Various illnesses are putting a serious dent on the capability of some lawmakers from showing up during sessions in either the House of Representatives or Senate.
Based on attendance alone, Rep. Froilan Tenorio (Cov-Saipan) and Sen. Luis Crisostimo (R-Saipan) have the worst record among 29 House and Senate members, for missing 60 percent or nine of the 15 sessions held from April to September 2012, including during deliberations and passage of the fiscal year 2013 budget. Their poor attendance was a result of off-island medical treatment.
Their attendance records show “absent excused.”
Nine lawmakers-six from the House and three from the Senate-had perfect attendance during the period under review. These are based on records from the Senate and House Clerks' offices. They include House minority leader Joe Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan), Rep. Ralph Demapan (Cov-Saipan), Rep. Stanley Torres (Ind-Saipan), Rep. Joe Palacios (R-Saipan), Rep. Tony Sablan (Ind-Saipan), Rep. Ray Tebuteb (R-Saipan), Senate President Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota), Senate floor leader Pete Reyes (R-Saipan), and Sen. Juan Ayuyu (Ind-Rota).
Demapan said it's always good to be present during sessions, although it's not the only measure of a lawmaker's competence.
“Being always there sets a good example, and it's about living up to the confidence that people gave you to represent them. I always try to be there on sessions so that I can represent the interests of Precinct 2 and the whole CNMI. I take my job seriously so I am there all the time,” said Demapan, chairman of the Judiciary and Government Operations Committee.
Tenorio and Crisostimo each missed nine of the 15 sessions. A former governor, Tenorio has been in Hawaii and Arizona for medical treatment and recuperation. He is still in Arizona.
Crisostimo has also been making several trips to the U.S. mainland to receive treatment for his throat cancer.
Unlike Tenorio who is stepping down after January 2013, Crisostimo is seeking re-election in the Nov. 6 mid-term elections.
Sen. Henry San Nicolas (Cov-Tinian) ranked second among lawmakers with most number of absences, missing seven or 47 percent of the 15 sessions held. San Nicolas is not seeking re-election.
Rep. Fred Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan), seeking re-election, missed four or 27 percent of sessions. Deleon Guerrero also has a medical condition that requires him to seek off-island treatment and recuperation.
Five lawmakers missed three or 20 percent of those sessions-House Speaker Eli Cabrera (R-Saipan), Rep. Sylvester Iguel (R-Saipan), Rep. Janet Maratita (Ind-Saipan), Sen. Frank Cruz (R-Tinian), and Senate Vice President Jude Hofschneider (R-Tinian).
Another five lawmakers missed two or 13 percent of the sessions. They included Rep. Trenton Conner (R-Tinian), Rep. Ray Palacios (Cov-Saipan), Rep. Ray Yumul (Ind-Saipan), Sen. Jovita Taimanao (Ind-Rota), and Sen. Ralph Torres (R-Saipan).
Six House members had one absence each: Reps. Ray Basa (R-Saipan), George Camacho (R-Saipan), Frank Dela Cruz (Ind-Saipan), Felicidad Ogumoro (R-Saipan), Teresita Santos (R-Rota), and Edmund Villagomez (Cov-Saipan).
Some of the lawmakers' absences were for official off-island business, including summits and training.
House minority leader Joe Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan), who is among those with perfect attendance, said that one of the most important responsibilities of lawmakers is to be present at sessions so they can deliberate on all the issues before them.
“Not being there, you can't deliberate on any of the bills, you cannot vote on bills. If you are absent, you fail to represent the people,” he told Saipan Tribune yesterday.
Rep. Joe Palacios (R-Saipan), also with perfect attendance, said he “pledges my commitment for our people because they deserve good representation.”
Rep. Edmund Villagomez (Cov-Saipan), who was absent once during the period under review, said to a certain extent, being there during sessions is one of the measures of a good lawmaker because it is during sessions when “laws are proposed, made, amended, and acted on.”
“And if you're not consistently present, how can you call yourself a lawmaker when you're not there to help 'make' the laws?” he said.
The 17th Legislature is so far the only Legislature with a three-year term because of a constitutional amendment. Previous and future Legislatures have two-year terms.