‘A statesman, a true diplomat’
Guam and others throughout Micronesia joined the people in the CNMI Friday in mourning the sudden passing of Rep. Ivan Alafanso Blanco (R-Saipan), who was described by many as a leader, statesman, a true diplomat, and a dedicated public servant.
As a mark of respect for his life and services, all CNMI and U.S. flags in the Commonwealth were lowered to half-staff in all public buildings and grounds in the Commonwealth, including at the Juan Atalig Sablan Memorial Building (Legislature), until the day of his interment.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres announced Blanco’s passing in a proclamation issued Friday. Blanco was 45 years old. He reportedly died of natural causes.
A source at the Department of Public Safety said Blanco, 45, was taken by an ambulance to the Commonwealth Health Center’s emergency room where he was later pronounced dead past 1pm Friday.
There has been no official word yet on what caused his death. DPS has yet to release information about Blanco’s death as of yesterday.
Saipan Tribune learned that Blanco had just come from a meeting at the Aqua Resort Club Saipan in Achugao and went to his car in the parking lot. An occupant of a vehicle parked next to Blanco saw the lawmaker asking for help as he was gasping for breath.
An ambulance was called, which then transported Blanco to CHC’s emergency room.
‘A true diplomat’
Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero and Lt. Gov. