CNMI SUPREME COURT ORDERS RELEASE OF DOCUMENTS IN OGA CASE
















August 28, 2009

Rep. Tina Sablan has announced that he CNMI Supreme Court has issued its Judgment affirming the trial court's order to release documents in the Open Government Act case related to the funding of the anti-federalization lawsuit:
Having considered the parties’ arguments, and pursuant to its SLIP OPINION issued this date, the Supreme Court:
AFFIRMS the trial court’s order. The government shall make available for copying and inspection documents numbered 1-30 on pages 16-18 of the trial court’s June 18, 2009 “Order Releasing Requested Documents Pursuant to the Open Government Act” by 5:00 p.m. on August 31, 2009.
Rep. Sablan said, "The principles of justice, democracy, and honest government have prevailed with the Supreme Court's decision, and for that I am both happy and grateful. I look forward to receiving the requested records on Monday, and will make them immediately available for public review."

Congratulations Tina! This is an important case in compelling the government to follow the Open Government Act, opening the doors to transparency which will help to prevent back door deals, political schemes, and government secrets in how taxpayer dollars are being spent.

The 15 page Opinion is a testimony to Rep. Sablan's perseverance and dedication as an honest public servant. From the opinion:
In passing the 2007 amendments to the Freedom of Information Act, the United States Congress declared in its findings that “our constitutional democracy, our system of self government, and our commitment to popular sovereignty depends on the consent of the governed, and consent is not meaningful unless it is informed consent . . .”
Likewise, in adopting the Open Government Act, the people of the Commonwealth “insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the [agencies and offices] they have created.” Public disclosure legislation provides a vehicle for citizens to remain informed about the decisions of respective agencies and offices throughout the Commonwealth. Without such knowledge, accountability falters, and officials are at liberty to expend public funds with minimal oversight. Having followed the statutory directive to liberally construe the provisions of the Open Government Act in favor of disclosure, we find that the government must make the public records available for inspection. Accordingly, the trial court’s order is AFFIRMED.
On September 12, 2008 CNMI Governor Benigno Fitial filed a controversial lawsuit suing the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Labor in an effort to block PL 110-229 with the goal of maintaining control of the dysfunctional CNMI labor and immigration system.

The lawsuit had little known public support and no formal support from the CNMI Legislature. The lawsuit was planned in secrecy with the governor's special legal counsel, Howard Willens and a very small band of his anti-federalization supporters. The governor has remained ambiguous about funding sources, except to reveal in the summer of 2008 that the lawsuit would cost an estimated $50,000 a month with an estimated total cost expected to be $400,000.

Representative Christina Sablan filed an Open Government Act request in October 2008 with the Governor and later in December 2008 with then Secretary of Finance Eloy Inos requesting information on the funding sources and contracts related to lawsuit. Both the governor and secretary refused to release the documents. Subsequently, Rep. Sablan filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court in an effort to have the documents released. The court ordered specified documents to be released. However, the government appealed to the CNMI Supreme Court.

For more information on this Open Government Act case see this post which contains all of the previous court documents including Associate Judge Wiseman's Order.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

The appeal was just an attempt to stall until after the election. BIBA Tina Sablan!

Anonymous said...

We should put the corrupt anti-federales in jail.

Anonymous said...

I am still anxiously awaiting the decision of the Washington, DC court , but, thanks to Representative Tina, we will soon know how much public funds were expended to satisfy the egos of Ben Fitial, Howard Willens and the rest of the anti-federalization gang.

Anonymous said...

What a waste of money. Better lies.

Anonymous said...

"I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them."

-Thomas Jefferson

The US Gov't is a servant to the Taxpayers of this great nation. Do not forget that.

captain said...

And more to come, Hopefully after this election the people will vote on the amendment for the accountability of the legislature which will then reign in the rest of the elected. This would mean a drastic change in many of these elected lifestyles. Maybe no more tents and tables. Only place in the world this is done. Not even the pacific Islands or the Phil has this type of activities by elected.
I wonder how much money the Gov cost the NMI govt on trying to block this info concerning his self serving lawsuit.
I also wonder how they have "hidden" or changed information on records during the time of this court delay.

By the way does Anybody know when the decision is coming down on the Fed suit?

Anonymous said...

'Only place in the world this is done. Not even the pacific Islands or the Phil has this type of activities by elected.'

You need to get out more often you naive pinhead. The PI is without question the most corrupt of all the pacific island nations, no doubt about it. Forget picnic tables, they've moved onto murder for hire, prostitution of children, you name it. The PI and 90% of those who live in it are corrupt. Get a life.

Anonymous said...

