Attorney General Edward Manibusan stated in a communication to the Senate that the renaming of a building through a bill should be analyzed carefully by the Senate legal counsel.
Manibusan made the statement in response to Sen. Justo Quitugua’s (Ind-Saipan) request for comments on House Speaker Rafael Demapan’s (R-Saipan) House Bill 20-133 that the question to whether or not the bill encroaches on the NMC Board of Regent’s autonomy, which is protected by the CNMI Constitution, should be carefully analyzed by the Senate legal counsel.
Quitugua chairs the Senate Committee on Education and Youth Affairs, which handles H.B. 20-133, or the bill that renames Building P after former Northern Marianas College president Agnes Manglona McPhetres if enacted.
Manibusan also noted that if the building is renamed through a bill, the designation would follow NMC to a different campus even if Building P is moved from their current campus.
“Although Building P is arguably a public building on public land, higher education colleges and universities typically have internal policies and procedures over the naming of their buildings and facilities,” Manibusan wrote.
Manibusan and NMC president Dr. Carmen Fernandez, in a previous communication opposing the bill, cited the CNMI Constitution Art. XV, Section 2(a), which states that NMC and its Board of Regents, shall have “autonomy in the administration of its affairs.”
Fernandez pointed out in a communication commenting on the bill to the House Judiciary and Government Operations Committee, headed by chair Rep. Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan), that previous CNMI Supreme Court rulings have recognized NMC as an autonomous agency, therefore leaving the authority to recognize McPhetres and her role to the “success of the college” to the NMC board.
“We raise these issues about autonomy because, in the past several years, legislative interference has resulted in adverse actions by NMC’s accrediting body. And, while [H.B. 20-133] means well, it may be viewed as political interference because it attempts to assume duties that rightfully belong to the NMC Board of Regents,” she previously wrote, noting that she merely wishes to prevent sanctions from being levied against NMC.