The measure that would allow agents of the Alcoholic Beverage and Tobacco Control Division to use unmarked vehicles has hurdled its first step.
The House of Representatives Committee of Judicial and Governmental Operations, which Rep. Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan) chairs, approved last Thursday the inclusion of House Bill 20-132 on the House calendar.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Joseph “Lee Pan” Guerrero (R-Saipan). It seeks to allow the ABTC to own and operate unmarked vehicles.
According to ABTC director David Maratita, who attended the JGO meeting in place of Commerce Secretary Mark Rabauliman, the division would use unmarked vehicles for surveillance purposes, when they do undercover operations.
Prior to its adoption at the committee level, multiple members expressed support for the passage of the bill.
Rep. John Paul Sablan (R-Saipan) referred to it as “straightforward and simple.”
“There is a need to allow law enforcement to do their surveillance with an unmarked vehicle as it really helps them investigate violators of the law that [they are required to enforce],” said Sablan, who himself is a former CNMI law enforcer prior to being a House member.
According to Sablan, only the Department of Public Safety and the Division of Customs have the ability to use unmarked vehicles.
Blanco also supported the bill after confirming with Maratita that ABTC had pending cases in which the use of unmarked vehicles were essential to their investigation.
Minority leader Edmund Villagomez (Ind-Saipan) also expressed his support.
“We talked about taking care of some of the social issues, especially [those that] concern the youth,” said Villagomez. He added that unmarked vehicles would greatly support ABTC investigations as Maratita said some investigations require undercover operations.
“I believe we should give them the enforcement tools to further carry out their duties,” Villagomez said.