Rep. Edmund Villagomez's (Cov-Saipan) bill strengthening laws against sex crimes and domestic violence was the first bill to pass the 18th House of Representatives during its session yesterday that also saw the adoption of Rep. Teresita Santos' (R-Rota) House Resolution 18-3 recognizing Antenille Maratita Mendiola Santos for being the 2012 Teacher of the Year for Dr. Rita H. Inos Jr./Sr. High School.
Villagomez's House Bill 18-3 passed by a vote of 19-0 yesterday, weeks after Gov. Benigno R. Fitial vetoed his original bill because of “some very serious concerns.”
“We addressed the governor's concerns; we made further clarification so that there won't be misinterpretation of the law,” he said in an interview after the session.
HB 18-3, which now goes to the Senate, strengthens provisions regarding sex crimes and domestic violence by establishing minimum mandatory sentence for sexual assault and sexual abuse of a minor, increasing the time-served component necessary for parole eligibility, and amending existing definitions to clarify provisions relating to sex crimes and domestic violence.
During the session, Santos pointed to the absence of at least a brief committee report on the bill before the House votes on it. She said this will set bad precedent.
Villagomez said the bill took into consideration and addressed the governor's concerns on the bill, which are technical in nature, and worked closely with agencies and organizations dealing with these crimes.
Maisie Tenorio of the NMI Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence addressed the House during the session, urging the passage of the bill that she said addresses the concerns that stakeholders and the administration raised.
Villagomez also said his bill's findings explain how the bill addressed the governor's concerns. He said any technical errors that may have existed could easily have been addressed by the CNMI Law Revision Commission in the codification process.
HB 18-3 says any concerns that the bill would result in fewer convictions because of the increased penalties were unsupported.