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House rejects proposed judiciary procurement rules

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FOLLOWING a lengthy debate, the House of Representatives on Thursday rejected the proposed NMI Judiciary Rules on Procurement as recommended by the House Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations.

During the public comments early on in the session, Director of Courts Sonia Camacho urged lawmakers to approve the proposal of the judiciary.

Also present for the discussions were Associate Justice Perry Inos, Presiding Judge Roberto Naraja, Clerk of the Supreme Court Gretchen Smith, budget and finance director John Villagomez, general counsel and executive director of the Commonwealth Law Revision Commission Hyun Jae Lee, and Commonwealth Law Revision Commission staff attorney Judy Aldan.

 

The House of Representatives encourages the judiciary to resubmit its proposal and include comments from the secretary of Finance. Photo by K-Andrea Evarose S. Limol

Nearly all members of the House provided statements during the discussions on Standing Committee Report 21-58, regarding Judicial Branch Communication 21-7 from Chief Justice Alexandro C. Castro to Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao.

Although the communication from the judiciary was submitted to lawmakers on March 23, well before the May 22 deadline, the government shutdown in light of the Covid-19 pandemic caused delays in receiving necessary comments from pertinent government agencies.

The chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations, Rep. Joel Camacho, along with nearly a majority of the committee members, noted that proposed procurement rules included comments from the former secretary of Finance, but not from her successor, David DLG Atalig.

The committee members said they do not oppose the intent of the proposed procurement rules as they encouraged the judiciary to resubmit their proposal with the proper documentation.

Upon resubmission, the committee will reconvene to expedite the approval of the proposal of the judiciary, Camacho said.

The committee vice chairman, Vice Speaker Lorenzo Deleon Guerrero, said although he signed the committee report to reject the proposal of the judiciary, he felt that the new information he received that morning addressed the concerns that he and his colleagues had regarding the proposal.

The other committee members reiterated, however, that because there was a lack of necessary comments from certain departments/agencies, the committee could not endorse the approval of the proposal of the judiciary.

Rep. Joseph Leepan T. Guerrero said it was important that the House “respect the process.”

For her part, Rep. Tina Sablan said, “There is nothing wrong with changing your mind.”

In the end, the House voted 13-6 to reject the proposal of the judiciary while encouraging the government branch to submit a new one, and meet the criteria set by the committee when providing supporting information, including comments from the pertinent departments/agencies.

Those who were against rejecting the proposal of the judicial branch were Vice Speaker Deleon Guerrero, Reps. Tina Sablan, Sheila Babauta, Roman Benavente, Luis John Castro, and Ralph Yumul.

Rep. Marco Peter was excused from Thursday’s session.

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