Former CNMI Speaker Mitch Pangelinan Passes Away

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One of Commonwealth’s ‘Founding Fathers’ loses battle with cancer

By Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, July 1, 2013) – Former Speaker Mitch "Obu" Pangelinan passed away on Friday at the Commonwealth Health Center after a long battle against cancer. He was 71.

[PIR editor’s note: Pangelinan’s death came on the same day that the CNMI Senate held a moving tribute to former Senator Luis P. Crisostimo Jr. who passed away earlier in June also from cancer.]

The speaker of the 2nd Legislature and a key leader of the NMI Democratic Party, Pangelinan was one of the commonwealth’s founding fathers.

Even after his retirement from public service, Pangelinan remained loyal to the NMI Democratic Party, according to his nephew, Sen. Pete Pangelinan Reyes.

Pangelinan was among the local leaders deeply involved in shaping the Northern Marianas Islands into what it is today, Reyes said.

While the Progressive Party which later became the local Republican Party, was pushing for a unified Micronesian islands, Pangelinan and the Democratic Party’s predecessor, the Popular Party, sought political union with the U.S. for the NMI.

"Mitch, along with other leaders, paved the way for our inclusion in the U.S. political family. My dad, Juan, was also part of that movement," Reyes said.

Reyes said this "alternative" was considered after Guam voters rejected reunification with the NMI whose people overwhelmingly voted for it.

Reyes said he believed back then that if the NMI and the other Micronesian islands remained united, they would be in a better negotiating position with the U.S.

Some of them, he said, wanted Micronesia to be admitted as a state.

"Mitch [Pangelinan] had always been involved in politics and had been a member of the lawmaking body even before the commonwealth came into being," Reyes said.

"So I think politics was his forte. We look up to him because he was very vocal in fighting for Democratic principles," Reyes added.

He said Pangelinan was instrumental in electing the CNMI’s first governor, Carlos S. Camacho, a Democrat.

Pangelinan served as special assistant to the administration after Camacho was sworn into office in Jan. 1978.

"Mitch never departed from his party’s principles," said Reyes. He said during the campaign in the 2009 elections, he and his wife Glenna visited Pangelinan’s home

"He was still a loyal Democrat who had his own candidates," Reyes said. "He never stopped making contributions to the Democratic Party."

Starting in the 2001 elections, the local Democratic Party was replaced by the Covenant Party — a Republican splinter group — as one of the CNMI’s two major parties.

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