate the CPI (…) does not constitute or qualify as an ‘internal corporis’ act . ”
According to Barroso, it is “uncontroversial” that the object of the investigation is a priority theme because it is the biggest health crisis in recent times.
Before the official communication of the Supreme Court decision, Pacheco said: “I have my position that, in addition to being a minority right, in addition to the signatures posted there in sufficient numbers for installation, in addition to pointing out the determined fact, there is, at this moment , due to the exceptional moment that we live [da pandemia], a judgment, yes, of opportunity and convenience that requires me to make the decision or not to make the installation decision, as, in fact, I have done so far “.
Pacheco also said that his position was not intended to “safeguard” anyone.
Some senators reacted to Luís Roberto Barroso’s decision. The minority leader, Jean Paul Prates (PT-RN), lamented the fact that the decision to install the CPI came from the Supreme Court and not from the Senate itself.
“It is unfortunate that Congress depends on a decision by the judiciary to guarantee the right of the minority. There is an urgent need to investigate the government’s actions and omissions in addressing the pandemic.”
In resisting pressure from the opposition, Pacheco had been arguing that the CPI could not be installed in a pandemic environment, in which the Senate is not fully functioning. He claimed that this type of commission requires the analysis of secret documents, in addition to face-to-face depositions.
The president of the Senate also said that a CPI could hinder the actions to confront Covid. When participating in a plenary session in the Senate, former minister Eduardo Pazuello asked senators not to open a “second front” in the war against the coronavirus, saying that Germany lost two wars when it adopted this strategy. And he threatened that the consequence would be more deaths.
Pacheco then adopted what he calls a more collaborative stance. It installed a technical commission from Covid, in which members of the Ministry of Health appear without placing obstacles. The president of the Senate also took the lead when proposing legislative initiatives, such as the law that allows the acquisition of vaccines by the private sector – provided that it donates half to SUS.
Pacheco was elected to lead the Senate with Bolsonaro’s support. In the face of some behavior by the president, at times he raised his tone. Along with the former executive secretary of Health, Élcio Franco, he asked for proof that the ministry was not “negacionista”.
He also said that denialism was a “macabre joke”, although he never directly criticized Jair Bolsonaro.