Deleon Guerrero, Demapan to alternate speakership

The 19th House of Representatives. (Mark Rabago)

The 19th House of Representatives. (Mark Rabago)

The 19th House of Representatives finally elected a speaker yesterday morning with the camps of Rep. Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan) and Rafael S. Demapan (R-Saipan) agreeing to share the post, with the former serving as speaker in the first year and the latter in the second year.

Deleon Guerrero, the speaker of the 18th House, won on a vote of 11-9, beating Rep. Ramon A. Tebuteb (Ind-Saipan).

Only Deleon Guerrero and Tebuteb were nominated for the post, which was already a foretelling sign that Demapan and his six NMI Republican Party mates have coalesced with Deleon Guerrero and his three other independent representatives.

Voting for Deleon Guerrero as speaker were Reps. Antonio Sablan (Ind-Saipan), Edwin Aldan (Ind-Saipan), Francis S. Taimanao (Ind-Saipan), Felicidad Ogumoro (R-Saipan), John Paul P. Sablan (R-Saipan), George Camacho (R-Saipan), Angel Demapan (R-Saipan), Joseph “Leepan” T. Guerrero (R-Saipan), and Glenn L. Maratita (R-Saipan).

The eight that supported Tebuteb for speaker were Reps. Edmund Villagomez, Ralph N. Yumul, Anthony T. Benavente, Roman Benavente, Larry Deleon Guerrero, Edwin Propst, Vinson Sablan, and Blas Jonathan “B.J.” Attao.

With the majority already in place, the new GOP-Deleon Guerrero independent coalition also proceeded to win the elections for vice speaker and floor leader, which went to Demapan and Camacho, respectively. Demapan beat Roman Benavente for vice speaker while Camacho won the floor leader post from Villagomez.

‘Shared speakership’

There was a collective hush and some raised eyebrows after the election of speaker and the subsequent organization of the House leadership. This led Deleon Guerrero to explain the alliance when it was his turn to deliver his message at the dais. Earlier, Demapan, speaking in Chamorro, somewhat alluded to the fact that he will only be serving as vice speaker for 12 months.

“Three people have been vying for the speakership since the general election. It was an impasse that went throughout. There were many, many negotiations and discussions but until yesterday—24 hours ago—the impasse was still there,” he said.

Deleon Guerrero said his group and the GOP forged the current leadership based on the understanding of shared leadership, which he quickly clarified as best described as a shared speakership.

“Under this unique arrangement it was agreed that vice speaker Demapan and I will each hold the speakership for one year—me as the speaker for the first year and vice speaker Demapan on the second year beginning the second Monday of January 2015” (Later corrected by Demapan to 2016, see Reporter’s Notebook). The speaker said this unique and unprecedented arrangement was done because there was a possibility of the House operating under a temporary speaker.

“Under a speaker pro tem and no committee chairs, we would not be able to conduct business and will not be able to inform the governor and the Senate that this House stands ready to transact or conduct business. For better or for worse, I ask my colleagues I personally have confidence that I can work with each and every one of you. I know each one of you on a personal level. I think if I was asked what is my strength, it would be the long-term relationships I created with people and trying to improve on those relationships. You may call it politics or call it as you may, but it can work. It’s a two-way street, of course. If we can come on board with the same attitude of working together as said by every member I heard, I too have optimism that great things would happen,” he said.

‘Interest of the people’

For his part, Demapan said the compromise with the camp of Deleon Guerrero serves him and his party well and was done with the interest of the Commonwealth’s people in mind.

“One thing I learned not only from my race as a representative but also during the race for the speakership is not everything comes naturally. I have to do a lot of hard work and determination. More importantly, we made the decision [because this is] what’s best for the Commonwealth. The agreement was done based on the concession between the speaker’s group and our group last night after the Red Mass,” he said following yesterday’s House organizational session.

Demapan said Lt. Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres played a big part in forging the alliance with Deleon Guerrero and company.

“The lieutenant governor has always been a major player in this dilemma. He continued to ask and also gave us guidance on this issue. The idea on the co-sharing of the speakership was brought up yesterday by our group,” he said.

The House vice speaker also said that he did reach out to members of Tebuteb’s independent bloc, but did so by courting each individual’s support.

“As their vice speaker, I’m ready to continue to assist the House and work with the Senate to make sure we work with the administration of Gov. Inos and Lt. Gov. Torres,” he said.

‘Wish them luck’

For his part, Tebuteb said he’s glad that the impasse on the issue of who would be the next speaker has finally been resolved.

“I wish them luck. I hope that agreement would benefit our people.”

He said he has no hard feeling for losing the speakership, saying that “These are only titles and what’s important is that we all serve our people.”

All 20 members of the House were given the opportunity to speak to their colleagues, family, friends, and guests inside the chamber, as well as those watching the proceedings at home via live streaming.

In general, all representatives thanked the people in their respective precincts and the people of the CNMI for giving their trust in them. They also extended their gratitude and love to their loved ones for allowing them to serve the public.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Alexandro Castro administered the oath of office for all 20 representatives, while Fr. James Balajadia conducted the opening prayer and benediction at the end. Deleon Guerrero commended the two for staying the course of the almost four-hour organizational session of the 19th House.

Among the dignitaries that attended the House swearing in yesterday were Guam Speaker Judith Wan Pat, Guam Sen. Rory J. Respicio, Guam Superior Court Judge Vernon Perez, U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona, CNMI Supreme Court Associate Justice John A. Manglona, CNMI Superior Court Associate Judge Teresa Kim-Tenorio, and Marianas Visitors Authority managing director Perry Tenorio, among others.

Gov. Eloy S. Inos also attended the House inauguration but left midway because he also had to attend to his and Lt. Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres’ own inauguration at 3pm yesterday at the Governor’s Office parking lot.

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at

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