CNMI version of democracy not mature enough


Readers may have missed my points in my letter published on Feb. 25, 2016 in your paper titled “AG’s Opinion Needed.”

I referred to the concept of “separation of powers” and “conflict of interest” between the Legislative Branch and Executive Branch of the CNMI government as issues that are real, usual, and customary as is in any constitutional government jurisdiction in the U.S. system of democracy. I also pointed that the CNMI government is a unique governing jurisdiction within the entire U.S. system of democracy that wrong its people when its elected AG failed to follow constitutional and lawful course of action advise that violated of its own constitution. Hence, the CNMI government is a special breed of democracy. In retrospect, our elected representatives of the Legislative Branch and Executive Branch are all part of the problem for their failure to stop the perpetuation of an unconstitutional and unlawful action permitting a person to hold elected office in violation of the CNMI Constitution.

Every elected member of the legislative, executive, and including the attorney general takes an oath to uphold the CNMI Constitution. The whole thing, not just parts they like.

Article XVII, Section l of the CNMI Constitution, reads specifically in part established what the oath or affirmation of office that follows: “I do solemnly affirm (or swear) that I will support and defend the Constitutions and laws of the CNMI, the Covenant to Establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in Political Union with the United States of America, the applicable provisions of the Constitution, laws and treaties of the United States of America, and that I will faithfully discharge my duties to the best of my ability (so help me God).” Honesty and trustworthy are symbolized by placing the left hand of the person on a Bible and the right hand raised just about to the heart level. All these ceremonial requirements are part of the CNMI Constitution, but ignoring what it stands for as our desired way of keeping the CNMI civilized society in order takes an irreparable harm when our elected officials blindly set it aside. There I pointed that our brand of democracy may be so unique that we do not fit the level of maturity in constitutional democracy paring ours to that of the U.S. system of democracy.

Article II, Section 11 of the CNMI Constitution, prohibits an elected official of the Legislature to serve in any employment capacity in the Executive Branch. Likewise, Article III, Section 6, prohibits the governor or lieutenant governor to hold office in the Legislative Branch or any other position. Ignoring these constitutional prohibitions because of failure of the elected AG to intervene or cause the stoppage of the unlawful and unconstitutional course of action is a serious concern. And, the continued lack of action that sanctioning this malady in our constitutional order is a targeted retardation of our maturity to good democracy. The comparative advantage following the learned successful progress of governmental jurisdictions in the U.S. that have dealt with this type of issues longer and consistently acceptable than us is not a shameful practice if we want consistency and continuity in our system of governance.

Certainly, our constitutional construct has its own idiosyncrasy and only good for our purpose and approach of governing. In the case on the issue of Article III, Section 7 of the CNMI Constitution, the CNMI is not alone in this critical constitutional impasse, but as in New Jersey, where in its constitution states that if the governor dies/resigns occurs less than 16 months before end of the term, the state holds a special election to elect the governor. This part of their constitutional mandate could not have been ignored by their elected AG. However, what our elected AG found has it wrong and allowed by his own opinion and legal advise that any part of Article III, Section 7, could be ignored and set aside. This is what I was referring to as the uniqueness of constitutional democracy practiced in and with our elected AG. The problem here is wedged between the elected AG and elected representative of the Legislature. This travesty in our history should give future generation the caveat that it is better to suffer the truth than prosper by falsehood.

Our elected AG, elected representatives of the our Legislature, and elected governor’s office could not have done better because when the truth stands in their own ways, that should prompt it’s time to change direction, but to them that seems too difficult to articulate. Actually, imprudence is often the result of ignorance. It is their turn to explain themselves to this awkward and unprecedented turn of events in our young democracy. The unexpressed indecision of the elected representative of our Legislature on the issue is the graveyard of good intentions.

Francisco R. Agulto
Kanat Tabla

Contributing Author

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