Gov. Benigno R. Fitial's administration said yesterday it is concentrating its resources “on the more current and pressing matter” of the double homicide in San Vicente at this time, while it has yet to know the cost and legal procedures involved in extraditing former attorney general Edward T. Buckingham.
Incoming House Speaker Joe Deleon Guerrero (IR-Saipan) said he doesn't see any reason how “writing a letter” to U.S. Attorney Alicia Limtiaco to initiate Buckingham's extradition could “jeopardize” a double murder investigation.
Attorney General Joey Patrick San Nicolas, meanwhile, has yet to make a recommendation to the governor on the issue of extradition as of yesterday.
Yesterday marked the 12th day since Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) informed San Nicolas on Dec. 5 that the U.S. Department of Justice is willing to pursue Buckingham but a request from San Nicolas to U.S. Attorney Alicia Limtiaco “would be necessary to initiate Mr. Buckingham's capture.”
San Nicolas, however, assured lawmakers that “no criminal defendant should be allowed to evade justice, no one.”
Senate floor leader Pete Reyes (IR-Saipan) pointed out yesterday that while San Nicolas agreed with lawmakers' position, he “didn't offer a solution to the problem.”
“I have high regard for the current AG. But I'm very concerned he has not expressed any explanation to address and take care of the problem. He never said he'll write to Limtiaco or search for any money for this,” Reyes said.
Private citizens and elected officials earlier said they would donate money or raise funds to cover the extradition costs, although Lt. Gov. Eloy S. Inos said there's no need to do so because while cost is a factor, it is not a deciding factor.
Lawmakers pointed out that Buckingham “continues to be a fugitive from justice,” after the CNMI Supreme Court denied the former AG's petition to overturn the trial court's order declaring him so.
Despite his concerns, Reyes reiterated that he hopes San Nicolas “will do the right thing.”
The AG had said he is “not at liberty to state with specificity what I will do at this time” but he said he agreed with the delegate that extraditing Buckingham to the CNMI “would help restore trust and confidence” in the Office of the Attorney General.
Press secretary Angel Demapan echoed yesterday Lt. Gov. Eloy S. Inos' statement on Friday that the extradition “is more of a legal policy issue and we have not come to that point yet.”
He said “at this point in time, the administration doesn't know what the cost would be as well as the legal procedures of such an undertaking.”
“At this time, the administration is concentrating its resources on the more current and pressing matter of the tragic double homicide case that has shaken our community,” Demapan added.
Demapan was referring to the discovery of the bodies of a husband and wife in a San Vicente home on Dec. 8, two days after they were believed to have been murdered when they were not able to pick up their 6-year-old son in school that Thursday, Dec. 6.
“This case is an extreme criminal case that warrants all our investigative and legal resources as authorities try to get to the bottom of such a gruesome crime that has no place in our community, and more importantly, has left a young innocent child without his parents,” the press secretary added.
Deleon Guerrero said writing a letter to Limtiaco to initiate the extradition proceeding won't jeopardize the double homicide investigation.
“It's a matter of making a decision,” he said in a phone interview.
Buckingham is facing criminal charges in connection with his alleged hosting of a political campaign in 2010 for the governor's delegate candidate, and approval of a sole-source ARRA management contract. The complaint was later amended to include obstruction of justice in August 2012 when he allegedly used police and ports police officers to shield him from being served a penal summons.
He left the CNMI a day after signing a no-bid, $190.8-million power purchase agreement, now under preliminary injunction. That agreement was among the issues in a defeated resolution impeaching the governor for 16 allegations of corruption, neglect of duty, and felony. The impeachment resolution will be re-introduced in January.