PCF Fellows get up close with the CNMI government

The latest batch of Pacific Century Fellows Marianas Chapter immersed themselves in the inner workings of the CNMI government last Wednesday.

The fellows’ daylong tour of government agencies brought them to the Office of the Attorney General, Legislature, the Office of the Governor’s conference room, a meeting with Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, the Judiciary, and the Commonwealth Development Authority.

In their meeting with the Commonwealth’s first elected attorney general, Edward E. Manibusan, the 13 members of the cohort were briefed on the nature of the office and the lawyers that comprise the OAG.

Manibusan said his office is the de facto “largest law firm” on the island and advises the governor and all departments and divisions under the Executive Branch.

Next stop was the Legislature where the fellows met with members of the House of Representatives and the Senate. There, they listened to lawmakers talk about their respective bills and other important issues facing the Commonwealth, among them the upcoming expiration of the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker program.

After the meet-and-greet with lawmakers, the fellows found themselves at the Governor’s Office conference room where they sat in during an impromptu meeting among members of the first and second Mariana Islands Political Status Commission.

Former Washington representative Pete A. Tenorio, former House speaker Oscar Rasa, and CDA executive director Manny Sablan represented the first commission, while making up the second were Lt. Gov. Victor B. Hocog’s chief of staff John Oliver Gonzales, former Senate president Pete P. Reyes, former Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality administrator Frank Rabauliman, and Dr. Elizabeth Rechebei.

Unlike the first commission, which negotiated the Covenant with the United States, the second one is tasked to check the pulse of the people whether a reevaluation of the current relationship with the U.S. needs to be reexamined or tweaked.

The group was joined for lunch by Torres, who broke bread with the fellows and talked about controversial issues like his reasons for vetoing a bill that would have made the Northern Marianas Trades Institute a government entity and why he supports the Kagman Community Health Center’s independence.

Next was a session with Supreme Court Justice Alexandro Castro and Superior Court Associate Judge Teresa Kim-Tenorio.

Castro spoke briefly about the efforts to mitigate the mold infestation at the Guma Hustisia. He also talked about his career.

Kim-Tenorio discussed the CNMI Drug Court.

She said the program is a win-win situation for both the government and the ones being rehabilitated as it only costs $7,500 a year to treat a participant of the Drug Court, while the government spends $31,000 a year for each healthy inmate.

The fellows then met up again with Sablan at his office in Oleai and found out how the government economic development agency has finally recovered from the bad debts it doled out in the ‘90s. The main engines for CDA’s recovery are its microloan program ($35,000) and the State Small Business Credit Initiative or SSBCI.

The day ended with an informal meeting with Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ former chief of staff Matthew Deleon Guerrero at the TSL Plaza in Garapan. The talk centered around the islands’ future as the fellows took turns picking the mind of Deleon Guerrero, now an adviser to Torres and instructor at the Northern Marianas College. (Saipan Tribune)

Saipan Tribune

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