Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios has praised the decision of U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Mangloña to grant the preliminary injunction sought by CNMI Customs and Biosecurity Director Jose C. Mafnas against Secretary of Finance David Dlg. Atalig, the governor’s chief of staff, William M. Castro, and the CNMI government.
In a statement yesterday, Palacios said the judge’s decision shows that “no one is above the law.”
Mangloña granted the injunction last Aug. 15, 2022. That effectively restored Mafnas to his position at Customs and restrained Atalig from putting into effect his July 21, 2022, memorandum reassigning Mafnas to the Department of Commerce. The court further ordered Atalig, Castro, and the CNMI government not to interfere with or take any adverse actions against Mafnas’ employment as director of Customs and Biosecurity under the Department of Finance.
“Director Mafnas, just like any CNMI civil servant, had the right to do his job, free from coercion and political influence, pursuant to our constitution and laws. It is unfortunate that there are high ranking officials within this Administration that fail to recognize those rights,” said Palacios, who is running for governor in this November election.
“I applaud Director Mafnas for having the courage to file his lawsuit in U.S. District Court. Moreover, I thank Judge Ramona Mangloña for granting the preliminary injunction,” said Palacios. “The granting of the preliminary injunction shows that no one is above the law, that the government belongs to the people, and it should encourage those that have been or are being coerced for their political views to seek the protection of the law and get their rights vindicated accordingly.”
Mafnas filed his verified complaint in late July, alleging violations of his rights under the United States and CNMI constitutions, and pursuant to 42 USC sect. 1983. Mafnas also asked the court to issue a judgment against Atalig and Castro for political coercion in violation of CNMI law.
Mayor David M. Apatang, who is the running mate of Palacios this November, said “the granting of the preliminary injunction reaffirms trust in the rule of law.”
Both Palacios and Apatang served as career civil servants before running for public office. Palacios was secretary for the Department of Lands and Natural Resources and, prior to that, was the director of the Division of Fish and Wildlife. Apatang was the director of the Department of Finance Division of Procurement and Supply. (PR/Saipan Tribune)