Massage-Gate: House Minority Wants Answers

January 24, 2010

The nine members of the House minority authorized the minority leader, Rep. Diego Benavente (R-Saipan), to write a one-page letter to AG Buckingham regarding massage-gate and the governor's involvement.

Questions asked included whether the governor authorized the prisoner's release on January 8, 2010 to go to his house to give him a massage; were any CNMI laws violated in the process; and "if the governor did violate a CNMI law, what has your office done in response to such violation?”

I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for a reply. I am pretty sure the AG will say that the 'incident", as they refer to it, is under investigation.

Certain legal questions remain unanswered as the minority bloc indicated. The House minority is not the only groups or individuals questioning whether and federal or CNMI laws were violated. Were Aldan and the DOC officials in contempt of court? Can a governor order the release of a prisoner who is ordered by a court not to be released on bail without consequences? Does the use of public officials and vehicles in transporting the prisoner violate CNMI law or ethics policies?

Meanwhile, community members continue to voice their opinions on massage-gate. A letter to the editor from Sina Reyes states:
I am no politician nor am I an expert on the law. However, I do not think it takes a genius to know the difference between right and wrong.

While I agree that we have to get the facts before we jump to conclusions or pass judgment, I do not believe that the unauthorized release of a detainee can be justified or that the situation can be sugar-coated or even covered up. Nor do I believe that a chronic backache is a good enough excuse to "bend the rules" and abuse your power, even with permission from proper authorities. It simply was not an emergency situation. And whether or not the detainee was ordered to the governor’s private residence, the bottom line is that the request was made, otherwise she would not have been released at all to give that massage.

Furthermore, being "humane" does not mean we should allow anyone to break the rules. We are a community and are all affected. Nonetheless, it is our highest elected official, of all people, who should lead by example and uphold the law along with the rest of us. And although we are all not perfect, no one should be above the law, regardless of the fact that we care about each other. Rules were set in place as guidelines for us to follow, mostly to protect us as a whole.
Another thoughtful letter to the editor by Roger Ludwick spoke about a conversation with his Chinese wife about education and the correlation to being "smart." In part:
And we agreed that, most importantly, no leader should break any law. If they do so, they can no longer be leaders and they have shamed the people they lead. We opined that leaders that embarrass their populace should probably just say “I’m sorry” and resign, because the ability to lead has been diminished, maybe totally lost. By resigning, at least the former leader(s) can attempt to maintain self respect. What do you think?
Finally, Vince Cabrera wrote:
The federal inmate’s trip to relieve the governor’s pain is not the issue here. The issue is about a federal prisoner being let out without proper notification.

That’s the issue! Of course everyone wants priority care in life or death situations or even back pains. When it comes to federal issues, it is not a game. There is protocol on all matters. A “Department of Comfort” inmate is different from a federal inmate. Local laws and federal laws are two different compositions. To be humane or considerate? We will leave that up to the feds. Hope you get the picture!
(Please read all of the letters for the complete view of the writer. All of the letters that I cited are worth reading in their entirety.)

The Marianas Variety article by Andrew DeGuzman pointed out that the OAG attacked the media in the motion that they filed Friday. It seems the "kill the messenger" attitude that has embedded in the CNMI governing branch for at least the last three decades is still thriving.

What responsible media outlet would ignore the blatant abuse of power of a sitting governor, especially a questionable and alleged unlawful "incident" that is unprecedented? What other elected official in the history of recorded law cases has ever had the audacity to request that a prisoner be taken to his/her house to give a massage? Anyone? Expect a great deal more publicity!


Anonymous said...

Gosh!!! This is unbelievable!! The supposedly smart people in the government don't know if there was any violation committed? Pathetic! Even a minor from Dandan (Sina Reyes) knows that there is. We need Public Servants, not only Politicians to stand up to protect, not to condone wrong doings committed, inflicted to our island,community & people.

This is like saying the house has been robbed.. the tv, the stereo, jewelries are missing and then the family member will say "let's investigate first to see if we were robbed.". This is insane!

Anonymous said...

Citizens here fear the court will do nothing and Ben will be untouchable for five long years.

Anonymous said...

This is a farce. Diego was supported by the Covenant Party during last year's election, which is why there were only 5 Covenant candidates in Precinct 1. The governor already bought him off.

Saipan Writer said...

Great letter from Sina Reyes.

I'm wondering why no one ever mentions prisoner's rights. Even someone accused of attempting to smuggle people into the U.S. can't be mistreated while in custody. Being taken to the governor's office to give him a massage while under guard by 4 corrections officers sounds like involuntary servitude to me--and a violation of the prisoner's rights.

Jed Horey is the attorney for this prisoner. His law firm also represents Dolores Aldan--chief of the corrections department and one of those taking this woman to "massage" the governor.

There are too many layers of protection around those involved. We will not soon here the real and full story of this--Mrs. Fitial may never tell her side; the Chinese "masseuse" Qingmei Cheng may never be heard personally; even the corrections officers will only be heard through the single mouthpiece of the AG's office.

This is wrong. The entire episode was a wrong perpetrated by our governor and his stoolies. But we may not see any redress for it.

So here are few choices we can make, in trying to cope.

1) humor. Let's just keep Governor Fitial as the butt of our jokes! Along with those DOC officers. Laughter is the best medicine!

2) faith in the hereafter. When our human attempt at justice is ill-equipped to deal with the large task before it, I find it helpful to think that at some time, these people will have to face up to the truth; that there is a power they will have to answer to who will not be fooled.

3) the long view. We are a tiny community in huge world; we are insignificant ants on the mound of the universe. This will all be washed clean by time and what really matters--things like moonlight on water and the sound of birds singing.

Wendy said...

Hi Jane

I did mention the prisoner's rights. In the previous post I wrote, "The act also ignores the rights of a prisoner. Why should a prisoner be taken from her cell to perform a massage? The removal could be viewed as cruel and unusual punishment as stated in the 8th Amendment. The motion does not even address the rights and wishes of the prisoner. Did she protest? Were any promises made to her? Was she threatened? What conversation transpired between DOC officials and the prisoner? An evidentiary hearing is needed to determine these facts."

I am still thinking that there could actually be consequences for the governor, DOC commissioner and officials.

Anonymous said...

How come Teresa Kim aka Teresa Kim Tenorio is all of a sudden very quiet these days and she has not been seen within a mile of the governor.

Does she know more than what the general public knows? Just a couple weeks ago, Ben couldn't even think unless Teresa Kim said it was OK.

Lastly, I wonder: What would Sophie do?