There are individuals who I shared my thoughts with who have either limited or no awareness at all about Article 12. What is Article 12? Article 12 is a provision in our CNMI Constitution restricting acquisition of permanent and long-term interests in real property within the Commonwealth to persons of Northern Marianas descent. Who are person of Northern Marianas decent? The answer is a political definition, mainly referring to Northern Marianas Chamorro and Northern Marianas Carolinian who was born or domiciled in the Northern Mariana Islands by 1950 and was a citizen of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands before the termination of the Trusteeship with respect to the Commonwealth.
Who own public lands? Article 11, Section 1 in our NMI Constitution stipulates that “public lands belong collectively to the people of the Commonwealth who are of Northern Marianas descent.” It is always misunderstood that public lands belong to the CNMI government. The mindset of the current and past elected leaders that public lands are government-owned has compromised the protection of public lands and therefore failed to encourage local development of a strong economic base to improve the livelihood of all Northern Marianas decent. Since public lands belong to all Northern Marianas decent, or NMDs, why then that we as NMDs are not directly benefiting from transactions or leases of our public lands? Instead, our NMDs are moving away from the CNMI to Guam or the U.S. mainland for better job opportunities with livable wages. Think about it.
Can NMDs sell their real property under Article 12? Yes! The purpose of Article 12 is to keep it within the NMDs’ bloodline because it is our only tiny natural resource uniting us as Taotao Tano. There are two ways NMDs can sell their real property. One way is to sell but the land will no longer be yours but we keep it within the NMDs bloodline (fee simple) and the second way is to sell but the land is still yours and you continue passing on your lands to your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren from generations to generations (long-term lease). Article 12 prohibits selling your land in fee simple to non-NMDs but allow you to sell in long-term lease (55 years). If we allow Article 12 to be placed on the ballot in any election for voters to decide (considering the recent ruling of the NMI District Court allowing non-NMDs to vote on matters of Article 12) whether to abolish or not to abolish, then we are risking the protection of our only tiny natural resource that is uniting us collectively as NMDs and as Taotao Tano.
We will also be risking losing our economic leverage should we allow Article 12 to be abolished. Article 12 not only protects our culture and traditions but also protects NMDs against economic exploitation and it promotes our economic advancement and self-sufficiency. But have we as NMDs achieved economic advancement and self-sufficiency? I don’t think so. But why? Because majority of our current and past elected leaders are weak, selfish, and easily bought with a wine-and-dine scheme and who knows what else under the table! Pot fabot fan tachu’ taotao tano and vote smart on Election Day!
However, Article 12 need to be strengthened and improved by amending Article 12 Section 4 of our NMI Constitution. Currently, Article 12 Section 4 provides that he or she must possess at least 25 percent NMD blood to own land in the CNMI. This requirement has outlived its intent and it needs to be amended. Please vote yes to H.L.I. 18-1 to change the 25 percent blood quantum requirement to just any blood degree quantum. It is a good start in the right direction to strengthening and improving Article 12.’
Jesus I. Taisague