September 14, 2012

As the impeachment proceedings of Governor Fitial begin, the already polarized community is experiencing even greater divisions. Lines have been drawn in what is seen as a good versus evil battle, and the battle is escalating.

Fitial's impeachment is supported by citizens and legislators who have the best interest of the commonwealth at heart. They are fed up of the corruption, failed leadership and political schemes and want to end the downward spiral of the CNMI. They are uniting and going public to voice their outrage and demand justice and reform.

Ron Atalig Muna spoke eloquently about the tyranny of the governor to the Marinas Variety:
“I’m pretty sure he [Governor Fitial] looks outside his window while driving around the island. I’m sure he sees the people on the streets daily, asking motorists to help them send their loved ones off-island for healthcare. From atop the hill at his mansion, I’m sure he has noticed the reduced lights around the island. How could one honestly say he cares about the people and at the same time, deny them adequate assistance to buy food for a whole month? Why do they have to choose between food and electricity or food and medication? This is America! Why do we have to move to Guam or the states to receive adequate health care? We should have all this here at home.” 
Another impeachment supporter, Brian Kendall was quoted by the Saipan Tribune as saying:
“Everybody has reached the point where we see the wreckage all around us-Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., Commonwealth Utilities Corp., the NMI Retirement Fund. The list seems to grow longer every day. 
While the courts have shown that there's potential light at the end of the tunnel, no one knows just how long that tunnel is, but without individuals taking it upon themselves to stand up for truth and justice, without the individual calls of support to those that have started the process of accountability and the calls to those that might need a gentle reminder that this is an election year, I urge everyone to take a moment and honestly look at our community, look at the issues, and take a stand.”
Community ativist, Glen Hunter was quoted in the Marianas Variety as saying that he is “so proud there are members of the community who are now taking a leadership role in making sure the people’s voices are heard.”

The impeachment supporters will be holding a rally Sunday, September 16 at 10:30am at the Beach Road - Microl Intersection. 

Fitial supporters, including relatives, political allies and those who get some kick back, often in the form of government jobs, will hold a counter rally supporting the failed leader. The Marianas Variety explained quoted a government employee:
Fitial, according to sources, met with his relatives at his residence earlier this week to discuss the rallies. 
One government employee, who did not want to be identified, said they will attend the rallies because their contracts are up for renewal this October.
This sentiment is an example what the impeachment is about.  It is about ending corruption in government – corruption like having jobs tied to votes and loyalty rather than to qualifications and experience.  Is it any wonder that the DPS employs police officers who have criminal records? Impeachment is about cleaning up the government and restoring democracy.

Public employees with a conscience and moral backbone can refuse to attend pro-Fitial rallies and can also file complaints against their government boss if harassed or are told that their jobs are threatened if they refuse to support or attend such gatherings. If it is proven that government offices and Fitial-appointed Cabinet members are organizing government employees to attend pro-Fitial rallies on government time while using government resources then another impeachment article just might be added to the 16 already filed.

The suggestion that government employees show their loyalty to the governor by attending a monitored pro-Fitial rally  show that even as the governor faces the impeachment process, he has not stopped his corrupt ways. Corruption oozes forth like pus from an infected sore. The governor and his army of blind followers will not stop until they are taken down by the people.

Predictably, Fitial's followers in the House are attempting to stop the impeachment process. Majority members have been AWOL from the impeachment committee meetings. One pro-Fitial member who did show up, Rep. Felicidad Ogumoro, questioned the legal procedures of the committee in Thurday's meeting. Ogumoro ignorantly insisted that the committee must allow Fitial to answer the 16 impeachment articles in the House. She demanded that the committee present a letter from Fitial, even though the House attorneys explained that the CNMI Constitutions calls for the Senate to hear any of the governor's arguments against impeachment, not the House.

A statement by Ogumoro to the committee chair says it all: “What I am asking for is to get more information I need, and that is the governor’s letter, so I can justify my action to vote. I’d better have justification and a good reason. Why are we making it difficult?”

Ogumoro probably talks to the governor every day and could read his statement if she wanted to. In fact, she probably has read it.  Any letter from Fitial has got to be a string of excuses, attempt to place blame, stabs at the opposition and utter garbage. Could she make an "intelligent decision" whether or not she read the letter? That is highly doubtful, since she is merely an blind Fitial follower and certainly does not exhibit intelligence, at least in this situation.

Ogumoro questioned, "Why are we making it difficult?" The real question is, "Why is she making it difficult?"

