House Speaker Eli Cabrera (R-Saipan) and the rest of the House leadership removed Rep. Janet U. Maratita (Ind-Saipan) as chairperson of the Committee on Education while she was conducting a panel meeting yesterday, in the wake of a court case that Maratita filed to stop Gov. Benigno R. Fitial and others from pursuing a secretive $190.8-million power purchase agreement.
Maratita is also one of the seven co-sponsors of a milestone resolution impeaching the governor.
“It's clearly an act of desperation and intimidation,” Maratita told Saipan Tribune.
The House leadership is aligned with the governor.
“Pursuant to the request of the majority of the chairmen of the House Standing Committees, I am removing Rep. Janet U. Maratita as chair of the Committee on Education and appointing Rep. Ramon S. Basa as acting chair of the Committee on Education,” Cabrera said in a one-page memo to Maratita.
Basa's committee is now racing against time to work with some senators in coming up with a “compromise” version of the $114 million budget bill for fiscal year 2013 before the Sept. 30 deadline or the government will be forced to shut down.
Maratita said it was “ironic” that she was removed while she was conducting a meeting of the Committee on Education to address the last four bills referred to her panel.
“They fired me while I was doing my job. But I respect the speaker and the leadership's decision. I graciously accepted this appointment, and I graciously accepted their termination of me as committee chair. The speaker believes he's the rule. Let it be. And let the people judge his and the leadership's actions,” Maratita added.
This is the second time during the 17th Legislature that there's been a change in the Education Committee chairmanship.
Last year, Rep. Ray Palacios (Cov-Saipan) resigned as panel chair amid drug charges against him following an arrest. Palacios remains a member of the House of Representatives but is not seeking re-election.
Rep. Joe Palacios (R-Saipan), a member of the House leadership, said the chairmanship was offered to Maratita last year on the premise that she will be aligned with the majority, only for the leadership to find out later on that she has aligned herself with the minority.
“With all due respect to Rep. Maratita, she's not with the leadership anymore so it's only fair that the leadership chooses somebody who is with them. It's about loyalty,” Palacios said.