Corruption on Pagan
My name is Crispin Fitipol Castro. I am the person who shot the radio, burned the fuel tanks, and broke the server and the mayor’s house on the island of Pagan. I am writing this letter for the public (as well as the CNMI government) in hopes that you will understand the reasons behind my actions and are fully aware of the corruption I’ve had to deal with from government officials and also my battle with the government for the restoration of my ancestor’s land on the island of Pagan. Hopefully, my story will push the government to address the situation for future reference and improvement so that something like this will never happen again! This is my story.
I was born on Oct. 19,1977, on the island of Saipan. Shortly after, my family moved to Pagan to reside on and take care of our family’s land. We stayed on Pagan up until May 15, 1981, when Mt. Pagan erupted, forcing us to relocate back to the island of Saipan. As expected, we (the citizens of Pagan) were banned from inhabiting the island for many years because Mt. Pagan was still considered active. After years of being away, on the year 2001, my father, brothers, and I returned to the island of Pagan to reside and restore my grandfather and father’s land (there were no legal documents from the government). In the year 2003 former governor Juan N. Babauta, along with KMCV news reporter Chris Nelson, visited Pagan so I welcomed them to the island. During their stay the governor referred to me as a “squatter,” meaning I’m residing on and taking care of my land “for the government.” This label that the former governor gave me was the government’s way of saying that they have claimed my ancestor’s land and the whole island of Pagan for the CNMI government. Since then, (without having success), I’ve been requesting the government to provide the legal documents for my family’s inheritance on Pagan.
In the year 2005 I left Pagan, went to Japan, and got married. I resided in Japan for six years. Then in April 2011 I moved back to the CNMI. Francisco Jerome Aldan became the mayor of Pagan in 2014. I’ve decided to try and work with the government to re-establish Pagan so in May 2015 I was assigned to head fisheries (small boats). After being assigned to that position, I witnessed first hand a series of events that showed just how corrupt government officials are and how they neglected us (the residents of Pagan) by using government funds for self interest and putting their needs before ours (resident of Pagan). I am going to walk you through a series of events that ultimately led me to lose faith and totally distrust some government agencies and their officials.
In August 2015, Typhoon Champi hit the CNMI and damaged the islands of Alamagan, Pagan, and Agrihan. During the Northern Islands Mayor’s Office visit, the mayor’s staff was using the gas that was supposed to be for the fisheries (small boats) to fuel the ATVs so they (mayor’s office staff) could hunt for cows and pigs to bring back to Saipan. The ice used to freeze the meat was also purchased with government funds.
Again, in August 2015, Typhoon Soudelor hit, destroying even further the island of Pagan. I would like you to keep in mind that the Northern Islands have yet to have a “Disaster Control Act.”After Typhoon Soudelor, all the breadfruit trees on Pagan were either destroyed or damaged, leaving us to rely solely on rice to go with our meals.
After Typhoon Soudelor, we contacted Homeland Security on the HF radio to request a medical evacuation for Stanley Ogo. When the ship for the medivac arrived, the Northern Island mayor (Francisco Jerome Aldan) was also onboard. When I spoke with the mayor, I told him that I need some materials to build my house and that I was willing to pay it with 10 coconut crabs for the materials, provided that he comes back for the coconut crab when it’s in season. The mayor then asked me how many coconut crabs I had at that time, so I told him that I had four pieces. After that he told me that he would just take it, even though it’s not the season yet, so I gave him the four pieces.
On Nov. 6, 2015, a resident of Agrihan burned a fire, signaling the U.S. Coast Guard for an SOS. For some unapparent reason, one of the mayor’s staff was shooting a gun and threatening the residents of Agrihan. The mayor arrived on Nov. 10, 2015, with the helicopter, and the staff member who was in charge of the shooting was escorted on the helicopter with the police.
On Nov. 11, 2015, the supply ship came to Pagan with the mayor on board. He gave me the materials that I exchanged for the coconut crabs to build my house. He (the mayor) told me that the materials he purchased came from his own pocket. Later, while helping one of the mayor’s staff build his (the mayor’s) house, the staff member (Francisco Kaipat) informed me that all the materials for the mayor’s house were purchased using government funds. To top it off, the rice and cans of vegetables that were delivered were divided amongst only two households.
In March 2016, the island of Pagan requested a medivac for Francisco Kaipat. We requested the helicopter coming up for Francisco Kaipat to bring our supply of rice as well. The helicopter arrived with a 50-lb sack of rice. The pilot, along with Homeland Security staff member Jesse Aldan, stayed on Pagan for two days. In those two days the rice went down to 25 lbs. While on island, Jesse requested for mayor’s staff Sandy Castro to shoot four fruit bats for the governor. When the helicopter was leaving the island, I personally made a request to the mayor’s staff member Gus Castro to send a charter boat within 15 days with another supply of rice. Before the helicopter left, Sandy and the pilot moved seven drums of fuel because the drums were leaking all over the place.
On April 8, 2016, I called up the Office of the Public Auditor on the radio to raise a complaint that Pagan and Alamagan needed rice. When the Office of the Public Auditor neglected to assist our needs, I radioed Homeland Security to set up a conference with the Attorney General’s Office regarding the request I made to the Office of Public Auditor for rice. Homeland Security told me to call back that same day for a conference with the Attorney General’s Office but when I called back I was told the AG’s Office never showed up. Then the residents of Alamagan called up Homeland Security requesting to speak with the AG’s Office. Again they were told to call back and again the AG’s Office failed to show up for the conference. The next day, on April 14, 2016, the government was still giving us excuses and we felt neglected so I decided to take matters into my own hands in an act of desperation. That’s when I took a sledgehammer and broke down the mayor’s house and his car. After that I set the fuel tanks on fire to signal an SOS because we were in a state of emergency. I would like to state that, had the government responded and assisted us, I never would have done what I did. Corruption has been plaguing our government for far too long. I’ve witnessed the mayor use government funds to build his house and I’ve also seen the mayor’s office staff use government money for their personal needs. Not to mention the governor requesting to hunt fruit bats for him. It’ time we elect individuals who are qualified and place the needs of the people before themselves. It’s the government’s job to uphold our constitutional rights, not neglect them.
My final issue involves my ancestor’s land on the island of Pagan. My family has resided on Pagan for many generations. When Mt. Pagan erupted on May 15, 1981, we were forced to evacuate and relocate to Saipan. As expected, no one was allowed to inhabit the island for a couples of years because the volcano was still considered active. What we didn’t expect was the government claiming all the islands north of Saipan as government and public lands.
In closing I would like to ask a question. What will it take for the CNMI government agencies to abide by the laws and uphold the Constitution? If the government had fulfilled their duties, this incident would have been avoided. I sincerely hope that we take this incident as a learning experience to prevent this from happening again in the future. I would like to send my apologies and gratitude the island of Guam for all their troubles and for responding to my distress call. I am sorry for bringing Guam into this but at the same time it was the only way to get the attention that we desperately needed.