Manglona: A true statesman


It was in the mid-’60s that I first met the late Lt. Governor Benjamin T. Mañgloña at the Congress of Micronesia on Capital Hill. He represented southern Saipan, Tinian, and Rota in that august body. He hails from the humble southernmost isle in the archipelago, Luta.

It was also the beginning of a long relationship both at the personal and professional level. His career spans the entire political journey of the NMI from the old TTG days when Rota was a sub-district of Chuuk until he became lieutenant governor. And so he’s had a perfect lens of the past and a vision of the future of the islands. He forged ahead and never looked back.

His usually humble demeanor could be deceiving. He was a man of substance, depth, vision, and brilliance. Most politicians have fallen off their saddles and turned permanent fixtures as dinosaurs. Manglona kept his youthful vision, brilliance, relevancy, and outlasted mostly everyone!

His ability to recombine the passion to help and brilliance of a visionary was the difference in leadership. Indeed, therein lies the unique answer I’ve sought for years. His steady trajectory in politics is very unique returning each time as the favorite of his people.

His legislative prowess was superb and unmatched and could shepherd a controversial bill through even with detractors voting “aye” when roll call comes. A true statesman, he shakes the hands of his detractors especially after heated debates.

There were transformational shifts wrought by information technology. We changed from typewriters to computers. Yet, Manglona never lost sight of the fundamental changes and easily rolled with it. He remained relevant.

Manglona left an indelible legacy of his beloved NMI. He was the chief architect ensuring equity in the Legislature that is part of the Covenant Agreement—a bicameral system. He ensured that no one is stampeded as a consequence of being a powerless minority. His footsteps on the shores of these isles would glow for others to tread.

Indeed, our beloved friend has sailed into the beautiful sunset and under the bright blue skies of paradise he will rest in peace and tranquility. Si Yuus Maase!

Water politics: Acting governor Victor Hocog vetoed a measure that would have provided more water for Rota farmers deal with irrigating farmlands amidst a deepening drought. Hocog literally suffocated the livelihood of farmers who rely on growing vegetables and fruits for sale at home and at a larger market on Guam.

His decision on this issue is a microcosm of his sheer demagoguery gift-wrapped in arrogance and apathy! The measure was authored by Sen. Terry Santos aimed at helping farmers overcome the destruction of the dry season.

Though his concerns were appropriately addressed in the measure on overlaps of authority over water disposition he seems inebriated with toxic politics over rhyme and reason. So farmers are forced to watching their efforts turn into losses as the dry season roasts and torches their produce. Isn’t helping the people he represents uppermost in his fiduciary duty?

Corruption: Now, Gov. Ralph Torres announced he would stamp out corruption in government. Sir, you can begin by asking your lieutenant governor to resign immediately. Ask him in plain simple English or Chamorro since when is it constitutional giving public funds to his family ($400,000) to pay and run the MV Luta? Since can a delegation appropriate public funds via a resolution?

The resolution also revealed real shallowness and callousness usurping public law by amending it in violation of the intent of the casino law on funds earmarked for retirees. Amending a public law via a poorly crafted resolution? Did Hocog forget that the constitution reigns supreme as the law of the land? Call it lawlessness or constitutional infirmity. Humiliating!

The hypocrisy is if Torres ignores his partner’s glaring violation of constitutional law, the irony in their collective knowledge that it’s a violation of law. Public funds illegally siphoned off via a resolution (not appropriation mandated by the constitution) for the Hokog family business is corrupt!

Inner voice: Occasionally, I’d experience dead silence—can’t hear anything at all—for at least 15 seconds. I know that my inner voice (intuition) has a message. It’s about knowing without knowing or call it unconscious reasoning. Steve Jobs said it’s “more powerful than intellect.” However we say it, intuitively, we know just what it is.

Questions begin rolling about the impending message. I’d ignore it deferring to the pleasantries of the fading sunset as the clouds, one by one, begin to glow, followed by glitter of a million stars. This particular evening neither came out.

Insolvency of the NMI government was quite prominent in mind. I think the cumulative deficit is about $572 million. The NMI Constitution requires that such deficit must be retired the second year of the new administration. In this case, the Torres/Hocog administration must pay off the $572 million deficit by the end of FY 2017—next year!

The fiscal obligation is so huge there’s no wiggle room for pet projects including nepotistic hiring or more useless political loyalists.

PR experience: Puerto Rico is drowning in a huge sea of deficit even the feds are confused how to salvage it so it pays off its deficit. Millions of its people have moved to Florida and other states given the lack of opportunities at home.

Most damning is the exodus of doctors in recent past. In 2014, some 364 doctors left the island never to return. Last year, 500 doctors packed up. Most moved for more lucrative positions in the mainland U.S. When local funds or revenue generation heads further south this too could happen to the NMI where even our very own people are forced to evacuate elsewhere.

But there’s yet another eruption ready to implode in the not too distant future. The toxic air would be so severe even a facemask would be useless. No wonder I relish peaceful moments alone.

John S. Del Rosario Jr. | Contributing Author
John DelRosario Jr. is a former publisher of the Saipan Tribune and a former secretary of the Department of Public Lands.

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