Demapan is new House speaker in leadership switch

Outgoing speaker Rep. Joseph Deleon Guerrero, left, shakes the hand of the new speaker, Rep. Ralph Demapan. (Dennis B. Chan)

Outgoing speaker Rep. Joseph Deleon Guerrero, left, shakes the hand of the new speaker, Rep. Ralph Demapan. (Dennis B. Chan)

As expected, the House of Representatives reorganized yesterday to elect vice speaker Ralph Demapan (R-Saipan) to the speaker’s seat and former speaker Joseph Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan) as vice speaker.

The leadership switch culminated a verbal promise the two made a year ago to break the impasse in votes for the speakership position. Guerrero and Demapan had agreed that Guerrero would hold the seat for first year of the 19th Legislature and Demapan, the second.

That was move was unprecedented and has since been criticized by members of the House minority bloc. But yesterday, the switch went relatively smoothly, with 19-votes and one abstention for reorganization. The election of Demapan was done by acclamation. And Guerrero garnered an overwhelming 19 “yes” votes to place him as the chamber’s next vice speaker.

After the vote for Demapan was over, the packed House chamber and lobby outside erupted in applause. Demapan left his seat to climb the steps to the speaker’s seat, while Guerrero stood up to shake his hand.

During his remarks, the new speaker called Guerrero “a man of his words.”

“As we move forward in 2016, let me be the first to extend my hand to each of you,” said Demapan. “There will be some issues that will be politically difficult but I assure that if we work together results will happen.”

Demapan said cooperation means a timely passed government budget, protecting and preserving the retirement system, and solving the government’s outstanding debts with “innovative solutions.”

If not, Demapan said, “there will soon be an emergency government crisis.”

During the session yesterday, minority bloc member Rep. Ralph Yumul (Ind-Saipan) said, “It was no secret that this house was broken or split” but looking forward, he hopes they can solve issues like the over $9 million shortfall in fiscal year 2015.

Vice speaker Guerrero’s message to Demapan was “to allow for deliberation.”

Guerrero said, “A well-scrutinized bill is a good product,” and thanked members on both sides of the aisle.

Members of the Guam Legislature attended the House leadership switch. Sens. Tony Ada, minority leader of the 33rd Guam Legislature, and Sen. Mary Torres and Speaker Judith Won Pat were present.

Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at

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