Gov. Eloy S. Inos said yesterday that the process for international extradition is a function of the federal government and not the local government, amid the prefiling of a House resolution asking him to “take the necessary actions for the immediate extradition of former governor Benigno R. Fitial” to face criminal charges against him related to corruption.
The resolution’s main author, acting House speaker Frank Dela Cruz (Ind-Saipan), said that Inos “should not wash his hands” by not initiating the process.
“The case against the former governor is with the CNMI courts, not the federal courts. As governor of the CNMI, he must initiate the process and request the FBI or the federal government for assistance,” Dela Cruz told Saipan Tribune.
Inos, while still in Washington, D.C. for a series of meetings, said yesterday in a statement that “some local lawmakers are erroneously implying” that the process for international extradition is a function of the local government.
“It’s important to fully understand the process to ensure that we don’t mislead people,” the governor said.
Inos said information on the proper procedures for international extradition into the United States or its territories is a matter of public record that is also available online.
“And quite frankly, a joint resolution is not on the list of steps to be taken,” he said.
Inos said that under the U.S. Constitution, foreign countries may not have official treaty relations with sub-national units such as individual states or territories. Instead, they may have treaty relations only with the federal government, he said.
As a result, a state or territory that wishes to prosecute an individual located in a foreign country must direct its extradition request through the federal government, which will negotiate the extradition with the foreign country, Inos said.
“The special prosecutor, not the governor, has to go through the federal Department of Justice, who then forwards it to the Department of State, who then makes a formal request to the Government of the Philippines,” Inos said. “It’s an entirely different process and not as easy as dealing with extraditions within the United States.”
Fitial is believed to be in his wife’s hometown of Gapan in Nueva Ecija, a Philippine province north of Manila.
Still, Dela Cruz said that Inos cannot sit idle.
“He cannot wash his hands, that this is not before him. I don’t believe he means what he says. He has the authority to request the federal government and no one else. And this is not about accusing the former governor, but about what he’s been charged by the CNMI Superior Court. He [Fitial] cannot be tried until Governor Inos make the request for extradition. He should know that,” Dela Cruz added.
Dela Cruz, along with Reps. Ray Tebuteb (Ind-Saipan), Mario Taitano (Ind-Saipan), Antonio Benavente (Ind-Saipan), Ralph Yumul (Ind-Saipan), John Paul Sablan (Cov-Saipan), and Edmund Villagomez (Cov-Saipan), prefiled House Resolution 18-5 on Monday. Others who supported Fitial’s impeachment said they will vote “yes” to the resolution once it’s up for adoption.
The resolution says Inos “should not stand idle or do nothing while Fitial attempts to remain above the law.”
Inos, in clarifying the matter, said in the case of international extraditions, the foreign government, if it decides to honor the extradition request, is responsible for taking the person into custody and turning him or her over to U.S. authorities.
“As you can see, there is a process in place to get this done and it is a function of the special prosecutor and the federal government. Before lawmakers falsely accuse a governor of not doing anything, they should do their research first,” he said.
Inos said the resolution should direct the special prosecutor, not the governor, to initiate the necessary steps for extradition.
“I agree that no one is above the law,” Inos said. “That is why I cannot negotiate with the Philippine government. I must respect the Constitution and allow the special prosecutor and the feds to do their job. I invite our Legislature to extend the same respect to these hardworking law enforcement authorities.”
Dela Cruz said the resolution will be acted on in next week’s House session.
The resolution says former attorney general Edward Buckingham, during his trial, testified in detail that Fitial played a significant and personal role in the criminal offenses that Buckingham was found guilty of committing by testifying under oath and under penalty of perjury that Fitial personally ordered and arranged for the illegal police escort to the airport and the illegal attempts to thwart service of process.
It’s been a little over a year since Fitial resigned from office, after being impeached by the 18th House of Representatives for 18 articles of corruption, felony, and neglect of duty. He stepped down days before the start of his impeachment trial at the Senate.
Superior Court associate judge David Wiseman issued a warrant of arrest for Fitial on March 6, 2013, in connection with the criminal case against Buckingham, who was convicted and sentenced last week.