Rep. Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan) said that House Bill 20-43 HD2, which passed the House of Representatives Thursday last week, only clarifies the duties and responsibilities of Attorney General Edward Manibusan and does than clip his power.
Blanco told Saipan Tribune that his bill merely clarifies the duties and responsibilities of the attorney general.
According to the bill, the attorney general should be the first in the line of defense for the CNMI government agencies in legal battles. It mandates the attorney general to represent, defend, and stand by the CNMI government’s wishes.
Blanco made the clarification to counter the arguments raised by opposing lawmakers.
Blanco pointed out that the attorney general still retains the authority to review all contracts and documents of the government but only for legal sufficiency and upon the request of the agency. Whether or not the contract would push through for implementation would depend on the agency head.
“The drafting and approving of regulations and contracts should rest with department heads and agency heads,” said Blanco.
In a letter to the U.S. Supreme Court dated June 30, 2017, Manibusan had stated that, despite filing of a petition to re-appeal the Davis vs CNMI case on Article XII, he did not authorize the filing of the petition.
It was reported by Blanco that Gov. Ralph DLG Torres had sought the support of Manibusan to represent the CNMI in the re-appeal. Manibusan reportedly declined. When Torres sought the assistance of an external legal counsel, Manibusan said in the same letter that, according to CNMI law, only the attorney general could represent the CNMI government and its agencies.
As provided in H.B. 20-43 HD2, if the attorney general declines to legally represent the CNMI government in a case, then the CNMI government may seek external legal representation.
The provision was inserted during Thursday’s House session and was passed by the House.
The bill now awaits Senate action.