Time for a Change?

November 18, 2014

Has there ever been an administration in the CNMI that has regarded the nonresident workers as anything more than labor units? Probably not.

In fact, one of the CNMI administrations that has inflicted the most damage to the CNMI nonresident workers has to have been the Fitial-Inos one.  The list of their anti-foreign worker actions is a long one. I never trusted Fitial or Inos to do right by the nonresidents.  Both men are cast from the same mold – two ambitious politicians who will stop at nothing to keep their power and can be manipulated by ethically-challenged and greedy characters. A dark shadow of corruption follows both.

Both Fitial and Inos contributed to the exploitation and suffering of many nonresident workers, while employed as executives for L and T and while serving as leaders of the CNMI.

Disgraced ex-governor Fitial was set to be tried on nine corruption charges when Associate Judge David Wiseman dismissed the criminal charges against the notorious politician. The judge ruled that the Public Auditor did not have the authority to prosecute the case. Public Auditor Hasseback has asked Wiseman to reconsider his ruling.

It will be interesting to see how the judge rules or whether the newly elected CNMI Attorney General will file new charges against Fitial. If and when Fitial is tried, he may reveal what role, if any,  Inos played in his alleged criminal acts. The obvious role is accessory and enabler to a host of schemes.

Fitial's long time side kick, Eloy Inos is seeking re-election despite having some serious health issues, including diabetes, weekly kidney dialysis treatments, a recent heart procedure in the Philippines, and being hospitalized last week reportedly for the flu. Many question whether he is well enough to serve as the CNMI's top leader.

The duo began their partnership in Willy Tan's infamous L and T where both Fitial and Inos were executives.  There is something extremely ugly about immigrants like Tan treating other potential immigrants and foreigners as less than human, as labor units rather than as future citizens. Ugly also was the attitude of the executives towards the foreign workers.

In 2009 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission settled four discrimination lawsuits against L and T companies. The EEOC press release stated, " L and T Group of Companies, Ltd., the largest employer and conglomerate of garment manufacturers in Saipan, has agreed to pay $1.7 million and to provide far reaching and significant injunctive relief to settle a series of lawsuits filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that charged the company with retaliation and discrimination based on national origin, pregnancy and age, all in violation of federal law."

Eloy Inos served as a Tan executive from 1996 to 2006. He was vice-president of International Trade and government relations from 1996 to 2004, and vice-president for business development from 2004 to 2006.  He was called on to testify about the exploitation and discrimination for the EEOC case. His statement indicates he knew about the problems, but referred them to others.
In 1991 Willie Tan, owner of Tan Holdings was charged with the largest labor settlement with the U.S. Dept. of Labor in U.S. history. paying $9 million in back wages to cheated workers in his garment factories. He also paid $76,000 in OSHA violations and pledged $1.3 million in factory renovations. It is the less publicized, and perhaps more despicable treatment of L and T's  foreign workers that makes me cringe when I hear the names Tan, Fitial and Inos – the lack of adequate food, inaccessibility to drinking water, the deplorable living conditions, denial of proper medical treatment, termination of pregnant workers and alleged sexual abuses of female employees and on and on.

In 2010 Acting Governor Eloy Inos commuted the sentence of prisoner
Velma Jean Aldan Arriola who was sentenced in March 2010 to nine months in prison for "committing 30 counts of criminal offenses which included forgery, misuse of credit card, identity theft, theft by unlawful taking, and theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received." Arriola was a former employee at the Revenue and Taxation Office of the Department of Finance. Eloy Inos was the Secretary of Finance when she committed her crimes.

The Marianas Variety reported:
The prosecution said the signatures of six taxpayers were forged by Arriola to pay the tax obligations of six other taxpayers who paid their taxes in cash.

Arriola received a total of $383.27, but her scheme involved 12 individual accounts, and victimized six taxpayers, the prosecution stated.
The lieutenant governor cited humanitarian reasons for why he commuted his former employee's sentence.
From the Marianas Variety:
Superior Court Associate Judge Ramona Manglona said Arriola’s conduct “undermined the trust placed in the commonwealth government by its taxpaying citizens and residents. Collection of tax money is the foundation of the commonwealth government’s livelihood. Her conduct causes a serious strain on the social contract between the…government and the governed. The government must hold its employees to the highest standards, a breach of that trust must be punished.”

