No actual injunction that seeks to force the CNMI government to give the Public School System more money has been filed against the CNMI government yet.
This was learned during a regular board meeting yesterday, when the PSS legal team informed the Board of Education that, so far, what’s been filed is just a lawsuit or complaint that the government is not paying what’s due PSS, which is 25% of the CNMI’s revenue.
“No actual injunction was filed. Simply filing a lawsuit and asking that an injunction be issued doesn’t create an injunction,” said PSS legal counsel Tiberius Mocanu.
He explained that an injunction is a remedy that you would ask the court for and happens when you ask the court to do something.
“In this case, when we filed the lawsuit and asked for injunctive relief, we asked that the court order Secretary of Finance David Atalig and Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to cease payments under Public Law 21-08, which was the budget for this fiscal year,” he said.
However, to file an injunction, PSS had to present to the court that there would be irreparable harm had the payments continued to occur in violation of what the Supreme Court’s opinion said, he added.
“Consequently, before [the injunction] was filed, the Public School System closed its schools on account of COVID-19, so our irreparable harm that we would’ve sought as the basis of our injunction was gone. We would’ve argued that the closure of schools and the discontinuance of education on account of not receiving what we were owed would’ve caused irreparable harm,” Mocanu said.
Mocanu is currently working with his staff to complete and file a motion for summary judgement to move forward with the lawsuit that was filed in the first week of April.
“A motion for summary judgement proves there are no disputes on what the facts are. In our case there are none. We can all agree with the numbers that the Department of Finance has and what the appropriations to PSS and to other agencies are. We’re simply arguing that the interpretation of the certified question applies to this fiscal year, thus changes the formula that should be implemented, thus giving PSS more money,” Mocanu explained.
Yesterday, board members Marylou Ada, Andrew Orsini, and Phillip Mendiola-Long voted to re-affirm the lawsuit and file the motion for summary judgement. Board chair Janice Tenorio and vice chair Herman Atalig voted against filing the summary judgement.
Tenorio suggested that her colleagues consider revisiting the lawsuit and to defer it to a later time. “Let’s go back to the table instead of taking this to court. I really believe in sitting down and working out things. Defer the lawsuit until our government can get on their feet,” she said.