No special election? Really?

Seems like the Republican Party is going full speed ahead with an “End Run” rather than going full steam right into the granite block that is the special election. It is not really a block of granite. There isn’t a slate of candidates that acting governor Ralph Torres is up against. He is the only candidate. This is called a special election because an elected official, while serving less than half of his four-year term (11 months only), left the Commonwealth and never returned to reclaim his elected seat, thus creating a vacant elected seat.

He died overseas. Per our constitution, the sitting lieutenant governor becomes acting governor pending a special election. The constitution is quite clear on that. And the special election is to legitimize that accession to the vacant gubernatorial office. Because a sitting governor died while serving only 11 months, and died overseas, this creates a special type of situation, and a special election is in order. See Article III, Section 7 (1st and 3rd sentences).

But Torres did become acting governor immediately upon Inos’ departure from CNMI for whatever reason. See Article III, Section 8 (a). Because Inos failed to return to the Commonwealth alive from Seattle to reclaim his seat, Article III, Section 8 (a) swings to Section 7 (1st and 3rd sentences). Torres could just ask for the special election and he would just take the election easy, being the only person up to the election, no challenger, because of the mechanics of law.

But what acting governor Torres is doing by not bowing to the applicable sections of our constitution, is not the assent of the democratic people of this Commonwealth. He, really, should be elected. That’s what is, constitutionally, required in this situation. Let’s do it within the confine of the constitutional mandates, Article III, Section 8 (a), and Section 7 (sentence one, and sentence three). Sentence two does not apply. It talks about simultaneous double vacancies. Not applicable in this instance. And if a sentence or two don’t apply, set it aside, like the second sentence of Section 7. For acting governor Torres, though, it’s a clear and easy, roller-coaster ride to the Office of the Governor. But no, his coaches say, “take the end-run.” The lead person, acting governor Ralph DLG Torres, is taking the “end-run.” What is that? It’s the circumvention of the constitutional mandates on gubernatorial succession. See Article III, Section 8 (a), and Section 7 (first and third sentences). As for Senate President Vic Hocog, Baron de Tocqueville’s principle of Separation of Powers applies.

Our constitution also says that no one person should hold jobs in two or more branches of our government simultaneously. The branches are the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. In line with this narrative, a person holding a job in the legislative branch should resign his position before accepting a position in the executive branch. A person could only hold a job in one branch of the government at any one time. No conjuring up of things. We must remember that our CNMI Constitution mirrors, for the most part, the American constitution, its subsequent amendments, and that constitution has a political history, political treaties, political theorists and philosophers whose points we must also consider like the Federalist Papers, the Anti-Federalist Papers, like Montesquieu, Locke, Rousseau, Hobbs, Rossiter, the British Constitution, Minister Roger Williams’s and President Thomas Jefferson’s persuasions on the separation of church and state , and other pertinent, influential, historical documents prepared by the various convention delegates and presented to that American constitutional convention. I say our constitution is based on those readings, for the most part.

Thus, when Senate President Vic Hocog crossed the divisive, imaginary line between the Legislative and the Executive branches, to assume the title of acting lieutenant governor, he should have resigned first from the Legislature, but he didn’t resign. Or did he? There isn’t any word from anyone that Senate President Vic Hocog resigned from the Legislature before “jumping the fence,” or that there’s going to be special election for both of them. On second thought, for Hocog, Section 3 is not the proper clause to follow because the situation is different. Section 3 seems to say temporary absence, no death in office. Gov. Inos died overseas while serving only 11 months of a four-year term. When he left the CNMI for Seattle, the focus swings to Section 8 (a). Inos’ death is not a temporary absence. Of course not.

When Inos died while overseas, the focus swings to Section 7 (1st and 3rd sentences). The situation has changed. And I say Section 3 is for temporary absence and doesn’t apply in this instance because no lieutenant governor died. Had there been one, the focus should switch to Section 7. I say Section 3 is set for living lieutenant governor. I also say that Torres was given the wrong interpretation by his advisors, which lacked overt popular support. The only way out of this wrong decision is to get elected per Article III, Section 7. Those advisors who told Lt. Gov. Torres to go ahead and take the gubernatorial oath of office are not the “Rule of Law.” Is Torres reluctant to push for a special election? The advisors have usurped the right of the people to vote per Section 7. The handful of advisors took it upon themselves to decide that-yes-Torres, take the gubernatorial oath of office, and be full-fledge governor. Never mind the constitutional mandates. Where are their written decisions and/or opinions? Let’s see the written opinions used in this instance. Do they, now, need a paralegal, or legal assistant, or trial assistant, to do their researches for them? And, what then, is the purpose of the constitution and any amendment to it? I am aware that not all lawyers, and others, agree with my argumentation, and, of course that’s normal, and I know that. But then, even Siamese twin don’t necessarily agree with each other every time, married couples divorce, co-habiting couples call it quit like Marvin v. Marvin, that’s why there are courts, and that’s why not every lawyer makes the “Top Three” of their law schools, and are not hired by Wilmer, Cutler, and Pickering, for example.

How many lawyers have passed the CNMI Bar on first try? But that’s for another time. So, does the local Republican Party want the governor and lieutenant governor to stay as is, no special election, and not as acting governor and acting lieutenant governor of the Commonwealth? Is it “I see nothing, I hear nothing, I say nothing, thus I do nothing to rock the boat and sink myself politically?” And what of the pertinent sections of our constitution, do we fold the pages over, and close the volume? Let’s lay all the issues on the table with all bets off. Let’s be frank. Why no special election? Why? Are Torres’ handful of advisors the people, that’s why they are re-writing the constitution without the benefit of a plebiscite? That what they did, didn’t they? Their demeanors usurped the voting rights of the people. How difficult readings are Article III, Sections 7, 8, and, 3? And Article II, Section 11? Without this special election so far, the Commonwealth history has a never elected acting governor and a never resigned senator with only about 400 Rota senatorial votes, now a Commonwealth-wide acting lieutenant governor who, now, holds two positions, one in the Executive Branch, the other in the Legislative Branch.

He has never resigned from the Legislature. And the Legislature? Two presidents, one could be called the president pro-tem because the original president hasn’t resigned, and the original president could be called “the Rover” because that other one sits as the Senate president Pro Tem, and “Rover” is hanging around in the shadow of “Pro-Tem.” Two senate presidents. We cannot have that. It’s either one or the other, but Hocog has not resigned his seat, and so the whole government is convoluted. Isn’t this turning out to be another comedy of errors? Election Commission, call the special election and right this wrong. Because until then, we have a government of an unelected acting governor and unelected, unresigned, acting lieutenant governor with only 400 Rota senatorial votes to rule Commonwealth-wide. Saipan and Tinian did not vote for him. But, are we back to being Chamorro and Refaluasch, laid-back, páre, bwibwi, coffee, and mamaύn, tunu i kustiyas, Kilili and Minachum Atdao beaches, good natured guys, and, kumaire manngi i pan? But we have very serious issues at hand to tend to. We must address them. Boy, golai faká.

Rudy M. Sablan
Garapan

Contributing Author Author

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