Former CNMI Superior Court presiding judge Edward Manibusan vowed to help ensure a “safer” community with a “strong rule of law” as he announced Saturday his plan to run for attorney general in the November polls, marking the first time in CNMI history when voters will get to elect their highest law enforcement official.
Manibusan is the first to publicly announce his AG candidacy, two years after CNMI voters ratified in 2012 House vice speaker Frank Dela Cruz’s (Ind-Saipan) legislative initiative making the attorney general position an elected one.
“It’s going to be a long road. It’s going to be a tough job, but I’m ready for the challenge,” Manibusan told a crowd of supporters, colleagues, family and friends at his Fina Sisu residence early Saturday afternoon.
The CNMI attorney general position has always been a governor-appointed one.
Manibusan also introduced on Saturday his campaign team, led by chair Jack Diaz, vice chair/secretary Debora Fisher, treasurer Elsie Villagomez, and member Gil Muña.
Diaz said he’s “humbled” and “honored” to take the challenge of leading Manibusan’s campaign team, which he later said also has Lilly Aldan as a member.
Fisher, who has worked for Manibusan since 1998, said Manibusan is a “remarkable person and judge,” and will be an “incredible” first CNMI attorney general.
At the gathering, the campaign team also played a short video of Manibusan’s campaign statement, most of which are also contained in a written statement issued to reporters on site.
‘Nobody should be above the law’
Manibusan, who served as a former judge and presiding judge of the CNMI Superior Court, said the CNMI needs “a system that everyone believes in and that is fair for everyone.”
“My focus as AG will be to provide a trustworthy Office of the Attorney General. I will make sure that the law is followed by individuals and government alike. Nobody should be above the law,” he said.
Manibusan also served as justice pro tem of the CNMI Supreme Court and Supreme Court of Guam. He is a former U.S. District court judge designate. His public service has also included serving as a former head of the CNMI Department of Public Safety, public defender and prosecutor.
“I want our children to have a bright future, and I will work to prevent juvenile crime through community outreach and youth programs. But individuals who break the law, whether they are underage or adults, must be held responsible for their crimes,” he added.
Manibusan currently maintains a private practice while serving as civilian aide to the U.S. Secretary of the Army, Department of the Army, Washington, D.C., and chairman of the Judicial Discipline Enforcement Special Court of Guam.
“As a lifelong member of this community, I believe we share common goals: a safe community for our children and for our visitors; a strong rule of law which in turn welcomes development and strengthens the economy; fair treatment of all citizens by the criminal justice system; tough but fair prosecutions which are based on solid investigations; and an AG’s office which is free from political partisanship,” he said.
Manibusan resigned as chairman of the CNMI Democratic Party on Jan. 1. His supporters come from different political parties and independents.
Besides his legal background, Manibusan has also supported community youth programs including serving as chairman of the Youth Advisory Council-Office of the Governor from 2006 to 2010. During that time, he worked to implement federal funding for criminal justice youth programs. He reviewed projects, including youth community centers where children could come after school to study, after-school programs, and youth basketball programs.
Manibusan is also the founder and president of the Northern Marianas Junior Golf Club League, and served on the board of directors of Mount Carmel School for many years.
He said he welcomes the opportunity to meet everyone who has thoughts about how the Office of the Attorney General can address concerns and problems facing the community. He urged the public to visit his website, www.edmanibusanforag.com, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While Manibusan is so far the only one who has officially announced his AG candidacy, other names have also been floating around, including attorney Mike Evangelista and former deputy attorney general Viola Alepuyo, who told the media in October 2013 that she’s seriously considering running as AG.
The current CNMI attorney general, Joey Patrick San Nicolas, will be holding the post only until a new one is elected as he has already announced that he will run for Tinian mayor in the November elections.
‘A new beginning’
House vice speaker Frank Dela Cruz (Ind-Saipan) said yesterday that the intent has always been to give CNMI voters the “privilege” of electing the attorney general.
“This time, the AG will not be under orders by the governor as has been in the past. So yes, I believe that moving forward, this will be very good for the CNMI. I’m very happy also that this will be a new beginning,” he told Saipan Tribune.
Press secretary Angel Demapan, when sought for comment, said the administration welcomes the elected AG process.
“This was decided by the people. There may be some concerns about how effective this structure may be, but this is mainly because of precedence in Guam and other states with an elected AG where there were reports of policy differences, stalled progress, lack of support to line agencies on civil matters, to name a few,” Demapan told Saipan Tribune.