One of two recipients of a senator’s letter that called for an oversight hearing on the Department of Public Safety believes that it “is needed” not only for the police but for “other agencies as well.”
Rep. Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan) agreed yesterday with Sen. Paul Mangloña (Ind-Rota) that an oversight hearing on DPS has become necessary.
“It seems to me that the only oversight we do is during the budgetary sessions. I think that open communications between the departments and the Legislature is very important because then we are able to assess what their needs are, what [the departments’] shortfalls are, and what tools we could provide them,” said Blanco.
According to Blanco, he spoke with other members of the House Judicial and Governmental Operations Committee, which he heads, and many wish to “reach out” to DPS Commissioner Robert Guerrero to get some facts.
“…And perhaps sit down with [Guerrero] and his officers and ask questions that [the committee] may have in regards to increased criminal activity, drug abuse, etc.,” he said, adding that the meeting with the DPS commissioner would be scheduled after gathering facts from the department.
Blanco, who based his request for information on Mangloña’s letter, said that updates on recent criminal cases, murders, and information on missing person cases and unsolved criminal cases, among many others, are included in his request.
“We would like to get those numbers first, then we would be able to know what questions to ask,” he said. “We don’t want questions to be based on hearsay.”
Members of the House JGO include Blanco, Rep. John Paul Sablan (R-Saipan) as vice chair, Reps. Francisco Aguon (R-Saipan), Edwin Aldan (R-Tinian), Blas Jonathan Attao (Ind-Saipan), Jose Itibus (R-Saipan), and minority leader Rep. Edmund Villagomez (Ind-Saipan).
In a letter dated Nov. 7 addressed to Blanco and Senate Committee on Judiciary, Government, and Law chair Sen. Steve Mesngon (R-Rota), Mangloña said that DPS officers have failed to communicate with victims of crime, which he said is unacceptable because DPS has the “critical role of protecting people and ensuring people’s safety.”
“Victims of criminal activities are complaining that their cases have not been solved and they haven’t received any information or updates from DPS,” Mangloña said, adding that reports on violent criminal activities as well as drug-related crimes in the CNMI are constantly reported in the media.
According to Saipan Tribune archives, the recent finding of missing Joan Taitano’s body late October 2017 at the bottom of a cliff in Marpi was significant because she was found—which wasn’t the trend before.
Dating back to 1995 and based only on Saipan Tribune archives, 17 people have been reported missing and not been found.
Another factor that calls for an oversight on DPS are drug abuse and drug-related crimes, Mangloña said. He added that drug use and abuse have “significantly increased” over the past few years.
According to a previous statement, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, is “genuinely concerned” about public safety, and is already initiating discussions to address public safety concerns.