Such grandstanding and theatrics only delays the proceedings. Not one of the articles of impeachment is debatable as an impeachable offense. They clearly state undeniable impeachable acts, so the committee should move along.

Ogumoro also requested that the meeting be conducted behind closed doors, but was shut down on that request also.

Absent from Friday's Special Impeachment Committee meeting were all of the Fitial loyalists – Representatives Stanley Torres, Joe Palacios, Felicidad Ogumoro, and Fred Deleon Guerrero. Despite the absence of the majority members, the minority committee members, Frank Dela Cruz, Tony Sablan, Joseph Deleon Guerrero, and Rey Tebuteb, lawfully adopted Articles 12, 13 and 14. The three articles of impeachment correctly state that the governor failed to appoint members for the Civil Service Commission and Public Utilities Commission, and failed to appoint a Chief Justice within in designated time periods. All three undeniable acts demonstrate neglect of duty.

According to rules, which were adopted by seven committee members, only three members are required to have a forum. Yet the pro-Fitial members who failed to appear at the meeting, protest the adoption of the articles of impeachment.

The pro-Fitial obstructionists are being paid to do their jobs and should have been present at the committee meeting, especially since they accepted appointment to the committee. If they were going to boycott the meeting in a show of support for the string puller, why did they even accept the committee appointment? Like their puppet master, they are too arrogant and self-centered to put the people of the CNMI ahead of their political games. Like Fitial, these puppets are demonstrating neglect of duty.

Apparently some Fitialites' loyalty to "the Father of the CNMI", as Rep. Ogumoro refers to Fitial (gag), is more important than their own elected positions. It is doubtful that these obstructionists will get re-elected. The public will likely vote the Fitial loyalists out of office so that a serious group of legislators can start the impeachment process anew in January 2013 and finish the job.

Instead of resigning from office for the sake of the CNMI, Governor Fitial released an offensive press release that  inspired more wrath and public outcry judging by letters to the editor and comments on the Marianas Variety website. The letter blames those supporting his impeachment for "not understanding his actions." If the situation in the CNMI was not so dire, the letter might even get some laughs.

The governor cannot deny or refute the articles of impeachment so he does what he does best. He attempted to deflect attention by blaming others, making pathetic excuses, blaming the Federal Government, and blaming the legislators for not doing their jobs.  Of course, legislators could not take action on the serious issues because the governor took those opportunities to act from them. He issued a series of "states of emergencies" so only he had executive power to act, and as it turns out to severely damage or destroy.

As this process plays out, the CNMI looks more and more like a banana republic than like a U.S. commonwealth. The impeachment proceedings have captured the attention of Federal Government. Good. Maybe some federal indictments will finally come.

The pro-impeachment advocates should be commended for their efforts to end the corruption and institute reform. Bravo!

The Impeachment Resolution:

Fitial's press release:

It greatly saddens me when those who do not understand my actions accuse me of wrongdoing, which has contributed to the current dispute regarding CUC's Power Plant 1. By diverting our attention from addressing the serious issues that face our people, these detractors turn your attention away from their years of inaction while in office, which has contributed to the problems we face today.

“My administration's policy has always been that the actions of the Executive Branch are open for examination, and if errors are made, then people must be held accountable. There are numerous agencies that constantly scrutinize the actions of the Executive Branch; and they provide a credible, independent review. However, the current proceedings seem to be based on politics and the upcoming election, and directly undermine the administration's efforts to address the serious problems facing our community.

 “The problems that face our community are undoubtedly the most serious since we became a Commonwealth. The problems we face today began many years ago, but have only gotten worse with the departure of the garment industry and the federal takeover of immigration.

 “These two occurrences have significantly undermined government revenues and exposed the inadequacies in our healthcare system, retirement fund, and public utilities. Due to the shortage of government revenues, we can no longer subsidize these inadequate structures and we are now forced to make significant changes to each of them in order to correct the longstanding problems of inefficiency, inadequate revenues, and improper service. The initiation of change in longstanding government programs does not come easy because people have vested interests, and it requires accommodation and compromise.

 “A prime example of this can be recalled when CUC was plagued with months of scheduled rolling blackouts. As a result, many families suffered from damage to their electric appliances due to these blackouts. The immediate solution then was to engage Aggreko to provide a temporary source of stable and reliable power. It can also be recalled that both the Legislature and PUC opposed the administration's request for assistance from Aggreko. In the end, CUC was able to make the necessary repairs to their diesel engines while Aggreko provided reliable and stable power to the ratepayers on Saipan, and ultimately, we ended the rolling blackouts.

