‘A true statesman in every sense of the word’

THE commonwealth’s longest serving governor, Pedro “Teno” Pangelinan Tenorio, passed away on Monday morning. He was 84.

Teno was governor from 1982 to 1990, and from 1998 to 2002. During the Trust Territory era, he  served in the Congress of Micronesia and the Marianas District Legislature. He was vice president of the 1st CNMI Senate and president of the 2nd.

A daily Mass of intention is offered at  Mount Carmel Cathedral at 6 a.m. Details about the former governor’s interment will be announced later.

Pedro P. Tenorio

On Monday morning, Gov. Ralph D.L.G. Torres issued the following statement:

“As a mark of solemn respect for the life and service of the Honorable Pedro ‘Teno’ Pangelinan Tenorio, 2nd and 5th governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, I hereby order, that the flag of the Commonwealth, together with the flag of the United States, shall be flown at half-staff at the Juan Atalig Sablan Memorial Building and upon all public buildings, instrumentalities, and grounds until the day of his interment.”

In a separate statement, Governor Torres said:

“Diann, my family, and I join the Commonwealth in mourning the passing of the Honorable Pedro ‘Teno’ Pangelinan Tenorio. Our prayers are with his wife Sophie, his children, his family, and everyone who has had the privilege to meet and experience the passion this statesman had for our people and our islands.

“Governor Teno was a true statesman in every sense of the word. His commitment to our islands and our people was evident before this Commonwealth was even created. He was a former member of the Congress of Micronesia during the Trust Territory days. Later, he served our Commonwealth in the First Northern Marianas Commonwealth Legislature as a senator and eventually became president of the Senate in the Second Northern Marianas Commonwealth Legislature. He became our second governor from 1982 to 1990, and made history in 1998 by being elected a third time by our people.

“His leadership qualities represented the people he served as he worked tirelessly to provide a strong foundation for our young Commonwealth. Heading into the new millennium, he addressed the government’s dismal financial condition, reduced the deficit, and generated surpluses during his third term as governor. He oversaw the largest number of visitor arrivals to our islands and the peak of our Japanese tourism market. He improved our relationship with the federal government by seeking cooperation to help fix the Commonwealth’s labor and immigration situation. He also advocated for increased federal grant money to improve our islands’ infrastructure for the future, and it is represented every day when we walk into the Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center, a structure named in honor of him.

“But it was not just his service to the Commonwealth that made him special. It was his unquestioned love and passion for the Northern Mariana Islands and its people that made him memorable. There were certain qualities about him that one did not find in many people. Governor Teno had them and more.

“Diann and I visited Governor Teno just before his passing, and we are very saddened by the big loss for our islands. But we are very thankful for all the work he has done for the Commonwealth. I sincerely thank him for all his dedication at the very beginning of our Commonwealth, and we continue to support programs he began. He will not be forgotten.

“This Commonwealth will forever remember one of its most devoted public servants as a man whose dedication, intelligence, and integrity provided a foundation for our islands’ future progress.

“Gov. Pedro ‘Teno’ Pangelinan Tenorio has gone home now to his eternal home in the loving arms of our Dear Lord. He leaves us with the memories he gave us, the great deeds that he did, and the impact he had on every single person who ever met him. But most importantly, he left us a foundation for governance and service so that we can work towards creating a better life for the people of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

“Our islands will miss him dearly.”

U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan said former Governor Teno “leaves a long and distinguished legacy of service to the people of the Marianas, from his years as a member of the Congress of Micronesia, Marianas District Legislature, and Commonwealth Senate, to his three terms as our governor in the 1980s and 1990s. He stands as the longest-serving Governor in the history of the Northern Mariana Islands, and one of our most well-loved.”

