Member Withdraws From CNMI Impeachment Committee

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Teresita Santos cites urgent matters on Rota

By Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Jan. 29, 2013) – Speaker Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero will have to ask the House minority leader to name a replacement for Rep. Teresita A. Santos who withdrew from the House special committee reviewing the impeachment resolution against Northern Marianas Governor Benigno R. Fitial.

Rep. Felicidad T. Ogumoro, R-Saipan and another pro-Fitial lawmaker, also did not attend the hearing yesterday as the five other committee members unanimously approved two more impeachment articles: 8 and 16 which pertain to the controversial $392,406 sole-source contract that Fitial awarded to his former Commerce Secretary Michael Ada to handle American Recovery and Reinvestment Act projects in late 2010.

Article 8 accuses Fitial of corruption by abusing his authority and undermining the integrity of his office, while Article 16 accuses the governor of neglect of the duty to ensure that laws and regulations are followed, when he awarded the ARRA contract to Ada’s Integrated Professional Solutions.

Federal authorities earlier said that the contract may have violated CNMI laws.

Urgent matters

Santos, R-Rota, said she has to withdraw from the impeachment panel because she has to address urgent matters affecting her island.

In her letter to committee chairman Rep. Tony P. Sablan yesterday, she recommended that House Minority Leader George N. Camacho, R-Saipan, replace her. She said as chairwoman pro tempore of the Rota Legislative Delegation, she has to be at the organizational session this week.

"It was an honor and privilege to be a member of this panel, but unfortunately this is to respectfully inform you that, effective immediately, I would like to withdraw as a member to the Special Investigating Committee on Impeachment and be replaced by the minority leader, Rep. George N. Camacho, who is aware of the same," Santos told Sablan.

Santos said the Rota delegation’s organizational and first regular sessions this week "may take up more time than anticipated."

"And considering the intense proceedings of the impeachment process, I have no other option but to first address urgent matters affecting the first senatorial district," Santos said.

The Rota delegation has only three members as Sen. Juan M. Ayuyu remains detained pending his trial on charges of attempting to smuggle federally protected fruit bats as well as threatening and tampering with witnesses and attempting to destroy evidence.

Moving on

Speaker Deleon Guerrero and committee chairman Sablan said the impeachment hearings will move on even if the minority bloc delays the designation of its new panel member.

Deleon Guerrero said he will have to ask Camacho to appoint another member from the minority bloc.

Camacho, whose brother Judge Joseph N. Camacho is mentioned in one of the impeachment articles, recused himself from the first impeachment committee in the 17th Legislature.

The speaker said he may ask the minority leader to appoint the other member of the minority bloc, Rep. Richard B. Seman, R-Saipan.

Deleon Guerrero said even if the impeachment panel ends up without somebody from the minority bloc, the process will go on.

Sablan agreed

"We will proceed whether the minority bloc provides a replacement for Santos or not," he said.

He also said that Ogumoro did not send him notice that she would not attend yesterday’s hearing.

"We are all elected officials here and understand what we are obligated to do. If she does not show up, then she does not show up," he said.

Aside from Sablan, those who voted to approve impeachment Articles 8 and 16 were Vice Speaker Francisco S. Dela Cruz, IR-Saipan; Reps. Ramon A. Tebuteb, IR-Saipan; Edmund S. Villagomez, Covenant-Saipan; and Christopher D. Leon Guerrero, Covenant-Saipan.

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