A bid urging Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) to introduce legislation to exempt the CNMI from the federal cockfighting ban passed the House of Representatives during their session last Friday afternoon on Capital Hill.
Introduced by Rep. Luis John Castro (R-Saipan), his House Joint Resolution 21-6 passed with a vote of 13-2-1, with Reps. Tina Sablan (Ind-Saipan) and Donald Manglona (Ind-Rota) voting against and Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan) abstaining.
The resolution urges the delegate to seek an exemption for the CNMI in the cockfighting ban imposed on all U.S. territories in the 2018 Farm Bill—a provision in the legislation that has been opposed by the insular territories.
“I am conflicted because I understand the passion and the strong feelings that are associated with some in our community that see cockfighting as a cultural practice. I sympathize with them,” Sablan said in a statement. “But I also have some understanding of the dynamics in Congress and what we will effectively be asking our delegate to do. …This Farm Act passed overwhelmingly. It was 300-some votes and a handful of no votes,” she noted.
She noted that should a legislation preventing animal abuse had been passed, then it would have been an easier sell in Congress.
“The perception in Congress is that animal fighting is inhumane. When they look at our laws and we have not even passed an animal cruelty protection law, that just reinforces that perception,” she said.
“I would like to ask the members to reconsider this approach. We already have one example of our law [cannabis legalization law] going up against federal law and we also have a U.S. Attorney General’s opinion…that things like cockfighting are really the purview of a…territory, so we can take a different approach,” she noted.
“This joint resolution, I don’t see this [being] taken seriously,” she added.
Propst opted to abstain because he believes voting on the resolution would affect his House Bill 21-59, the proposed Animal Protection Act. The bill seeks to protect animals that are considered domesticated. It is also the third iteration of a proposed animal protection legislation.
“…It is something that has been longstanding. …It does put in some conflict for myself,” he said. “The bill would never have support if [I] blocked cockfighting.”
Propst noted that his legislation is set to be discussed on the House floor soon. It is currently at the House Judicial and Governmental Operations Committee and, according to vice speaker Lorenzo I. Deleon Guerrero (R-Saipan), the committee is leaning toward recommending it for passage.
“We can hopefully pass it in unison as it was always passed,” Propst said, adding that the previous iterations of his legislation always got stuck in the Senate.