30 Days To Decide CNMI Governor’s Impeachment

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Articles of impeachment ‘clear cut,’ raise ‘important issues’

By Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Sept. 6, 2012) – The House minority bloc yesterday introduced the resolution calling for the impeachment of Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Gov. Benigno R. Fitial which prompted Speaker Eli D. Cabrera to form a special committee that will review H.R. 17-111.

Cabrera, R-Saipan, said the House leadership and the minority bloc will be equally represented on the special committee which, he added, has 30 days to come up with a recommendation.

The speaker said he will assign either three or four members from each side of the aisle to look into the articles of impeachment listed.

He said he wants the committee to come up with an opinion that will carry a lot of weight.

During yesterday’s session, two members of the community aired their support for the resolution.

Glenn Hunter said the roots of the CNMI’s problems are revealed in the articles of impeachment.

Hunter also praised the seven minority bloc members who authored the resolution as well as the other House members who have publicly expressed their support for it.

He said the articles of impeachment "are pretty much clear cut and raised more important issues."

Hunter witnessed how Department of Public Safety officers prevented his wife, KSPN reporter Tina Sablan, from approaching former Attorney Edward T. Buckingham who was allowed to leave Saipan despite the charges filed against him. This incident was mentioned in the articles of impeachment.

Hunter assured the House members that "the majority of the people support the passage of the articles of impeachment."

He noted that even Fitial "attested" to that fact, when he, the governor was quoted as saying it’s a political gain for those who support it and political suicide for those who don’t.

"To those who signed the resolution and those who expressed support to it, I don’t know how to tell you how proud I am," he said.

He urged the other House members to do what is right. The resolution, he added, must be brought to the floor and voted on. He said the governor will be given the chance to defend himself in the Senate. "What more can happen in the future if we don’t do this today?" he asked the House members.

Leila Staffler, a teacher in Kagman High School, echoed Hunter’s plea. "Do your part. Hold people accountable," she told the House members.

In an interview after the session, Deleon Guerrero told reporters that those who testified for the resolution "are very brave."

He said Staffler was right about holding elected officials accountable for their actions. "I think that is something every members of the Legislature should consider," he added.

Deleon Guerrero also agreed with Hunter that the governor will have the opportunity to defend himself in the Senate.

Cabrera, for his part, said he respects Hunter and Staffler.

More individuals should come out and participate in the session’s public comment portion, he added.

Rep. Ralph S. Demapan, Covenant-Saipan, said he salutes Hunter for coming out and publicly airing his support for the impeachment of the governor.

Fitial will be impeached if 14 House members vote for the adoption of the resolution.

As of yesterday, 11 House members had expressed — publicly or "off the record" — support for the resolution.

The governor will be removed from office if found guilty by at least six of the nine senators.

House Resolution 17-111 accuses Fitial of "commission of actions constituting multiple felonies, multiple acts of public corruption and multiple instances of neglect of his sworn duties of office."

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