From Wednesday's Saipan Tribune: “Gov. Benigno R. Fitial’s administration said yesterday that the alleged offenses contained in a pre-filed resolution impeaching him 'do not rise to the levels of impeachment proceedings' but is only a 'smear' campaign against him. He also described its movers as 'disgruntled lawmaker using the issue for political gains in the Nov. 6 mid-term elections.'”
There are three bald-faced lies here, which the legislators and the public ought to consider. 1) The offenses certainly do “rise to the levels of impeachment proceedings.” The midnight massage incident was eminently impeachable; the other offenses are grave. 2) It is not a smear campaign at all; it is holding the governor accountable and he doesn't much like it. 3) Of course the lawmakers are disgruntled, so are many of the citizenry. This comes from immense frustration that the governor has severely damaged the CNMI and its institutions.
“Governor Fitial knows that the proponents know this, but it appears they are pressing forward only because of imagined political advantage in an election year,” (press secretary Angel) Demapan stated.”
There is not a spec of evidence to support this. It is speculation without foundation.
“Demapan said, 'No one in Commonwealth history has been so thoroughly and unfairly scrutinized as Governor Fitial, yet they have to resort to a hastily crafted list of allegations that include incidents from two years ago that never saw any charges brought forth against him.'”
The scrutiny is certainly fair, as it is with any politician. As far as the incidents two years ago (the midnight massage) Demapan raised a good question. I also wondered why the feds didn't prosecute Fitial.
Here is why the impeachment proceedings are happening now. Eyebrows were certainly raised when a cordon of police officers accompanied Mr. Buckingham to the airport and assaulted Ms. Sablan. Although this is not impeachable on its face, it does suggest the flagrant misuse of public funds and personnel. Soon after, the scandal involving Saipan Development LLC, came to light. This was obviously done in secret and the lawmakers took umbrage. These two incidents touched the fuse of impeachment for many. It didn't take long for some of the house members to list other offenses, including the massage incident. The reasons were simple: Fitial has consistently abused his authority, has been in violation of the constitution, and needs-at long last-to be held accountable.
“The House minority leader said all these led the minority bloc to reach the decision to impeach Fitial.” Yes, that's the point.
“'Fitial has continuously flaunted that he has authority to do whatever he wants. That pushed us to the edge and who knows-if we didn’t do this, what else would he do? And we’re not done yet with this,'” Deleon Guerrero stated.
Deleon Guerrero is wise-not because of past offenses committed by the governor, but to prevent any further abuse of power or misconduct.
Demapan: “[The legislators] are unfortunately allowing emotions to run over the strict guidelines of impeachment proceedings.”
Emotions are a useful barometer of how the Legislature, and the community, feel as a whole. Many are angry, and justifiably so. But there is no evidence to suggest that emotions played a direct role in drafting the articles of impeachment. The “Seven” are cool-headed and articulate in their defense of the articles.
“The articles of impeachment contained in this second attempt are solely designed to smear Governor Fitial and are more so driven for personal gain in the upcoming midterm elections,” Demapan said.
Again, there is no evidence to support this accusation. It is speculation with the intent to deflect the argument away from Fitial's misconduct by attacking the legislators' motives. And yet, the “Seven” have gained some new-found respect and stature among the “disgruntled” citizens. If they are re-elected, then more power to them.
“Demapan said the community still trembles at the edge of financial challenges, tourism arrivals still need to be increased, the new budget has yet to be passed, 'yet some lawmakers are only worrying about trying to successfully impeach a governor they failed to impeach in 2008.'”
If the CNMI is at the edge of financial “challenges” (a nice word for collapse) then the governor is, in large part, responsible. He did not bring forth the prosperity and “better times” he had promised. As well, the CNMI has deteriorated significantly under his watch, and now push has come to shove. If anyone is to blame for this mess, it's governor Fitial, who has consistently exercised poor judgment. Remember, this is the same man who wanted to sell one of the northern islands to the Chinese, and to allow the Japanese to dump waste on the pristine island of Pagan. These are certainly not impeachable offense, but it shows a reckless disregard for the people and property of the CNMI.
And, for the record, there was no attempt at impeachment in 2008, though it may have been privately discussed.
“Rep. Joe Palacios (R-Saipan), for his part, said lawmakers shouldn’t be the judge, prosecutor, and juror at the same time.”
There is no evidence that they have acted in these roles. What they did is to draw up a list of offenses. Did they judge? No, but they did use their powers of discernment to evaluate the governor's conduct. It is right and proper that they should do this.
Did they prosecute? Hardly. Are they jurors? Not in a court of law, they aren't. What they did was their jobs, under the guidelines of the constitution.
Mr. Fitial and Mr. Demapan remind me of the old wrestling shows on TV. When a guy got hit fairly, he would yelp to the referee, feign injury, and make a lot of noise. That is exactly what the administration is doing now.