Chamber: Debates inform voters about candidates


Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP), the incumbent, and his challenger, Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan) faced off during the candidate debates the Saipan Chamber of Commerce and the Northern Marianas College hosted last Thursday night at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center. (Donna Rivera)

Informing voters while raising funds for the Saipan Chamber of Commerce’s scholarship program were cited as the twin reasons for the candidate debates the chamber and the Northern Marianas College is hosting in the run-up to the election this November.

The hour-long debates kicked off last Thursday night at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center with a showdown between the candidates for CNMI delegate to Washington, D.C.: Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP), the incumbent, and his challenger, Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan).

Chamber president Velma Palacios thanked both candidates and their respective committees for agreeing to participate in the debate. “It allowed the community to see who their candidates are and it’s been a while since the Chamber organized a debate. The candidates and their committees agreed to this and we’re happy for the turnout.”

“The event is also for a good cause since the money raised goes to our scholarship program. But more, it is to educate the public and to see where their candidates stand before they vote in November.”

Both candidates were given questions on topics about environment and sustainable development, immigration, veterans’ benefits, healthcare, education, cannabis or marijuana, casino gaming, welfare, and workforce.

Palacios said the questions came from members of the community after they did a survey on issues that need to be addressed. “Those questions were taken from the topics by one person and that person is the only one who saw those questions.”

“That’s why it is in a sealed envelope. Nobody knew what the questions are. It is the same general topics that were given to their committees-to-elect in order for them to prepare their candidates.”

Close to 200 people watched the event—held in cooperation with the Northern Marianas College and IT&E—at the Multi-Purpose Center while over 2,000 viewed it online, and Palacios is expecting more focus would be given in today’s gubernatorial debate between incumbent Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and former governor Juan N. Babauta.

“We anticipate more people would be online watching that’s because everybody is curious. That’s the race to see,” said Palacios.


Supporters of each candidate pointed out some of the strong points that Sablan and Demapan laid out in the debate.

Twenty-six-year-old Francine, an active duty military member who declined to give her last name, said the new casino industry must be addressed. “That includes the workers because it is a serious issue. We have to hit things on target. …That is right in front of our faces right now.”

“And [Demapan] mentioned that we need more federal funding, and we do. But how can we receive federal funding when people are dying trying to build [the hotel], laying of workers, and they keep extending [the casino construction deadline],” said Francine, who supports Sablan.

“They say they are going to be done but they don’t keep to their promises. If that [casino] is bringing the most [number of] tourists and most income right now, then that’s the important issue in the CNMI right now.”

Former NMC interim president Dave Attao, a Demapan supporter, said the local GOP bet was on point in saying that he would bring the issues of concerns of the CNMI to be heard by the people in Washington, D.C.

“I’m impressed with [Demapan] and he is on point in fighting for the people. [Sablan] did well too, but [Demapan] brought a new perspective and voice, and the energy that’s needed by our community now. I think [Demapan] did well compared to the current delegate,” said Attao. …“It is good to know that there are two people who stepped up to accept the challenge to help the community.”

Attao praised the Chamber, NMC, and IT&E for organizing the debate. “This was well organized and I’m thankful for the opportunity to watch this historic event. It is really rewarding and refreshing to watch.”

Closing statements

In his closing statements, Sablan detailed his accomplishments.

“You can keep me, your representative in U.S. Congress, who has a track record of doing what’s best for the Marianas by blocking the $700 CW fee, enacting the [Northern Mariana Islands] U.S. Workforce Act that literally saved the economy, keeping the hospital open with new Medicaid money, getting the money for 24-hour water for Saipan, doubling food stamps benefits,” said Sablan.

“Or you can gamble [on someone] who has no experience in Congress—a young man with a track record of ignoring the wishes of our people. Ignoring the 25 percent of our people that voted for [the] Public School System. Ignoring the people’s ‘no’ vote to casino twice. Who failed to keep his promise to raise the minimum wage for everyone. …So who do you trust?”

Demapan said he will be working for the people of the CNMI and not for the people of Washington, D.C. “I will not be a federal government employee. I will remain the people’s employee, your employee. That is why we unite as a community. We must be one-hearted. We must join hands to reclaim our seat at the table.”

“To be listened, to not just heard, to be consulted, not just informed. That’s why I stand ready to be your loyal voice to Washington. Not Washington’s voice to the CNMI. For what good is seniority without passion for our people? What good is seniority when complacency replaces purpose?

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.

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