BARELY 3 MONTHS SINCE GOVERNOR’S VETO

Ogumoro pushes ‘political status commission’ again

Rep. Felicidad Ogumoro (R-Saipan) once again pre-filed a bill creating a new commission to examine whether the CNMI people desire continuing the islands’ current political relationship with the United States, barely three months since Gov. Eloy S. Inos vetoed her similar bill over constitutional issues and attempts to “unilaterally” alter the relationship between the U.S. and the CNMI.

Ogumoro is expected to introduce House Bill 18-206 when the House holds a session later this week.

The proposed commission’s purpose is to, among other things, examine the present political relationship between the Northern Marianas and the U.S.

The commission is also expected to determine whether the NMI people are still in favor of continuing in “political union with the United States of America” pursuant to the Covenant, and/or prefer some other political status options that would “better enable them to fulfill their hope and aspirations of full, meaningful and a well-defined self-government status.”

Under HB 18-206 or the Second Marianas Political Status Commission Act of 2014, the commission shall submit its final report to the CNMI Legislature for review and approval.

After such review and approval, the Legislature shall present such political status option(s) to the Commonwealth Election Commission which, in turn, shall present such political status option to the voters for their approval or disapproval in a plebiscite.

The governor, in his May 2014 veto message of Ogumoro’s earlier bill, said it is “doubtful” that such commission could “unilaterally” alter the relationship between the NMI and the U.S.

Ogumoro’s pre-filing of HB 18-206 also comes five months after the CNMI marked on March 24 the 38th year of the 1976 signing of the mutually negotiated “Covenant” that made the Northern Marianas a part of the American political family, and paved the way for its qualified people to become U.S. citizens in 1986.

Covenant Section 105 provides that the fundamental provisions of the Covenant—namely Articles I, II and III and Sections 501 and 805—may be modified only with the consent of the U.S. and CNMI governments.

“Therefore, even if the voters of the Commonwealth ultimately voted to approve changes to the Covenant, the United States would need to consent to any changes to the fundamental Covenant provisions identified above,” Inos earlier said.

The governor also earlier said a provision in the vetoed bill is almost certain to be in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I 6 of the Commonwealth Constitution, referring to a qualification of appointees who are supposed to be “a person of Northern Marianas descent as defined in Article XII 4 of the N.M.I. Constitution.”

Ogumoro’s new bill does not restrict appointment to NMD persons.

Instead, it says U.S. citizen and has been domiciled in the CNMI for at least five consecutive years at the time of appointment, and “shall have at least good knowledge of the Northern Marianas’ political history…”

Ogumoro’s bill also seeks the governor’s reprogramming of up to $100,000 for the commission’s operations and the amount may be spent “without regard to fiscal year limitation.” Ogumoro is seeking re-election in the Nov. 4 general elections.

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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