‘What is needed now is for us to work together’
Editor’s Note: In a video message, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres responded to the House Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations. Here is the full transcript of the governor’s message:
To my dear people of the Commonwealth,
I want to speak to you today about the political attacks that myself and my family have endured unfairly for a long, long time and why I will not subject myself as governor to an unfair and unlawful political hearing.
Over the course of the past year, we have seen a politically-driven House committee conduct a witch hunt on innocent government employees in order to fulfill their political goals. We saw certain elected officials censor people for not answering questions in a way that they want, and even hold people in contempt for not cooperating with their agenda.
Last week, on Dec. 7, my office reached out to the JGO Committee in good faith to negotiate a fair and balanced setting to address their questions, which the committee responded to the following day. My office exchanged conversations with the JGO committee to discuss a neutral venue with committee chairwoman Rep. Celina Babauta asking questions and House Speaker Edmund Villagomez as the moderator. This event was also to be livestreamed for the public.
Over the weekend, the JGO rejected this proposal even though it was fair, balanced, and focused on the issues at hand between two separate and equal branches of government.
When these elected officials took the oath of office in January, the same oath that I took as governor, they swore to faithfully discharge their duties as public servants. However, as we have seen for months, the House JGO Committee have used the House of Representatives chamber not for policy debate and deliberation of important issues, but for political intimidation in order to promote their agenda.
Their agenda is simple: The House JGO Committee want to impeach a governor, who was elected by the people, but who they do not like. They do not seek to provide solutions to our islands’ problems. And they have sat on the sidelines throughout this pandemic, while throwing rocks at everything we do to keep our people safe.
I will not be attending the House JGO Committee hearing because the Executive Branch is a separate and equal branch of government under the Commonwealth Constitution and must be treated equally to the Legislative Branch. The Office of the Governor should not and cannot be subordinated to the Legislature, let alone the overreaching acts of an out-of-control committee of the House of Representatives. I do this to protect not only my rights as governor but to protect the institution of the governor under the Constitution, and thus protect future governors from arbitrary overreach by future legislatures.
I am asking everyone in our community to ease tensions, calm tempers, and help to promote peace in our Commonwealth. I am not perfect, nor do I claim to be. But I am certain that, since I started my journey to work for you, the people of the Commonwealth, that I have always had your interests, your safety, and your livelihoods at the forefront of any and every decision I make.
I know we are not where we were before the typhoons and COVID-19. But I know we can get there again. Collaboration is our story. It is the story of our Commonwealth. And it is why we are a resilient people.
What is needed now is for us to work together. All of us can choose to rise above the political noise and find common ground and shared purpose. We must focus on advancing the interests of the CNMI, safeguarding our people, defeating the pandemic, rebuilding our economy, and upholding the rule of law.
Today, I am calling on everyone who calls the CNMI home to overcome the politics of the JGO Committee and work together on solutions for our people. Let us choose to move forward united for the good of our families, our villages, and our Commonwealth.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the Northern Mariana Islands.
FULL VIDEO: https://fb.watch/9TwPsMoPB5/
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Ralph DLG Torres is the governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.