Citing an erosion of public confidence, discomfort, and distrust of the government in the last four years, former governor Juan N. Babauta and former education commissioner Dr. Rita A. Sablan officially announced their independent candidacies yesterday for governor and lieutenant governor.
“We want to do something about it, and that is why we are running,” said Babauta as he raised the left hand of Sablan, drawing cheers from supporters, family members, and relatives at Babauta’s house in Gualo Rai.
Babauta noted that the CNMI had similar problems in the past “and the rebel in me came out.”
“And [now] we are seeing the repeat of that,” he added, citing several cases that he described as “nonsense.”
“I don’t tolerate those kinds of nonsense,” he added, saying he does not tolerate a society that persecutes people, that demeans people, that takes advantage of people, and that takes away their rights, whether they are citizens of the United States or not.
Babauta said for him and Sablan to turn the other cheek will simply mean that they are complicit and they become part of the problem, not the solution.
“Today, we are standing here to tell you that we want to be part of the solution,” he said.
Babauta said the cumulative events of the last four years in the CNMI are the driving force behind his and Sablan’s decision to run.
“Many in the CNMI saw and felt the events of the last four years with discomfort and distrust,” he said.
To many in the CNMI, Babauta said, the last four years have once again cast a sinister view of government.
“It is not a government at its best. It has eroded the public confidence and cast a dark cloud over the integrity of many who are supposed to be in positions of trust,” the former governor said.
Babauta said it is reminiscent of events that took place in the CNMI not too long ago.
“Workers are being exploited, workers die at worksites without explanation, and no one is being held responsible,” he said, adding that workers are being unjustly compensated and are being silenced by flying them out of the CNMI in the middle of the night.
Babauta noted that a large portion of the CNMI population is still at poverty level or below. He said this is not the CNMI that the people envisioned when they became U.S. citizens in 1986.
“Our kids and future generations will inevitably ask: Did you do something about it? We don’t want them to tell us that we were complicit and that we were silent and did not do anything,” Babauta said.
Sablan said that everyone want to see a change in the service of government for the people and for people to have faith in its government.
“We all lost faith and I think we need to restore that. And we can do this together,” she said.
The former education commissioner said people want trustworthiness, accountability, responsibility, and integrity.
“That is your desire and that is our desire as well,” Sablan said.
Among the supporters who attended the gathering were former Department of Public Safety deputy commissioner Franklin Reyes Babauta, former Department of Corrections commissioner Lino Tenorio, and former Labor secretary Edith DeLeon Guerrero.
Franklin Babauta and Tenorio told Saipan Tribune that they are running as independent for House seats representing precinct 1. DeLeon Guerrero said she has not decided yet whether to run for a House seat.
The Babauta-Sablan tandem is the first to challenge Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Senate President Arnold Palacios (R-Saipan) for the top CNMI posts at the Nov. 6 general election.