 “However, as we have seen with the utility system blackouts, inadequacy of healthcare, and insolvency of the retirement system, sitting by idly and hoping that the problem will go away is no longer acceptable. We have to make fundamental changes to these systems if we are to balance our economy and develop a plan for the future. I have invited the leadership of the Legislature to discuss, during two separate Leadership Summits, the problems besieging our people today. Unfortunately, it has only been the House leadership who has continued the discussion on finding possible solutions to our problems. The Senate and a few chosen elected individuals have chosen instead to use the solutions to our problems as a negative political tool in order to cover up their years of inaction and lack of leadership to address our most serious of issues.

 “Currently, we are entering the most difficult stage of change, and we need the assistance and support of the community to establish a government with long-term viability. As a community, we need to resolve four major issues within the next 90 days: restructuring of the Retirement Fund; restructuring of the public healthcare system; lowering of utility costs; and expansion of our revenue generating industries. All of these issues are complex in and of itself, and it will require all of us to make compromises; but we do not have the luxury of doing nothing, so let's talk about what we are doing in these four areas.

 “Probably the most difficult task is the restructuring of the retirement system as it directly affects many of us financially. We need to devise a retirement system that provides long-term benefits that can be afforded by the government. There is no one simple solution; and it will take some time to resolve. I think we are on the right track with the extension of Social Security and providing for the withdrawal of funds. Resolution of the long-term debt of current retiree benefits will be difficult, and will require give and take to balance revenues and costs and this is the next step. The government is committed to resolution of this problem, and I am hopeful that the initial steps of extension of federal programs and voluntary withdrawal will allow us to reduce the outstanding liabilities and identify an acceptable compromise. This is probably our biggest challenge because of the costs involved and the direct personal effect this program has on families.

 “The second biggest challenge that we must address within the next 90 days is the Commonwealth's healthcare system. The current system is not working as we have an expensive structure that provides inadequate care. Providing adequate healthcare in the Commonwealth is particularly challenged by our small population; providing care on three islands; and the high cost of meeting United States standards of care. In order to provide adequate care will require a complete restructuring of the current system. Currently, we are having the entire healthcare system analyzed in order to present an independent review of operations and recommendations for improvement. This study will identify our current shortcomings and present a template for restructuring and is scheduled to be completed within 45 days. I'm certain that this study will call for significant changes in our healthcare system, and as a community, we have to evaluate these recommendations and agree to a plan that meets our healthcare needs within our financial constraints.

 “The third significant challenge that we must address within the next 90 days is that of the continuing high cost of utilities. The high cost of power is directly affecting every family on the island and is undermining our economy. Every single day, I hear stories of the impact of utility costs on families and businesses. Time and time again, people say that the monthly utility cost is one of the highest household expenses rivaling those of housing and food. In every instance where a long-term business closes, they cite the high cost of power as one of the principal factors. At the root of our problem is the reliance on antiquated diesel for electric generation, and we must break this model. I have made it clear that I am not satisfied with our progress to date in this area, as families are demanding an end to the ever-increasing costs of utilities. In order to escape this structure, we have to look at alternative energy sources such as solar, geothermal, nuclear, and improved diesel engines.

 “It is this last issue, improved diesel engines, that has ignited significant controversy. As has been reported, the Commonwealth was approached concerning the possibility of construction of a ship rebuilding facility. This ship rebuilding project would facilitate the United States military buildup in Guam by presenting a local site for repair of vessels and bring considerable high-paying jobs to our economy. However, in discussions with promoters, they identified that the only feasible site was the location of the current CUC Power Plant in Lower Base. In order to attract this development, consideration had to be given for relocation of the existing power plant.

 “In order to examine the feasibility of the relocation of this plant, a proposal was made for the construction of a new facility. In this examination, our objective was to reduce the cost of electric utility generation from its current level of approximately $0.38 cents to $0.18 cents per kilowatt hour through the use of more efficient diesel engines. If the proposal cannot achieve this objective, it is not acceptable. In order to facilitate this examination, a proposed model was presented to the Commonwealth with the understanding that it was subject to our evaluation and review. We will be conducting this analysis, and if it achieves our $0.18 per kilowatt hour goal, I will wholeheartedly endorse it and recommend its implementation; if not, then we must continue our examination of alternatives. The proposal for the construction and financing of a new power plant is not a simple task and requires the commitment of significant resources in the development of a proposal and is not undertaken lightly. I am grateful to the current developers who have undertaken an independent assessment, and are willing to invest in our community, and I welcome their proposal. Once the associated analysis is completed, we can move on from this point; however, in the meantime, we are still moving forward with implementation of 10 megawatts of new solar power and continued exploration of geothermal.

