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Speech will be ‘frank and candid’

By Haidee V. Eugenio

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, May 27, 2009) – Some lawmakers say they want Gov. Benigno R. Fitial to detail his plan on stimulating the depressed economy and expect they will be "blamed" once again, while press secretary Charles Reyes Jr. said yesterday the public could expect a "frank and candid assessment" of the CNMI when the governor delivers today his fourth State of the Commonwealth Address since assuming office in 2006.

"The governor has never been Pollyannaish and will not say that our economy is still pretty darn good," Reyes told Saipan Tribune.

"Pollyannaish" refers to a person characterized by irrepressible optimism and a tendency to find good in everything.

Rep. Tina Sablan, Ind-Saipan, said she expects to receive a gloomy forecast of the future and reasons why a more positive vision of the CNMI is not possible.

"I expect the Legislature and the federal government to be blamed for the current challenges we face. I expect the governor will be generally right in his assessment of the Legislature and how we are part of the problem. But I don't expect an honest assessment of the shortcomings of this administration or a compelling and visionary long-term plan of action," she said.

Rep. Joe Reyes, for his part, said among other things, he expects Fitial to state his plan in stimulating the economy and in addressing issues with the Retirement Fund and the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.

Rep. Ramon "Ray" A. Tebuteb said during the last SOCA, "we were scolded," and today, lawmakers "will be asked to support what we were scolded for."

In his SOCA last year, Fitial blamed the Legislature for the power crisis.

The previous year, in 2007, Fitial said the government is "still broke" and "better times" will take some time. In 2006, he said the government is "broke."

The press secretary said the public should not expect an "overly rosy assessment of our situation."

"The governor is optimistic but realistic, keenly aware of the enormous challenges facing the Commonwealth, but yet also filled with hope and confidence about the future of our Commonwealth," he said.

Reserved seats, tight security

The venue for this year's SOCA is the House of Representatives chamber at the Honorable Jesus P. Mafnas Memorial Building on Capital Hill.

At 10am today, the House and Senate will hold its Fifth Joint Legislative Session to receive the governor's address.

In previous years, the SOCA was held at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center in Susupe.

Glenna S.P.-Reyes, director of the Legislative Bureau, said despite a smaller venue, they expect a smooth SOCA this year.

"We can manage. If the State of the Judiciary for the last two years and the legislative inaugurations could be held here, then I'm sure we can manage with the SOCA," Reyes said yesterday, as she showed reporters the House chamber yesterday afternoon.

She said heightened security measures will be in place, and the Department of Public Safety will be sending police officers to the venue to help ensure peace and order.

The 20 members of the House and the nine members of the Senate all have assigned seats in the House chamber. There are 36 other seats reserved for dignitaries, as well as members of the media.

In the House lobby, there are 60 seats, plus about 27 more in the hallway. The building is expected to be filled to capacity for the SOCA.

As has been the practice since 2006, no food will be served at the end of the SOCA, Reyes said.

The Constitution requires the governor to report at least annually to the Legislature regarding the affairs of the CNMI and new measures that are necessary or desirable for the islands.

House Speaker Arnold I. Palacios and Senate President Pete P. Reyes, in a memorandum, advised members of the Legislature of the heightened security measures and reminded lawmakers that the attire for the session is coat and tie for men, and business wear for women.

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