Under a clear blue sky, close to 100 people patiently waited for the arrival of the remains of former House vice speaker Francisco S. Dela Cruz yesterday at the commuter terminal of the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport. The plane arrived from Tinian at around 11am.
Dela Cruz, 56, died of heart attack Sunday afternoon while he and his wife Lisa were visiting family on Tinian. It was a somber moment for family members, friends, and colleagues of the six-term legislator from Precinct 3 as they watched the five-seater STAR Marianas Air Piper PA 32-300 Cherokee 6 plane carrying his remains taxi its way near the gate where an ambulance was waiting.
Dela Cruz’s immediate family, that included his wife Lisa, their children, and other relatives, were comforting each other as STAR Marianas Air personnel brought down the metal transfer case that contain his remains.
Department of Public Safety officers, in a brief but solemn ceremony, then unfurled the CNMI flag to cover the metal case with the ocean blue-colored Commonwealth colors.
Reps. Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero (R-Saipan) and Lorenzo I. Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan) were among those that joined DPS officers and family members that carried Dela Cruz’s remains to a waiting ambulance from the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services, which then transported it to the Commonwealth Health Center morgue.
Acting governor Victor B. Hocog led local officials that waited at the airport to pay their respects to the very vocal legislator that would have served his sixth term in the CNMI House of Representatives, which will hold its inaugural session on Jan. 14.
House Speaker Rafael S. Demapan (R-Saipan), Reps. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan) and Joseph Leepan T. Guerrero (R-Saipan), representative-elect Roman C. Benavente (R-Saipan), Office of the Governor special assistant Shirley Camacho-Ogumoro (administration) and senior policy advisor Glenna S. Palacios-Reyes, DPS Commissioner Robert A. Guerrero, and Department of Public Works Secretary James A. Ada also waited at the airport.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres was in Guam together with first lady Diann and several other members of the CNMI Legislature to attend the inauguration of the southern island’s first female head Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero and Lt. Gov. Josh F. Tenorio.
Dela Cruz was the chair of the House Committee on Public Utilities and Communications in the present Legislature and was again chosen to lead the same committee with Transportation once again included for the 21st.
Dela Cruz was first elected in the 15th Legislature under the now defunct Covenant Party and won his reelection in the 16th. He moved to the GOP in the 17th Legislature before choosing to be an independent in the 18th where he was elected as the vice seaker under the leadership of Joseph Deleon Guerrero.
He lost in his bid in the 19th Legislature, but returned under the local Republican Party banner for the 20th and again won to represent Precinct 3 in the 21st where he came in fifth out of the six sits at stake in the in the last elections.
Messages of condolences continue to pour in for Dela Cruz and his family with his colleagues from the present and past Legislatures also offering their prayers and words of comfort.
House Speaker Rafael Demapan remembered Dele Cruz as a man of integrity, both as a public servant and a private citizen. “My sincerest condolences and heartfelt prayers go out to my dear friend and colleague chair Frank Dela Cruz’s wife and his family.”
“I am still at a loss for words and cannot believe congressman Dela Cruz has left us but I know he is certainly in a better place than we are. Chair Dela Cruz is a good and a very humble man, a servant heart of a leader who always stood on integrity in all he does both in his personal life and public life, especially in his role as a legislator.”
He then asked the community to pray for Dela Cruz and his family. “I ask the general public to join me in prayer for our dear brother, and truly one of the most intelligent and humble legislators I know. May he rest in peace. Again, my prayers and condolences again to his wife and family,” Demapan added in an interview with Saipan Tribune.
Rep. Angel Demapan and his family also joined the Commonwealth in mourning the untimely passing of Dela Cruz, his colleague in the 20th CNMI Legislature. He remembered Dela Cruz as a passionate leader.
“[Rep. Dela Cruz] was a leader who was driven by passion and commitment to advancing the greater good. He was never afraid to speak up for the causes he truly believed in,” said Demapan.
“Today, we have lost a dedicated colleague and statesman; and for his family, a loving husband to Lisa, a devoted father to his four children and two grandchildren. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his entire family and pray for the repose of Frank’s soul. He will be dearly missed.”
Rep. Blas Jonathan T. Attao (R-Saipan), the incoming House speaker in the 21st Legislature, told Saipan Tribune that his colleagues at the House—whether from the majority or the minority—would miss Dela Cruz’s words of wisdom.
“[Congressman] Frank Dela Cruz was an honorable representative that put people before anything… he was a man that we will miss for his wisdom and good heart but more importantly for his friendship and leadership.”
“Our prayers go out to his wife Lisa, their children, and grandchildren. We would also like to thank each and every one them for sharing him with the people of the Commonwealth. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his [entire family].”
Incoming House minority leader Edward K. Propst (Ind-Saipan), in a Facebook post, remembered Dela Cruz as his next-door neighbor in the House that goes beyond party lines. “I am heartbroken and deeply saddened to hear of the sudden passing of our colleague, [Representative] Frank S. Dela Cruz.”
“[He] was my ‘neighbor’ on Capital Hill, as his office was right across mine. And as most good neighbors are, Frank was kind, candid, and respectful. As a good neighbor, Frank did not care what party you belonged to when it came to working for the people.”
Propst added that Dela Cruz does not hold back with his thoughts and would often share his honest opinion on bills when he sees that something just seems is not right. “But rather than just condemn bills, he would offer sensible solutions and amendments to make them better.”
“[He] was as articulate as he was caring, and he would not hold back to express concerns, regardless of whether it would hurt him politically or not. We lost a true leader, a loving and devoted family man who I regard as a dear friend, colleague, and statesman. I will miss his wisdom, his guidance, and his humility.”
“Godspeed, God bless you colleague. Daisy and I offer our deepest, most heartfelt condolences to his wife Lisa and family, as well as our continued prayers. The CNMI mourns with you,” said Propst.
Representative-elect Tina Sablan (Ind-Saipan) said she was expecting to again work with Dela Cruz after serving with him in the 16th Legislature. “Rest in peace, Rep. Frank S. Dela Cruz—beloved father, grandfather, uncle, public servant, friend. It was an honor serving with you in the 16th Legislature; I was looking forward to serving with you again in the 21st.”
“You were always a voice of reason and conscience, gentle and good-natured at heart, but a maverick and a fighter when the circumstances demanded it. Thank you for your dedication to the people of the Marianas, and for your friendship. My deepest condolences to Lisa, [their] children, and [their] family.”