Incoming House speaker Joe Deleon Guerrero led four other representatives yesterday in walking out from the House of Representatives' session when the body voted in favor of allowing Gov. Benigno R. Fitial to deliver his State of the Commonwealth Address.
Deleon Guerrero (IR-Saipan) had strongly objected to having the House receive the governor's address.
Deleon Guerrero said the governor's speech should be delivered before the 18th Legislature or the incoming body and not before the sine die of the 17th Legislature.
Deleon Guerrero also noted that the Senate has not agreed to hold a joint session just to receive Fitial's SOCA.
House Speaker Eliceo Cabrera (R-Saipan) explained that he invited the governor to deliver his SOCA in conjunction with his annual financial report.
When the House's legal counsel stated that Fitial can deliver his address, the body decided to hold a vote.
Deleon Guerrero's objection was defeated, 10-9. The eight others who voted against the SOCA were Reps. Ray N. Yumul (IR-Saipan), Frank Dela Cruz (IR-Saipan), Tony Sablan (IR-Saipan), Trenton Conner (IR-Tinian), Edmund Villagomez (Covenant-Saipan), Janet Maratita (IR-Saipan), Ralph Demapan (Covenant-Saipan), and Ramon A. Tebuteb (IR-Saipan).
The defeat prompted Deleon Guerrero and four others-Yumul, Dela Cruz, Sablan, and Conner-to stand up and walk out of the chamber.
Cabrera ordered a five-minute recess. After a few minutes, Fitial entered the chamber and delivered his State of the Commonwealth Address.
In a later interview, Yumul said the governor should have done this address sooner and at least give the courtesy to the incoming 18th Legislature, especially to new members that want to hear his plans and how he wants to address the economic status of the CNMI.
“Once we come in as the 18th Legislature, if the governor wants to come back and restate his address, I will be more than happy to hear it,” Yumul said.
Sablan said the governor has gone on the record in past years that he does not need to appear before any body at the Legislature to present his SOCA.
“Why present the SOCA to the outgoing Legislature?” Sablan asked.
Sablan said the incoming 18th Legislature should be afforded the opportunity to hear the state of the Commonwealth and the governor's future economic and financial proposals.
Speaker Cabrera said the governor delivered the State of the Commonwealth Address at his invitation. “It's an invitation that he can say no or yes. It's a message to the public,” Cabrera added.