Inos cited “humanitarian reasons” in commuting Arriola’s sentence.

Inos said Arriola “received support in her request for leniency from Speaker Froilan C. Tenorio, and Rep. Rafael S. Demapan…and other members of the community.”

ArriolaInos said, is the primary caretaker of her ailing mother and disabled brother for several years.

She is also single mother with a 12-year-old minor son in need of nurturing and guidance, Inos added.

“Velma, being a female, is culturally most acceptable and natural to provide the necessary care and assistance that her mother needs,” Inos stated.

“Velma is most familiar, knowledgeable and understood the needs and manner of care-giving that her ailing mother and disabled brother deserve.”

Inos said Arriola “has expressed remorse and regret for her actions.”

All the victims have been reimbursed, he added, citing the information he received from the Department of Finance.

“The ends of justice are served by granting [her] an opportunity to continue the path to a successful, law-abiding life,” Inos stated in his order.
Where was the humanitarian concern for the exploited nonresident employees of L and T? For any of the legal, longterm nonresident workers?

Aside from years of well-publicized and documented labor abuses, there are the ties to felons that are attributed to Tan-owned companies, Fitial and Inos. Willie Tan, Benigno Fitial and Eloy Inos are linked to convicted felons, including Jack Abramoff, Michael Scanlon, Ed Buckham, Kevin Ring, Mark Zachares and others charged in the Abramoff lobbying scandal. Email exchanges between Tan, Abramoff and other felon--lobbyists appear in indictments, information and other court documents. The ties between Tan and Abramoff were also documented by U.S. and international press and documentaries such as Capitol Crimes by PBS.

In 1996 Jack Abramoff hosted Saipan garment magnate Willie Tan, his company executive, Benigno Fitial (former speaker of the CNMI House, former disgraced governor), and another Tan executive, Eloy Inos (former Secretary of Finance, Fitial's former lieutenant governor and present governor who is seeking re-election) at the 1996 Republican Convention held in San Diego, California.

It appears that the three CNMI visitors had a busy schedule at the GOP convention. Abramoff billed the CNMI for five days of meetings, meals, introductions to conservative members of Congress, and parties. Strategies were developed including plans to recruit still more potential CNMI-backers for junkets to the CNMI. From the billing records (emphasis added):
8/10/96 PP [Patrick Pizella] 2.70 Dinner meeting with W. Tan, E. Inos and B. Fitial re: CNMI issues—minimum wage , immigration and upcoming congressional elections and CNMI legislation; discussion re: upcoming trips of journalists and think tank representatives to CNMI and visits to Tan Holdings factory.
8/11/96 PP [Patrick Pizella] 4:30 Participate in event sponsored by Sen. Santorum's “FIGHT PAC” with W. Tan, E. Inos, B. Fitial and Senator Jim Jeffords (R-VT); follow-up luncheon/discussion with staff director of Senate Energy committee- G. Renkes; introduction of B. Fitial to Cong. Dan Burton (R-IN).
8/13/96 JA [Jack Abramoff] 4.00 Meetings at the Republican National Convention regarding Congressional Conservative Movement and Republican Party support for CNMI
8/13/96 JB [ Jonathan Blank ] 8:00 Meet with Saipan officials.
8/14/96 JA [Jack Abramoff] 4.00 Meetings at the Republican National Convention regarding Congressional Conservative Movement and Republican party support for CNMI
8/14/96 JA [Jack Abramoff] 8:00 Meet with Saipan officials.
8/15/96 JB [ Jonathan Blank ] 8:00 Meet with Saipan officials.
The CNMI government (taxpayers) was billed a total of 39 hours for those meetings.

In exchange for all of the opportunities to network and gather support, John Pangelinian, publisher of the Tan-owned newspaper, The Saipan Tribune, made two $5,000 contributions to Santorum's Fight PAC in August 2006.