 “The final area that will require significant change within the next 90 days is the expansion of our revenue generating industry. Tourism has brought to our islands hundreds of thousands of tourists and with them have come much needed monies spent on our islands. With the decline of the garment industry, the importance of our tourism industry has increased. The Japanese tsunami and change in the Asian economy has made even more important the development of new tourist markets in China, Russia, and Korea; however, our lack of air service and hotel accommodations has hampered expansion of these markets. We cannot wait for others to solve this problem, so we have been holding direct discussions with investors to initiate new direct airline service from China to the Commonwealth in order to increase the number of tourists to our islands. We are hopeful that within the next sixty days we will be able to establish additional air carrier service that will increase tourism by at least 30 percent over the previous year with the ultimate goal of doubling tourism in 2014, which will provide an overall lift to the economy. Additionally, as tourism increases we need an expansion of the number of available quality hotel rooms, and we are in direct discussions with investors for the renovation and expansion of at least three hotel complexes and expansion of retailing in 2013. I find these developments to be the most beneficial, as it will mean new construction, investment, and long-term employment for the people.

 “I want to beg your patience and ask you to please forgive the shortcomings of those who do not understand my motivations or my actions. I have always acted in what I feel is the best interest of the people and consistent within the authority of the Office of the Governor. All of the actions of the administration are open for full examination by multiple independent agencies including the Office of Public Auditor, the United States Department of Interior, and the United States Office of Inspector General. These agencies are specifically structured to present a professional independent review of all our actions. If errors are made, then people must be held accountable. However, I do not see any benefit of supporting or engaging in a politically driven investigation right before an important election that will divide our community and distract us from focusing on trying to solve the critical issues of our Retirement Fund; healthcare system; utility costs; and the economy. These are the pressing issues that the administration and the Legislature need to focus on so as to resolve the longstanding problems that face our people.” (Office of the Governor)

List of Fitial supporters up for re-election (from SaipanFox, a satirical commenter on the MV website): DEMAPAN, Ignacia Tudela HOCOG, Victor Borja BORJA, Joaquin Hoashi CRISOSTIMO, Luis Palacios CABRERA, Eliceo Diaz CABRERA, Vicente Camacho PALACIOS, Joseph Mafnas SEMAN, Richard Benavente DELA CRUZ, Ramon Concepcion LIMES, Jose Tilipao ATALIG, Eric Benavente HOFSCHNEIDER, Liana Sablan RIOS, Roy Taisacan REYES, Juan Sablan SAURES, Jose Pua OGUMORO, Felicidad Taman TORRES, Stanley Estanislao McGinnia Tudela MARATITA, David Reyes CASTRO, Jesus Manibusan IGUEL, Sylvestre Ilo CAMACHO, George Norita BASA, Ramon Sablan DELEON GUERRERO, Fredrick Peters ALDAN, Edwin Palacios SANTOS, Teresita Apatang


Anonymous said...

His time is up. We need to take back the commonwealth and stop the insanity. This impeachment process exposed more than ever the sickness of the governor and followers. They have no shame. IMPEACH NOW!

Anonymous said...

Off subject, The Huffington post has posted new about a "twitter" account
Also Kansas is considering Obama's Citizenship to weigh whether Obama is a citizen and should be allowed on the Novemebr ballot.
Too funny.

Wendy Doromal said...

2:42 Funny or disturbing that so many people in the US are so totally ignorant? Over the last decade it has been increasingly difficult to have pride to be an American. At times, I find it truly embarrassing.

Thomas Frank's book, "What's the Matter With Kansas" says it all...

Anonymous said...

The impeachment rally busted because the Governor ordered attendance taken with food and drinks. I drove by twice with another person both times. I estimated 60 impeachers and 600 pro-Fitials. My passenger thought 100 impeachers and 1k+ at Fitial's rally with over 250 cars. So the Guv is using his hold on employment and food stamps to the 10th degree, and he will not be successfully impeached as they don't have the votes.

The Reps have elections this year and high Carolinian areas, like precint 3, have their seats riding
on his support.

What no one will admit is that they are bogus unproductive jobs like a social welfare anyway, so the Guvs opponents are part of the problem too.