House OKs $20.7M bill to pay off Mangabao, others
Bill stops further accumulation over $1M in annual interest
The House of Representatives passed Friday a bill that pays off the government’s largest land compensation debt in the amount of about $16 million, hours after the Office of the Governor identified funds available for appropriation.
The legislation appropriates $20.7 million for various land compensation judgments that have been accruing millions of dollars in interest over the years. Those include the $16 million owed the estate of Maria Mangabao, the $3 million owed the heirs of Rita Rogolifoi, the over $500,000 owed the estate of Vicente S. Muna, the over $900,000 owed the estate of Cresencio I. Manglona, and the over $80,000 owed Luisa B. Quitugua.
All in all, the bill, if passed by the Senate, is set to relieve the Commonwealth government of over $20 million in land compensation debt and an annual accruing interest rate of over $1 million.
The largest of the amount owed is that of the Mangabao estate. After being filed back in 1997, the heirs of the Mangabao family are set to finally receive their long-awaited compensation.
Michael Dotts, who has been handling the case since 2007, specified that interest has been accruing at a rate of $2,880 per day, adding up to an amount of over $16 million throughout the years.
“There is a lot of people in this family, maybe about 3,000 people; they are going to get paid,” said Dotts. He added that the passing of the bill is “good for the Commonwealth” as it cuts the accruing interest as the days go by.
“We are making more than a million dollars a year in interest on this case,” he said, adding that the “Commonwealth has a moral obligation to pay judgments.”
According to Dotts, the family should see the money start “flowing down” soon. He added that since Maria Mangabao passed away, several generations since her passing have to be reviewed in order for the right heirs to receive their compensations.
“It’s a very large family at this point because the initial matriarch passed away long ago,” he said, adding that the petition for partial distribution has already been filed to get “the money flowing down.”
The author of the bill, Ways and Means Committee chair Rep. Angel Demapan (R-Saipan) told the media that his committee was told that morning that there is $28 million available for appropriation.
House Bill 20-103 HS1 passed the House with a 19-0 vote. Rep. Edwin Aldan (R-Saipan) abstained since he is one of the heirs of the Mangabao estate.
According to Demapan, of the $28 million in funding, $20.7 million went to land compensation payments, leaving enough to comply with the constitutional mandate of appropriating 25 percent for supplemental appropriations.
“We would do that in subsequent legislation,” he said, adding that the appropriation was focused on the land compensation payments. A different appropriation bill would be worked on for the remaining funds.
“At this point, we don’t know what will be included [in the future appropriation] yet,” he disclosed.
Demapan referred to the land payment measure as a “landmark legislation.”
“It’s a good day for the Commonwealth. Although we still have outstanding land compensations to take care of, at least taking this step and [removing] $20 million from our books and the obligation of the government, the government becomes more financially solvent as we move along,” he said.