Fitial, Inos and Tan were the recipients of the infamous July 30, 1997 Secret Memo sent by Abramoff to outline their schemes to halt federalization. The plan included planting editorials and newspaper articles written by the lobbying team, writing speeches for members of Congress to read on the floor of the House, penning "Dear Colleague" letters, manipulating congressional hearings, defunding the Office of Insular Affairs, and getting "enemies" of the CNMI (federalization supporters) fired.

Willie Tan set up a company called Rose Holdings to hire felon-lobbyist Jack Abramoff to block federalization in an effort to protect his family's business interests in the CNMI.  The Standard reported:
In May 2002, Abramoff notified the US Senate that Rose Garden had hired him and Greenberg Traurig, his firm at the time, to represent Rose Garden's "interests before federal agencies and [the] US Congress." Abramoff recorded Rose Garden's address as a luxury flat in Tai Hang, above Causeway Bay, and its business as international trade.

Over the next year and a half, the records show, Rose Garden paid Greenberg Traurig US$1.4 million (HK$10.92 million) for putting its case to the Senate, House of Representatives and US Department of Labor. Hong Kong's Companies Registry has no record of Rose Garden Holdings; nor does the telephone directory.

The apartment listed by Abramoff as Rose Garden's premises has been owned since 1992 by Luen Thai Shipping and Trading, according to the Land Registry. Luen Thai Holdings and its controlling shareholders, the Tan family, were leading beneficiaries of Abramoff's Washington lobbying.
An email exchange between Abramoff and Tan showed that Tan paid a quarterly fee of $55,919 for the sky boxes used by the lobbyists to bribe staffers and members of congress to protect the interests of their clients, including the CNMI.

When the CNMI government ran out of lobbying money in 1998, the Tan companies and Tan-run organizations came to the rescue, according to an Asian Sentinel article:
When the government stepped out, the private sector stepped back in. The Saipan Garment Manufacturers Association teamed with the Saipan Chamber of Commerce and two other local business groups to form the Western Pacific Economic Council, which in turn paid Preston Gates US$2.4 million in 1999 and 2000 for lobbying.
In fact, in March 1999 The Western Pacific Economic Council contracted Abramoff to lobby against CNMI federalization and a raise in the minimum wage. The lobbying firm continued the original game plan they had drafted with Governor Pedero P. Tenorio, Speaker Fitial, and garment magnate Willie Tan. Inos was employed as Tan's vice president.

The Tan-Inos relationship continues. Under the Inos Administration the Department of Public Lands is leasing 4.8 hectares with five buildings to Tan Holdings for $100 a year.

The CNMI's nonresident  and resident workers can thank Governor Inos for keeping their wages low. He worked with Delegate Sablan to successfully block the scheduled minimum wage increase. (Read this June 2014 blog entry, State of the Commonwealth Spits in the Face of the Nonresident Workers.)

Both Fitial and Inos opposed action on the 2010 U.S. DOI Report that called for upgraded status of the nonresident workers. Their administration supported maintaining the nonresidents' status as a disenfranchised underclass rather than backing the DOI recommendation.

Will the CNMI ever elect leaders who respect the nonresidents and view them as future citizens, rather than mere labor units? There are some signs of hope. Ed Probst was elected to the House of Representatives. Some of the nonresidents' U.S. Citizen children are grown and voting in elections. Soon one may run for office and win.

Until the time when there are enough CNMI elected officials willing to take a moral stand for the islands' nonresidents, CNMI nonresidents will have to turn to the U.S. Congress and President Obama for any help to gain them long-awaited action to improve their status.


Anonymous said...

You have Inos pegged very wrong.

Did you know that most of the heads of the Filipino organizations including those that participated in the organization of past marches and activities in support of improved immigration, have endorsed Inos? Primarily Filipino youth organizations have as well.

Anonymous said...

What Filipino organizations supported Inos? Human Dignity and other worker groups supported Hofschneider. What youth group supported Inos? Maybe Filipinos with jobs in his administration support him.

Anonymous said...

12:58 No, she has it right.

Anonymous said...

Inos is a humble man. The community knows this. He won by a landslide.

Anonymous said...

Humble or quiet? The community also voted in Fitial twice. So what does that say?