Gov. Eloy S. Inos said yesterday he’s glad to learn that former governor Benigno R. Fitial plans to come back to the CNMI on his own volition to face the charges filed against him, hoping that this would put “closure” to the issues that Inos said have split the community. He also hopes that the Commonwealth can move forward from this.
Inos said the judicial process would take its course.
“I want to see this thing put to a close…rather than keep having this thing hold us back and distract us from the real issues that we really want to address. It looks like this thing would take care of itself,” he told Saipan Tribune yesterday.
Fitial, through attorney Stephen Nutting, said he wants to return to the CNMI to face the criminal charges filed against him, saying he has no desire to become a fugitive.
This comes days after the House of Representatives adopted a resolution asking Inos to initiate the extradition for Fitial. Inos later said he would do so once the Office of the Attorney General recommends it, but it would be in the form of a letter to the U.S. State Department, since international extradition is a federal process rather than a local one.
The OAG has not come up with any recommendation, and Fitial’s court filing could render any request for extradition moot.
Inos said he’s glad that Fitial plans to come back.
“Because that way, it’s easier for both himself and us, and I guess everybody else. That he’s coming back here on his own is something that we’re pleased because we don’t have to spend government resources to bring him back here,” Inos said.
He added that “a lot of precedence has been set here.”
Despite what had transpired in the past years, Inos said he still considers Fitial a “friend.” They have been friends since the Trust Territory days, and earlier than that.
Fitial, 68, said he has “no desire to become a fugitive; forever unable to see the family and friends I have acquired throughout my lifetime. He said this in a declaration that he executed in the Philippines dated Feb. 27, 2014.
That declaration was filed with the Superior Court on Friday, through Nutting, asking the Superior Court to quash the arrest warrant that Associate Judge David Wiseman issued against him.
In March 2013, the Office of the Public Auditor filed seven criminal charges against Fitial for his role in shielding former attorney general Edward T. Buckingham from being served with penal summons in August 2012.
Fitial executed the declaration that he wants to return to the CNMI about a week after Buckingham was found guilty of all public corruption charges except one. Buckingham was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison, all suspended.
Fitial said his own health reasons and that of his father-in-law’s medical condition prevented him from returning to the CNMI sooner.
But lawmakers who voted to impeach him said Fitial showed flagrant disregard of the law for not communicating anything to the court or the CNMI government for a year.
Fitial resigned on Feb. 20, 2013, days before the start of his impeachment trial at the Senate. The House impeached him on 18 charges of corruption, felony, and neglect of duty. Fitial is the first governor of the CNMI or any U.S. territory to be impeached by the House, and the first CNMI governor to quit his post.