Constitutional or not? OAG’s opinion sought


Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said Friday it’s best to obtain the legal advice of Attorney General Edward Manibusan to determine whether he as governor or the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. board of trustees chairperson has the authority to remove Fermin Atalig from the board.

This comes soon after Sen. Teresita A. Santos (Ind-Rota) accused CHCC board of trustees chair Lauri Ogumoro of usurping Torres’ authority to appoint or remove board members when she removed Atalig from the board last year. Santos had described Atalig’s ouster as “highly questionable,” “illegal and unconstitutional.”

When asked to comment during his Friday radio news briefing, Torres said it would be better to refrain from making a comment as to who has the authority to remove a board member. “I think that would be my position at this point and to respect that process,” he said.

The governor said they will have a better view as to who has the authority possibly this week, then they will go from there.

CHCC chief executive officer Esther L. Muña also refused to comment about the issue at the same news briefing.

In Ogumoro’s Sept. 18, 2020, termination letter to Atalig, she cited Atalig’s alleged failure to attend board meetings as the reason for his ouster.

But Santos said that, according to Atalig, he only got sporadic notices of scheduled board meetings and that he always attended those meeting when he was informed beforehand.

Santos said Atalig never knew he was no longer a board member after Sept. 17, 2020, until he received Ogumoro’s letter by mail on Jan. 5, 2021.

Ogumoro has yet to issue a public statement about the issue.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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