CNMI LAWSUIT CHALLENGES ELIGIBILITY OF GOVERNOR-ELECT PEDRO P. TENORIO

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By Samuel F. McPheters

SAIPAN, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (November 12, 1997 - PIDP/CPIS)---A lawsuit was filed in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Superior Court Monday by CNMI Democratic Central Committee member Manases Borja and voter Eileen Babauta to challenge the eligibility of Pedro Pangelinan Tenorio to take office as governor for a third term.

Tenorio, who has already served two terms in the 80's, takes the position that since the two term limit amendment became effective at the same time as his second term (1986) it cannot be applied retroactively.

The challengers are using the exact wording of the constitutional amendment -- "No governor shall serve more than two terms" -- as the basis for their suit.

In the November 1 election former Governor Tenorio took a commanding lead, 46%, over his two challengers, incumbent Governor Froilan C. Tenorio (27%) and incumbent Lt. Governor Jesus C. Borja (26%).

The suit was filed by former Acting Attorney General under incumbent Froilan Tenorio (nephew of Pedro P. Tenorio) Sebastian Aloot. Aloot resigned his position with the attorney general's office some months ago to become a private consultant to the governor and enter private practice.

Governor Froilan Tenorio is disassociating himself from any direct involvement in the lawsuit and describes it as party driven.

The three count suit charges: 1) Pedro P. Tenorio is ineligible to run based on the constitutional provision, 2) If #1 is upheld, his running mate, incumbent Senate President Jesus C. Sablan, is also ineligible to succeed Tenorio because they ran as a single ticket and 3) The proper remedy is to nullify the votes cast for Pedro P. Tenorio and Jess Sablan and declare the first runner up (Froilan C. Tenorio) the winner of the election.

Inauguration of the new government, both legislative and executive branches, is scheduled for January 9, 1998.

It is not clear what will happen if the case is still pending at that time but it is conceivable that the new senate president would become acting governor and the new house speaker would take over the lt. governor's seat until the court brings resolution, including possible appeals.

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