Manglona urges more legislative oversight over govt actions

Posted on Apr 13 2020

With the CNMI continuing to experience economic turmoil, Sen. Paul A. Manglona (Ind-Rota) has called on Senate President Victor B. Hocog (R-Rota) and House Speaker Blas Jonathan T. Attao (R-Saipan) to call a joint session to address the recent budgetary issues affecting retirees and government employees.

In particular, Manglona finds it “troubling” that many of the steps the Torres administration is taking to salvage the economy—bringing governments personnel costs down by 50% through terminations and furloughs and possible non-full payment of the government pension on Wednesday—are being done solely by Gov. Ralph DLG Torres. “It is troubling to know that these decisions are being executed single-handedly by the governor without any consultation with the CNMI Legislature,” said Manglona.

Torres recently invoked his authority to suspend statutory or regulatory provisions as part of an emergency declaration, but Manglona said it is incumbent on legislators to monitor the fiscal impact of this emergency declaration on “not only the remaining months of the fiscal year 2020 budget, but also on the upcoming [fiscal year] 2021 budget plan, which the governor submitted last week to the Legislature for its consideration.”

Manglona adds that the Legislature should immediately reinstate Section 203, the vetoed section of Public Law 21-08 (FY 2020 Budget Law). This would mandate the Finance secretary to submit its report to the Legislature monthly as opposed to quarterly.

“This Section 203 is extremely important, especially during this fiscal crisis when the need for transparency and accountability is critical in monitoring our government’s fiscal health,” Manglona said in his letter to legislative leaders.

Retirees’ pension

Manglona is also calling for immediate legislative action to address the 25% cut on retirees’ pension.

“It is one thing for the governor to transfer resources from a particular budgeted item to address the COVID-19 fight; but another for him to single-handedly make a decision to cut 25% of retirees’ full pension benefits without consulting the Legislature,” he said. “The governor should have known that the CNMI has an $18-million tax settlement from IPI’s casino gross revenue taxes—$10 million of which was paid in December 2019 and $8 million supposedly to be paid a few months later.”

According to Manglona, Public Law 20-34 specifically sets aside the first $22 million of the funds deposited into the Casino Gross Revenue Tax account for the payment of retirement benefits, including the 25% of class members’ full benefits.

“If this $18 million cannot be immediately accounted for, the Legislature needs to consider other options to make our man’amko whole with their full retirement pension,” he said.

One of these options, he said, is to restore the original intent of the CNMI casino law by amending Public Law 20-10 “to require that all monies from the exclusive casino license be earmarked for the 25% of class members’ full retirement benefits.

Employee furloughs

“The Legislature must play a key role in providing what government services and which employees shall remain, just as we are constitutionally mandated to do under a government shutdown in order to deliver services essential to the health, safety, and welfare of our people,” Manglona said.

Further, the senator called on the Legislature to discuss the negative impacts of furloughs, aside from the loss of income, such as the potential to lose health insurance coverage.

“Uncompensated expenditures for health care services used by uninsured residents, without a doubt, will increase, potentially in the tens of millions. The government should, at a minimum, ensure the continuity of health insurance coverage for employees who have been furloughed,” he added.

With federal financial assistance coming to the CNMI, Manglona also said the Legislature should be ready to pass a local legislation, should it be needed to facilitate the immediate implementation of any such assistance.

“We must ensure that the CNMI Department of Labor is properly staffed to assist all terminated and furloughed government and private sector employees with the documentation work needed to hasten unemployment benefits that are available under the CARES Act.”

He also called on his colleagues to work with the Commonwealth Development Authority, Department of Commerce, and the Division of Revenue and Taxation to fast-track the provision of direct financial relief to small business owners.

Not working to protect the interest and livelihood of people would be legislative negligence and a betrayal of public trust, Manglona said. “It is not right for us, legislators, to be blindsided, muted, and left out on these unfamiliar pressing matters that could potentially have colossal impacts on the lives of many families in the CNMI,” he added.

Iva Maurin | Correspondent
Iva Maurin is a communications specialist with environment and community outreach experience in the Philippines and in California. She has a background in graphic arts and is the Saipan Tribune’s community and environment reporter. Contact her at
Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.