Woman Presidential Candidate In Palau Faces Tough Odds In Election

Former Vice President, Minister,  and Senator Pierantozzi has experience, love for Palauan people; few resources

By Junhan B. Todiño

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Sept. 12, 2016) – Senator Sandra S. Pierantozzi, the only female candidate for president in Palau, says she is running against three formidable opponents.

“I am running against a very strong incumbent [Palau President Tommy Remengesau] who has the entire government of the Republic of Palau at his beck and call, and I’m also running against Surang [Sen. Surangel Whipps Jr] who is a multi-millionaire from a big family, and a sitting vice president [Antonio Bells],” she said.

Penrantozzi, 63, said she’s only a woman with very limited resources, but she has the experience and the love for Palau and its people.

“I want to make some changes,” she added.

The incumbent president, she said, is running against his own vice president and the chairman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, the most powerful committee in the Palau Congress who is also the brother-in- law of the president.

“There must be something wrong,” she told Variety in an interview prior to her meeting with the Palauan community on Saipan at the Filcom pavilion in Susupe on Saturday night.

“I’m sensing something is wrong with all these forces running against the president so I say, hey, I am an outsider and I see what’s going on.”

Although she faces tough odds, Pierantozzi said she is hopeful that there’s a chance for a woman to be president of Palau. “There’s a chance for a woman to be president all over the world so why not Palau?”

During the meeting on Saturday evening with the Palauans on Saipan, Pierantozzi presented her platform. She promised:

  • to elect a new government with a vision of inclusive growth for all Palauans;
  • all public servants will be employed on merit based on their work experience and educational qualifications, not by relationship or friendship;
  • to improve public health and medical care for the benefit of all;
  • to improve education to help all students become qualified for higher education;
  • to enhance the benefits for Palauans first while allowing visitors to enjoy Palau’s pristine islands;
  • trade and commerce must economically benefit the people of Palau first;
  • to create better job opportunities to entice Palauans to remain home and work gainfully with improved pension and social security benefits;
  • to extend assistance to all states so they can complete their road, water and other projects;
  • assistance will be separately made available to help ease the financial hardship of the youth, the elderly and the disabled; and
  • to ensure a stricter enforcement of anti-drug laws to prevent addiction among the people.

Pierantozzi said Palauans come to Saipan to find better paying jobs so her administration will create a good foundation for job opportunities to Palauans on Saipan and other parts of the world so they can come back home.

“I’d like to make sure that Palau is beautiful and well- developed and a good place for Palauans first,” she said.

If elected president, moreover, Pierantozzi said she would continue her 25-year scholarship program.

She started the scholarship program in 2002 to help young people achieve and succeed in their academic pursuits in postsecondary education.

Pierantozzi has served as floor leader of the Senate and chaired the Senate Committee on Health and Social Welfare while serving on various other standing committees.

She was also vice president and minister of health of Palau from 2001 to 2004, was minister of state from 2009 to 2010.

In 2012, she ran for president and finished third and last in the primary.

Pierantozzi has a bachelor’s degree in business education from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu.

Her campaign manager, Sen. Joel Toribiong, said they received a “positive response” from the Palauan communities in Houston, Portland, Honolulu, Guam and Saipan.

“She is totally different from the other candidates — she wants change, she’s a drug-free candidate, she’s a lady with lots of experience, and she is giving a true picture of Palau to the Palauans outside of Palau,” Toribiong said.

He said Pierantozzi is not creating a scenario that Palau is part of the world but she’s creating a scenario that Palauans should be first.

“We should protect our people, and so Sandra created a slogan which is ‘human sanctuary’ because right now we are focusing more on our [marine] sanctuary — what about the Palauans? If we put so much emphasis on a marine sanctuary it will become attractive to the world while Palauans are left behind,” he said.

Based on his observation, Pastor Marcellus Ngiraingas of the Palau Evangelical Church on Saipan said both Whipps and Pierantozzi have similar programs that focus on benefits for Palauans.

Remengesau and Bells talk about the economy and infrastructure which will also improve the Palauan’s living conditions, Ngiraingas said.

“As far as education is concerned, her actions speak louder than anybody else,” Ngiraingas said.

One of the concerns of Palauans on Saipan is to have a good paying job back home, he said.

“They say we left Palau because we are looking for a better way of life.”

In the U.S., Toribiong said they talked about the migration of Palauans.

“Everybody is moving away — the idea of our framers of the Compact was to create a freely associated state with free migration so that we could get our education and come back, but it’s the other way around because once you get the education you do not come back because you’re offered a better job there,” he said.

The other members of Pierantozzi’s campaign team were Elia Yobech and Delegate Okada Techitong.

Palau will hold a presidential primary on Sept. 27, 2016. The top two candidates will then be on the Nov. 1, 2016 general election ballot.

Marianas Variety
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