The House minority bloc has reduced to a “handful” the articles of impeachment contained in a resolution calling for Gov. Benigno R. Fitial's impeachment, to ensure each one of them specifically points to “corruption or neglect of duty.”
The planned impeachment resolution also inspired a concerned citizen to hold a placard that reads, “Honk. impeachment,” that drew support from passing motorists on a road leading to Capital Hill on Saturday.
That concerned citizen, who requested the media not to publish her name but agreed to be photographed, said she represents the “silent majority” already fed up with the corruption and other bad things happening in government.
“I am supporting those House minority members, including Congressman Joe Guerrero and (Ray) Tebuteb, in their call for impeachment,” the woman said. “A lot of people are afraid to talk because they might lose their government job. But this needs to be done. People must stand up for people.”
Motorists were honking their horns as they passed by the woman holding the placard, near Mobil station in Sadog Tasi.
House minority leader Joe Deleon Guerrero (R-Saipan) and Rep. Frank Dela Cruz (R-Saipan) separately said the articles of impeachment have been reduced “to only a handful” to make it as solid as possible, focusing on “corruption or neglect of duty” and taking away those that only have “ethical” violations.
Article III Section 19 of the NMI Constitution states in part that “the governor and lieutenant governor are subject to impeachment . for treason, commission of a felony, corruption, or neglect of duty.”
“The articles of impeachment are still in the works and we're hoping to profile or introduce the resolution this week. The constitution is very specific as to the grounds for impeachment, so some articles dealing only with ethical issues have been removed. What we will have is a resolution showing that the acts the governor had done are corrupt or neglect of his duty,” Deleon Guerrero said.
Deleon Guerrero earlier said the way the 25-year, $190.8-million power purchase agreement was crafted and the manner in which it was executed “reeks of corruption.”
Fitial and former attorney general Edward Buckingham signed that no-bid PPA on Aug. 3, to supply Saipan with a diesel-operated power plant.
That questionable power purchase agreement will be included in the resolution.
Deleon Guerrero and Dela Cruz said while there might not be enough votes to pass the impeachment resolution as of today, that number could change once the evidence start to pile up and once people start pressuring the lawmakers in their precincts.
“If the impeachment process were to be done by the public instead of lawmakers, I'm pretty sure there would be enough votes,” Deleon Guerrero added.
Deleon Guerrero described this growing movement to support impeachment as “monumental” in CNMI history.
Dela Cruz, for his part, said something has to be done to prevent the CNMI from having a government that does not follow its own laws and regulations.
“It's very shameful if we just sit back and watch the Commonwealth crumble, when laws and rules are circumvented,” he said, referring to the sole-source contract that ties CNMI taxpayers for 25 years without them knowing about it prior to Fitial's signing of the agreement.
Even those outside the minority bloc are poised to support the resolution.
Rep. Ralph Demapan (Cov-Saipan) said yesterday he is poised to support the impeachment resolution, but said the absolute response would be after he has fully reviewed the articles of impeachment.
Demapan is chair of the House Judiciary and Governmental Operations, now reviewing the PPA, as requested by House Speaker Eli Cabrera (R-Saipan). Cabrera said the PPA might be a form of public debt that needs the Legislature's approval.
But long before the 25-year PPA came out, talks about impeaching the governor had already been brewing.
The articles of impeachment as drafted months ago included the temporary release of a federal inmate to give Fitial a massage during wee hours, and Fitial's signing of a sole-source ARRA management contract to former Commerce secretary Michael Ada within days of his resignation from the Cabinet.
Recent developments have made the minority bloc redraft their resolution, and they are looking at Fitial's possible link to the use of armed police and ports police officers to help shield former attorney general Edward Buckingham from being served a penal summons in connection with criminal charges filed against him.