Kilili campaign, Fitial administration spar on issues again

Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan’s (Ind-MP) campaign said yesterday that the CNMI people are tired of politics and the blame-game, and instead want solutions and results that’s why people reelected Sablan to Congress in 2010. But the Fitial administration reiterated yesterday its criticism against Sablan.

The Kilili for Congress campaign was responding to attacks against the delegate by Republican Party of the CNMI Association president, Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, and other GOP members during the party’s attacks kickoff rally on Sunday in Susupe.

In a statement, the Sablan campaign said Sablan focuses on the issues and solving problems, that is why his work in Congress produces results.

“Kilili is focused on finding solutions, not blame,” the Sablan campaign said.

Fitial and former governor Juan N. Babauta, now chief executive officer of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., criticized Sablan on Sunday for taking credit for the work of others. Babauta ran but lost to Sablan in the previous delegate races.

Republicans urged CNMI voters on Sunday to replace Sablan with Dr. Ignacia T. Demapan, an educator for 23 years including being principal of Kagman Elementary School.

But the Sablan campaign said the delegate’s record speaks for itself.

“Take health care for example. Working with the other island delegates, Kilili made sure the Northern Marianas was included in Obamacare, giving CHC an extra $110 million for Medicaid patients,” the campaign said.

Press secretary Angel Demapan, when asked for comment, said from the standpoint of the Fitial administration, while Obamacare claims to provide an additional $110 million in Medicaid funds, “the CNMI is financially incapable of meeting the local match requirement to even expend all these funds.”

“This is why Gov. Fitial has long urged the delegate to instead focus on securing a waiver for the matching requirement, or even reduced the mandatory matching percentage. Other states and territories have successfully achieved this feat, why not the CNMI? To simply dangle a $110 million price tag in the air knowing full well that the Commonwealth cannot match it is insanely ludicrous,” Demapan said.

The Kilili campaign also said that just last week the $608,000 Kagman Community Health Center grant was announced, paid for by Obamacare. Also announced last week was $291,000 in rebates for Northern Mariana Islands families that buy health insurance, paid for by Obamacare.

Demapan said the governor “finds this latest announcement by the delegate’s office to be yet another effort of political grandstanding.”

“There were so many stakeholders involved in securing this grant and they were not even recognized for their hard work. The governor is grateful for this new funding awarded to the CNMI and acknowledges that this would not have been possible if it were not for the work of the key officials of the former Department of Public Health, the now Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation, the Kagman community group’s board of directors and members, and the two representatives from Precinct 5. These were the public servants that worked day and night to put together this grant application package. They are the ones who deserve proper recognition for bringing such a welcomed development to the community of Kagman,” Demapan said.

Rep. Fred Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan), one of the representatives representing Kagman, separately said yesterday he’s grateful to all those who made the grant award possible.

The Kilili campaign also said beyond health care, Sablan has worked from day one to bring federal dollars to help the CNMI.

Sablan voted for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which brought $119 million to the CNMI. That money kept teachers working and schools open, brought green energy to schools, got laptops to students, and gave families up to $800 off their taxes.

The Fitial administration once again said ARRA “was an initiative of the U.S. president, not the U.S. Congress.”

“Furthermore, the CNMI has the unfortunate situation of having a non-voting delegate in Congress. That being said, how exactly does a non-voting delegate claim to have voted on legislation?” the press secretary added.

The Sablan campaign also said the delegate increased water and sewer grants from less than $1 million a year to over $36 million in four years, helping bring 24-hour water to almost every home on Saipan.

“Congressman Kilili had food stamp funding increased first by 13.6 percent, then by another $1 million this year. Kilili doesn’t consider it ‘welfare’ because he knows that it is basic human decency to help feed the hungry,” the campaign said.

Fitial said Sablan focused on food stamp funding issues, making it appear as though the CNMI is a welfare state. The governor said the delegate should focus on developing the economy so that people won’t have to rely on food stamps.

Sablan and Fitial do not see eye to eye on a host of issues.

Sablan is the CNMI’s first nonvoting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives as a result of a law that also placed local immigration under federal control. He won the first delegate race in 2008 and was sworn into office in 2009.

He was re-elected in the November 2010 race and took his second oath of office in January 2011. He is seeking a third term.

Republicans also criticized on Sunday the CNMI Senate for not working with the Fitial administration.

Senate President Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota) said the Senate has been trying to work with the administration to help the NMI Retirement Fund, the Commonwealth Health Center and the Commonwealth Utilities Corp., among other things, but Manglona said the administration seems to be always focused on ramming down the Senate’s throat the legalization of casino gaming on Saipan.

Manglona hopes that Saipan voters will sign an ongoing petition drive so that the question can be placed on the Nov. 6 ballot for people to decide, and so that proponents will not insist on passage of bill to legalize it.

Haidee V. Eugenio | Reporter
Haidee V. Eugenio has covered politics, immigration, business and a host of other news beats as a longtime journalist in the CNMI, and is a recipient of professional awards and commendations, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental achievement award for her environmental reporting. She is a graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman.

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