After the CNMI's nine delegate votes for presidential candidate Mitt Romney was announced at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, Gov. Benigno R. Fitial introduced himself and said, “We are the newest U.S. territory to join the American political family in 1978. We are proud to be here. We are strong believers in God. We believe in America, and voting Romney today, or tonight, we believe in Governor Mitt Romney. Along with that, all our delegate votes, the next president of the United States, Governor Mitt Romney.”
Video footage of that moment also shows press secretary Angel Demapan right beside Fitial.
Behind them were the governor's candidate for CNMI delegate to Congress, Dr. Ignacia “Acha” Demapan and businessmen Joe Lifoifoi and Herman Sablan, among others.
The CNMI delegation was seated in the front of the convention center with delegations from the other U.S. territories, reportedly to show the GOP's “diversity.”
The crowd applauded the CNMI delegation to the Republican event, as well as Fitial's statement.
But some 8,000 miles away, some CNMI lawmakers and community members have been calling for Fitial's impeachment for multiples acts of corruption, neglect of duty, and felony.
The House minority bloc's Aug. 27 pre-filing of a resolution impeaching Fitial and the events of the days before and after that, including a secretive $190.8-million power purchase agreement for 25 years, have also been drawing national media coverage.
“I see it as an embarrassment to the people of the CNMI. I say that because of the recent events that popped up, the purchase agreement,” said Rep. Frank Dela Cruz (R-Saipan), one of the seven House members who co-authored the impeachment resolution.
House Speaker Eli Cabrera (R-Saipan) separately said yesterday that during the next House session either on Tuesday or Wednesday, he will formally create a special committee on impeachment and its members will also be announced on the floor.
“I say it again, this is a serious matter so this has to be reviewed by a special committee. I can't say more, and will let this committee do its job,” said Cabrera.
Florida-based human rights activist and former CNMI teacher Wendy Doromal, in her blog, commented on Fitial's remarks at the Republican National Convention.
“I do not know why in the world the CNMI delegation would select that phrase [We are strong believers in God] as their defining statement. Perhaps the CNMI delegation wanted to convince themselves and others that the corrupt governor and his followers are not really self-serving, corrupt, greedy opportunists, but are really good' Christians? Strange even for Fitial,” Doromal said.
Senate President Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota) said the CNMI is in crisis concerning healthcare, utilities, and pension system yet the governor chose to travel off-island for three weeks not only for official but also for personal or political reason.
Back in March, Fitial had this message to Manglona and other lawmakers who criticized him over his “stupid people” remark, “Tell them to come back to Jesus.”
Fitial left Saipan for Hawaii, American Samoa, Tampa in Florida, and is on his way to Boise, Idaho for the CNMI community's annual Labor Day baseball tournament there, wherein he is expected to campaign for his Republican candidates in the CNMI's Nov. 6 mid-term elections.
Cecilia Lifoifoi, wife of UMDA's Joe Lifoifoi, and Claire Blanco, wife of Diego Blanco of GPPC, were also interviewed by the media in Florida.
“Cecilia Lifoifoi, from the Northern Mariana Islands, lives 8,000 miles away from Tampa and had to cross an ocean to serve as an alternate delegate. She says she and her husband, who is a delegate, spent 18 hours in the air traveling to the convention,” Raycom News Network wrote.
RNN also wrote, “Claire Blanco, sporting a 'Romney/Ryan 2012' hat and jacket full of buttons, also is an alternate delegate from the Northern Mariana Islands.”
Delegates from the U.S. territories such as the CNMI can help nominate a candidate in the convention but their people cannot vote for a presidential candidate in the national general election in November.