Former House vice speaker Francisco S. Dela Cruz (R-Saipan) passed away suddenly yesterday while he was on Tinian. He was 56. He is survived by his wife, Lisa, and their four children.
There is no official word yet on what caused his death. A source said that Dela Cruz was being medically evacuated to Saipan when the ambulance turned from the Tinian International Airport to the Tinian Health Center. Emergency responders, at that time, were said to be trying to revive him via cardio-pulmonary resuscitation.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres ordered all flags in the CNMI to be flown at half-staff at all government and public buildings, instrumentalities and grounds from today until sunset on the day of Dela Cruz’s burial.
Dela Cruz served from the 15th to 18th legislatures. He was the vice speaker under the leadership of former House speaker Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero (R-Saipan). He was also a member of the House in the 20th Legislature and won his re-election bid for the coming 21st, finishing fifth among 12 candidates for the six seats of Precinct 3. He chaired the House Committee on Public Utilities, Communications, and Telecommunications.
Torres offered his and his family’s condolences to Dela Cruz’s family. “From my entire family and our Commonwealth, we extend our condolences to the family of [Rep.] Dela Cruz for his untimely passing. [Rep.] Dela Cruz was a humble, intelligent, and tireless leader.
“I have worked with him from my time in the Legislature to now as governor, and he has always been articulate on the issues facing our islands. He believed in raising the standard of living in the Marianas by developing our economy responsibly, enhancing our infrastructure, and protecting our environment.”
He said Dela Cruz not only advocated for his constituents in Precinct 3, but for the entire Commonwealth.
“He truly stands firm in his beliefs and always advocated for the best interests of Precinct 3 and the Commonwealth.
“This is what made him well-respected by his colleagues and by everyone he has met. We just lost a true public servant, who served Precinct 3, the island of Saipan, and the Commonwealth honorably and admirably. I join my colleagues in the Legislature in mourning, as we honor his memory and life of service.”
Condolences started pouring in on social media from some of his colleagues in the Legislature, with Deleon Guerrero expressing grief and shock over the untimely passing of Dela Cruz, whom he had the chance to serve with for five Legislatures.
“Most of our colleagues are saddened [with] his untimely passing. It was very sudden. I’m still in shock, since today we are celebrating the feast of the Three Kings. Now, it is marked by the death of a colleague and a friend,” said Deleon Guerrero, who visibly tried to control his emotions.
“He cares very deeply for our people. He sponsored the law of having an elected attorney general. He always stood up against abuse and corruption. The CNMI lost a very strong and principled congressman. We truly lost one great leader.”
Representative-elect L.J. Castro, who would have served with Dela Cruz in the coming 21st Legislature that opens its session next week, also offered the condolences of the family and praised Dela Cruz for his service. “Rep. Dela Cruz served the people of Precinct 3 for five terms and was recently elected to a sixth term this past election before his sudden passing.”
“A maverick at heart, he served with humility and love and respect for his people and our Commonwealth. I personally looked up to him and was looking forward to finally getting the chance to work with him in the Legislature. I will be forever indebted to his kindness and generosity.”
He also joins the family of Dela Cruz and the people of Precinct 3 in mourning. “Today, his family mourns the loss of a beloved husband, father and grandfather. His precinct mourns the passing of a great and humble public servant.”
“My colleagues and I lost a great friend and confidante. Our deepest thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Lisa, children and their families during this difficult time,” Castro added.
Sen. Sixto K. Igisomar (R-Saipan) posted on Facebook: “Join me in a moment of silence as we pray for the repose of the soul of our dear friend and colleague, The Hon. Francisco S. Dela Cruz, congressman. May God be with his family at this time of loss.”
A special election could take place to fill the seat vacated by his passing as stated in Article II, Section IX of the CNMI Constitution: “A vacancy in the Legislature shall be filled by special election if one-half or more of the term remains.