Marianas Variety

Last updateThu, 24 Oct 2019 12am







    Wednesday, October 23, 2019-2:09:56A.M.






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Impeach the governor

MEMBERS of the House minority bloc, appalled by the administration’s $190 million deal with a mysterious firm, will call for the impeachment of Gov. Benigno R. Fitial next week.

The original draft of resolution contains 16 articles of impeachment and mentions the controversial $392,000 sole-source contract awarded to former Commerce Secretary Mike Ada to handle American Recovery and Reinvestment Act projects a couple of years ago.

They also cite the release from  detention of a federal inmate to give Fitial a massage as well as a meet-and-greet gathering that then-Attorney General Edward T. Buckingham hosted at the governor’s house in Gualo Rai.

The resolution is expected to have two additional articles: obstruction of justice, when Fitial’s personal security aide Jermaine Nekaifes and Department of Public Safety Deputy Commissioner Ambrosio Ogumoro escorted Buckingham to the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport on Aug. 4 despite the charges filed agains the then-AG; and the signing of the $190 million power purchase agreement with Saipan Development LLC on Aug. 3, Buckingham’s supposed last day in office as AG. Saipan Development was awarded the contract five days after it was formed by still unknown individuals.

Last month, lawmakers supporting the impeachment proceedings failed to win over a pro-Fitial House member who would have cast the decisive 14th vote needed to impeach the governor.

According to the CNMI Constitution, the House, which has 20 seats, “may initiate impeachment proceedings by the affirmative vote of two-thirds of its members.” Although Fitial’s allies are no longer in the majority, they still have the number to block an impeachment resolution.

But the two latest controversies involving the governor have prompted the minority bloc to move ahead with the impeachment proceedings.

In separate interviews, House Minority Leader Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero, R-Saipan; Reps. Ray N. Yumul, R-Saipan; and Frank S. Dela Cruz, R-Saipan confirmed that the impeachment resolution will be introduced during next week’s session.

Deleon Guerrero said  yesterday’s hearing in the Senate regarding the no-bid $190 million CUC contract is part of the investigation process on the latest article of impeachment. He said documents have been gathered and the contract’s legality is now being checked.

Corruption and negligence are grounds for impeachment, he noted.

“It’s now obvious that the executive order [declaring a state of emergency for CUC] was designed to circumvent the law and Commonwealth Public Utilities Commission’s review and approval,” Deleon Guerrero said.

Dela Cruz said he was “very appalled” by the $190 million power purchase contract that Fitial plans to award a company that appears to have been created hastily.

Saipan Development LLC was incorporated in Delaware five days before the governor awarded the 25-year contract.

Dela Cruz said he was also appalled by the incident at the airport where Buckingham was escorted by Fitial’s men despite the criminal charges filed against the then-AG.

These recent developments, he added, “added fuel to the fire.”

Yumul said he is ready to support the impeachment.

Although he still doubts if they will get the required 14 votes, Yumul said a public outcry should compel the governor’s allies, especially those who are seeking reelection, to eventually support the impeachment.

Yumul said he was just trying to be objective when he said earlier that they had to come up with strong evidence in order to  impeach the governor.

If the governor is impeached by the House, the nine-member Senate needs six votes to convict him.