The court’s decision to sentence former governor Benigno R. Fitial to one year in prison sends a strong message to everyone in the CNMI that no one is above the law.
Superior Court Associate Judge David A. Wiseman imposed on Wednesday the prison sentence on the 69-year-old former governor who was earlier convicted of misconduct in public office and conspiracy to commit theft of services.
For citizen activist Glen Hunter, the decision is “historic” and will show to CNMI citizens and government officials that no matter “how powerful they are, no one is above the law.”
Hunter is a vocal supporter of anti-corruption campaigns in the CNMI and gave a personal testimony on the earlier stages of impeachment moves against Fitial.
He recalls that during these earlier stages of the impeachment, many members of the public were saying that “it is a waste of time” to pursue such action and “that’s just the way it is” in government.
“But we know now that the wheels of justice are turning. They might turn slowly, but they are turning,” Hunter said.
Misconduct and conspiracy were included as grounds for Fitial’s impeachment.
Hunter also said the concerned departments including the Office of the Public Auditor, the Department of the Public Safety, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation “rose to the challenge.”
“I would like to thank everyone who participated in the investigation and prosecution of this case,” Hunter said.
Gov. Eloy S. Inos has yet not issue a comment regarding the case, but is expected to issue a formal statement today, according to Press Secretary Ivan Blanco.
The leaders of the Legislature have yet to issue their respective statements on the sentencing.
Saipan Tribune tried to reach House Speaker Joseph Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan) and Senate President Victor C. Hocog (Ind-Rota) by mobile phone yesterday evening but was unsuccessful.
Minority leader Rep. Ramon A. Tebuteb (Ind-Saipan) also declined to issue any comment on the case.
For Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan), Fitial’s sentencing “is not something we should celebrate.”
“If anything, it is something we need to learn from. We all must realize that none of us are above the law, most especially elected officials. We are a compassionate and forgiving people, and that is a good thing, but we must ensure that everyone adheres to the laws of the land,” Propst said.