That was not concerning the corruption, it was concerning "tables and tents" vote buying. Yes you are correct for about $100 you can have someone killed many cases less. But the Phil last year moved up to the 47th most corrupt in the world corruption after the US gave them $8mil to fight the corruption the year before, prior to that time they were only 137th on the list worldwide.
With the amount of numbers of "connected" and elected you will find here with the percentage of the numbers would put the NMI very high on the list.
Most places it is open and a part of doing business.
In the Phil. the most corrupt in the order are; Immigration, Customs, National Police,Public and private utilities, Military, then Municipalities.(Mayors and the repective agency heads).
Does this look familiar in many areas.
American Samoa is not much different in the corruption also but they are more educated than the elected here.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:48 is correct in observing that the RP is the most corrupt government in the Western Pacific. The folks in the Northern Marianas Legislature are pikers compared to their counterparts in the RP. I think our current Governor could probably hold his own with any executive branch official in the US with the possible exception of elected officials in New Jersey. Recently, a Mayor of a major city there was arrested for corruption and resigned after three months in office. However, in New Jersey that is considered a full term!

Anonymous said...

PI is a third world dump filled to the brim with garbage. Every single politician in the PI is a corrupt professional criminal. The current President of the PI is no exception. Banking on bribery, extortion, lying, stealing she is right up there with Marcos, maybe worse. The Filipinos need to return home and fix their country before trying to stay in ours.

the teacher said...

Chamberonomics 119

The Philippines are ruled by fear and controlled with intimidation. Many poor uneducated people don’t understand their circumstances but the well educated know corruption isn’t caused by power; it is caused by fear, or the fear of losing it.

Plagued by the current corrupt administration; so desperate for money they farm humans for hire; they tragically organize children to beg on the street; but their worst societal problem is that millions of good people are doing nothing to improve the situation, and either accept the status quo or fear trying to change it.

Anonymous said...

Teacher, On many things in your statement kind of mirrors here in the NMI.(on a smaller scale)Except for the "farming" humans and "organized children begging".
Insert,"The fear of losing their Govt"jobs
But you statement also cover most of Asia country's.

kalahi said...

hard to farm humans for hire if nada qualified.

organized children begging is in a more sophisticated form here where some parents chose not to work or take part time jobs only so as to qualify for food stamps.

these so called farmed humans have helped develop these islands of yours and should be treated with dignity. in their own small way, they have made a difference for their country while contributing to the community here.

Anonymous said...

Wendy,(and others)
BTW, look online at "Honolulu Advertiser" today's front page. A large company in Honolulu has been indicted on Forced labor charges and Fed immigration fraud of Thailand workers.
This is a "local" Chinese involved Corp.

kalahi said...

the teacher: why do you always point out how bad it is in the pi? what exactly is your intention whenever you write these? are you trying to rationalize the wrong situations here just because it is worse somewhere else? sure you do advocate for improved status which makes them feel good. but why exactly are you advocating for such status when, if i read between the lines of your statement, it reaks of contempt.

anon 6:55: have you really considered how it is going to be around here if all Filipinos return home? do you know how many key positions are being held, competently at that, by these Filipinos. businesses count on them to keep their operations running smoothly. have you any alternative workforce in mind to fill the void just in case this Filipinos pack and leave?

oh i know, you and the teacher are counting on the fact that it so much better here that they would not leave inspite of the harsh criticisms they have to swallow to add to hard work conditions they face on a regular basis.

kalahi said...

you people are able to pick on Filipinos because we have no political voice and no representation. it's as if the measure of one's worth is based on where he came from. if this does not translate to racism, i don't know what else to call it!

you look down upon us because our PI is this and that! ahouldn't you look at us on the merits of each individual, on what we have accomplished here for you and for our country?

there is only so much we can do for the situation back home - we work off-island so that ourselves and our families do not have to beg for handouts, so that our country will have the $$$ it needs to buy products from other countries such as the US.

Anonymous said...

i don't feel sorry for you or the kids that you parade with signs on the streets of saipan in hopes of making stayman cry. i feel sorry for the homeless mother and child on the streets of LA who are americans but with nothing to their name. Go home and start making a difference in your own country, or things will never change over there.

kalahi said...

anon 11:33:

do you feel sorry for the children in other impoverished countries? do you take part in fund raisings to help the needy? if you do, do you first check if they are americans?

i guess you are not a supporter of the american red cross. you probably wonder why other US citizens and organizations even bother to set up programs to fight poverty everyhwere around the world.

Anonymous said...

Noni 10:25

Which is another reason there will be no Chinese visa waivers in CNMI

Anonymous said...

Congratulation Rep. Tina and thank you for setting an important precedent.

Criminal Defense Lawyer said...

Having read the opinion, what exactly does this precedent mean?

The OAG was right that the documents were subject to the OGA litigation exemption, normally exempt from disclosure.

The OAG was right that a petitioner has the burden of proof when seeking a judicial exception (that the executive branch cannot apply unilaterally without violating the OGA), to show “that the exemption . . . is clearly unnecessary to protect . . . any vital government function.”

So where are the standards for judges to apply that “clearly unnecessary” exception in future cases? How are the public and government officials to know? Is the lesson simply that funding transparency trumps all? What about government-funded medical referrals?

