The Marianas Political Status Commission will be asking the Legislature to amend the law that created the group, Public Law 19-63, in order to get the public’s pulse if there is still the desire to continue the CNMI’s political union with the United States, as stated in the mutually-negotiated Covenant, which was approved by U.S. Congress in 1976.
The MPSC, chaired by former senator Pete Reyes, met yesterday at the Saipan Mayor’s Office conference room to begin their work to determine if the current political status is still in the best interest of the Commonwealth or if it would be better to change that relationship.
A section of the new law, Section 103 (i), requires the panel to submit to the Legislature within 18 months or no later than 21 months a final report on their findings and recommendations on political status options.
“Our operations starts today, because the first meeting that we had was organizational, where we selected the chair, vice chair, and the other officers,” Reyes said after their almost two-hour-long meeting.
He said the Legislature already knows of their request to have P.L. 19-63 amended. “The Legislature is aware of this [extension request], so it won’t be difficult to convince them that they need to amend the law. We need to ask for an extension so that we can actually work within the original plan of the minimum 18 months or 21 months,” he said.
The measure was originally introduced by former representative Felicidad T. Ogumoro as House Bill 19-2 ; it was signed into law by Gov. Ralph DLG Torres in August 2016.
Reyes said some provisions of the law need some clarity. “There are some provisions…that are ambiguous and may not jive with what we’re thinking. The timing, we need to amend that, to make sure the commission works without any legal problem.”
“We’re drafting a letter to both presiding officers of the Legislature—House Speaker Blas Jonathan T. Attao (R-Saipan) and Senate President Victor B. Hocog (R-Rota)—we’re going to ask them to amend the law and we’re going to justify it by explaining the chronology of events that have taken place.”
Reyes said that certain factors—like Super Typhoon Yutu and the election being postponed for one week—caused the delay in having themselves organized and begin operations. “We want to have that timing, barring any possibility of a future typhoon that…may have to delay this further.”
The commission already talked about how to move forward with their education and information campaign; Reyes recommended to the group that they hold public hearings in each of the CNMI’s seven precincts instead of an earlier suggestion of going to every village.
“Instead of going to every village, we will have one for each precinct to save money. To expand the education process for the political status, we’re going to use the media—newspaper, radio, and television—to educate people on what [MPSC] is doing. Also, to tap into the different resources that are available in the government, which is authorized by the statute.”