Kilili added, “Governor Teno was also a dear husband to his wife Sophie, and a beloved father, grandfather, uncle, friend, and mentor —  famous for his generosity, his kindness, his sense of humor and keen understanding of people. He was one of my closest and greatest advisors, and I will miss his wise counsel. Andrea and I join the people of the Commonwealth in offering our sincerest sympathies to the Tenorio family, and especially Auntie Sophie, children, and grandchildren.”

CNMI lawmakers interviewed by this reporter also expressed sadness over the death of a beloved former governor.

Vice Speaker Janet Maratita said Teno was well loved by the people and was known for his humility.

“He really cared for the people, and words cannot really express our deepest sympathy but we will pray for the family in these difficult times,” she said.

Rep. Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero said:  “First I want to express my condolences and sympathy to the family, to his wife, auntie Sophie, and children. He was one of the most beloved governors in the CNMI, a very compassionate man who cared deeply for his people and his passing is a great loss for all of us.”

Rep. Joseph Leepan T. Guerrero said Teno “was a popular governor and made friends across political divisions and was known for his love of the CNMI community.  I join the CNMI community in expressing our deepest condolences to his family. Our thoughts and prayers are with former first lady Sophia and the entire Teno family as the CNMI honors a true public servant.”

Rep. Angel Demapan, for his part, said: “My family and I join the people of the Commonwealth in mourning the passing of the late Honorable Pedro P. Tenorio, former three-term governor of the CNMI. Governor Teno, as he was fondly known, contributed immensely to the formation of our Commonwealth. We extend our condolences to his wife, Sophie, their children and families, and especially to our personal friends, his son Perry and Perry’s wife Judge Teresa Kim-Tenorio. As we remember the work and legacy of an honorable statesman, a grateful Commonwealth remembers.”

Rep. Ed Propst  said it was a sad day for the Commonwealth as he expressed gratitude for the late former governor’s decades of public service and great love of the CNMI.

In a statement, Senate President Arnold I. Palacios said:

“It is with profound sadness we learn of the passing of the late Honorable Gov. Pedro ‘Teno’ Pangelinan Tenorio, who distinctively and honorably served the government and the people of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands as governor for three terms.

 “On behalf of the Senate and the people of the Commonwealth, I extend my heartfelt condolences and sincere sympathy to his wife, Mrs. Sofia P. Tenorio, and to their children, grandchildren and families. We are deeply grieved by the loss of the late Honorable Pedro Pangelinan Tenorio. He was a great statesman and champion of the people. He will be fondly remembered by all who had the privilege of working or interacting with him.”

The CNMI’s longest-serving lawmaker, Sen. Paul A. Manglona, said: “When I was first elected into the Senate in 1987, Governor Teno was in the middle of his second gubernatorial term. I had the opportunity to work with the late governor on many issues.  He had a way of working with members of the Legislature, regardless of which side of the political aisle you were on. He could get along with every member. My wife, Lydia, and I join all the people of the Commonwealth in expressing our deepest condolences to the former first lady, Sophie, and their family,  relatives, and friends.”

Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang described Teno as a “dedicated public servant.”

“It is difficult to find words to express our sorrow for the  passing  of former   Governor   Teno,  as  he  was  most fondly  known,  who  left us this morning  to be with our  Lord  in his Kingdom,” the mayor said in a statement on Monday.

The mayor said he and his staff are extending their deepest condolences  to former first lady Sophia Tenorio,  their children, family members and close friends.

Apatang said that Teno’s tenure as governor  “established  the foundations  upon which “our current  successes   sprang  and  continue  to  do  so.”

He said Teno worked hard to ensure  that the CNMI  stayed the course toward self-sufficiency and remained a competitor in the Asia-Pacific and global economy. 

 “We will miss him dearly and will always thank him for the vision he charted for our Commonwealth.

“Si Yuus Maase,  Ghilisow,  and thank  you Governor Tenor for all your efforts  and for all the work  you did for our people.   We will always remember you in our prayers,” Apatang said.

(With Junhan B. Todino and Emmanuel T. Erediano)