Regardless of whatever “precedent” the decision may have -- which because of the ambiguity stated above will likely be far more important politically and socially than legally -- congratulations on a hard-fought victory!

the teacher said...

Kalahi, You made the comment

“you people are able to pick on Filipinos because we have no political voice and no
representation. it's as if the measure of one's worth is based on where he came from. if this does not translate to racism, i don't know what else to call it!

you look down upon us because our PI is this and that”

I don’t pick on anyone and think CGW’s lack of representation has been appalling. I don’t look down at anyone and I am not a racist. I don’t love the Philippines though, or America either for that matter, as they are both simply words that describe inanimate land masses.

Nationalism is the love for ones country and I have none for any country. Teaching nationalism to the masses has long been a control strategy. Leaders and controlling governments like to teach and instill nationalism to their populace to secure their position of power. Nationalism also breeds hatred, resentment, and competition with other nations and is historically a major source of conflict and war.

Your sentiments often include name calling (like racist) and generally use the terms we, us, and them in a prejudice manner. Confederate General Robert E. Lee also referred to abolitionists (generally Northerners in favor of abolishing slavery) as “those people”.

Some think PI is hopeless and can never be turned around, or that it would require generations. I think it can be greatly improved, and even if it takes generations, today, like planting a tree, is the best time to start.

I originally referenced PI because of our geographical and population relationships. Both the CNMI and PI are Spanish systems of governance, or the family Don system, where connected families control wealth because they collude with the power sources (Spain, Garment manufactures, or Chinese government). We are seeing this wiped away in the CNMI. PI needs to follow the same path.

I read “Her Excellency” claims lowering the text price .5 pesos as her major achievement, and ridiculous as that sounds, if she could lower it to .25 she may get re-elected. I will stick to my original analysis of their societal problems.

Filipinos, much like Americans in the late 19th century, were taught obedience and conformity in school so that business would have obedient workers, and many must have learned it well, because the President can dine on 20k dinners while little children starve in the streets, and apparently no one is doing much to combat it.

Someday they will have a fearless leader whose strength of character and courage will force reform.

Until then, sending money to starving people perpetuates their problem by making them dependant on hand outs for survival. Not doing something about the numbers of begging children and overpopulation is sickening. If Gloria loved PI as much as you claim to, she would make the children wards of the state and prosecute their pathetic parents so that those children would grow to be the pride of the Philippines instead of the shame. And as for farming people as an economic commodity, there is no question about it.

I don’t love America, but I greatly respect that in America, one person, without support, can stand up and plead their case for justice to an unbiased nation, and win.

Anonymous said...

Teacher and others, Aug 31 is a holiday in the Phil.I have asked many of the Filipino here and by email there, not many know what holiday it is. It is President Ramon Magsaysay birthday. If you want to read about an honest man and a Guerrilla fighter against the Japanese during the WWII. He also took on corruption after the war.

Google him, and you will realize how far the Phil has slipped back since he died in 1957 in a plane crash.
It is interesting that it seems like that this history is not taught in school in the Phil.
The only reason that I am aware of it because of one of my older friend who lived through that war and was also a guerrilla fighter with the US military.

the teacher said...

I was no aware that the successes of such a world renoun freedom fighter was not studied in school. Isn't his birthday a national holiday?

I don't think he resided in the Palace and converted it to a Palace of the people and opened the doors to the public.

Anonymous said...

Teacher,That is what I said earlier, today is a national holiday in the Phil but many Filipino do not know what the reason for the holiday. (the few that I talked to)only the older ones around 50yr and older knew. I read it on the Philippine Star on line newspaper.
I am not Filipino. I was just curious because offices were closed and I could not get info on progress on my recruited "H" workers for Guam

Anonymous said...

Teacher 1:46pm, The catholic church should be taking care of the children in the PI as they are the ones that are fighting the birth control in the PI. Arroyo wanted to have the Govt to supply free to the masses birth control, The bishops threatened to "excommunicate her" if she proceed with this plan. Only recently did they get passed a law to have this available to the public but still have big problem with the Catholic church.
The bigest problem in the Church is interfering with the Govt.

Last elections there was a priest that ran for Gov.in Pangasena area and won, now he may run for President this coming elections. Many priests ad Bishops have girl friends and children.
Such a hypocritical church and keeping the control by threatening the people and making them "scared"

the teacher said...

Noni above
Thank you for clarifying Arroyo vs church. Arroyo's situation is weak and she probably doesn't want to complicate her fragile political position by crossing the church. The Philippines are devoutly religious regardless what anyone thinks or says. Europe and most of the world are becoming more secular but PI and the US seem to be clinging to their faith. Impoverished regions tend to be more religious,, perhaps because death promises more than life. Arroyo should not fold to a threat. Ex-communicated…ha…is that like PNG?. I knew Pangasena had a Priest or Bishop and I heard he was a crook...but I have no evidence to that other than two cab drivers repeated the same story!!