CNMI SENATOR CONVICTED, SPECIAL ELECTION EYED

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CNMI, SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, April 28) - The
Commonwealth Election Commission and the Attorney General’s Office said there
may be a special election for the replacement of Sen. Ricardo S. Atalig, who was
convicted Friday for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 26 counts of wire
fraud.

"Because he completed less than half of his four-year term,
there may have to be a special election," Assistant Attorney General James D.
Livingstone told Variety on Friday.

Atalig, R-Rota, was first elected in 1993 and was re-elected in
1997 and in 2001.

Election Commission Executive Director Gregorio Sablan said the
Senate Committee on Rules has to declare a vacancy and, in writing, request Gov.
Juan N. Babauta to announce a special election.

"Thirty to 60 days after the issuance of the governor’s
proclamation, the special election will be held," Sablan told Variety.

Livingstone said the Senate still has to expel Atalig but, he
added, the CNMI Constitution requires the holding of a special election if an
elected official is convicted of a felony.

"Senator Atalig has been convicted, but the Senate Rules
Committee will determine whether a special election is going to happen,"
Livingstone said.

A similar case happened in 1999 when then Sen. Herman Manglona,
R-Tinian, resigned after being convicted of a felony.

The special election was won by Senate Vice President Jose M.
Dela Cruz, who is Atalig’s co-defendant.

Senate Floor Leader Joaquin G. Adriano, D-Tinian, said he
expects Atalig to be expelled.

But Adriano said the Senate Rules and Procedures Committee,
which he chairs, will have to review what action to take in case Atalig files an
appeal.

For his part, Sen. Ramon S. Guerrero, American Reform-Saipan,
said Atalig should still be expelled even if he files an appeal.

Senate Minority Leader Pete P. Reyes, R-Saipan, said he will ask
Senate President Paul A. Manglona, R-Rota, "to increase the involvement and
participation of the minority senators so that we can contribute more ways than
one in representing the best interest of the people."

But Guerrero said he "does not think it is the proper time to
(change the Senate leadership) now."

The investigation of the no-show jobs allegedly provided by
Atalig and Dela Cruz followed a foiled coup attempt instigated by Reyes and
Guerrero. They failed to change the leadership after Dela Cruz decided to remain
with Manglona’s group.

Guerrero said the guilty verdict against Atalig painted a "not
too rosy" picture for Manglona’s leadership.

"It’s a smear on the 13th Senate. This is something that the
leadership has to work out," Guerrero said.

Manglona refused to comment.

Reyes and Guerrero said the guilty verdict showed that the
"people are not going to tolerate something like this anymore."

Reyes said the verdict should be "an awakening for (lawmakers)."

"Now, all politicians have to straighten up. It is very clear
now that justice is served," Guerrero said.

Adriano said he feels "very sorry for Atalig."

He added that "anything can happen now" with the Senate
leadership. He declined to elaborate.

April 28, 2003

Marianas Variety:
www.mvariety.com

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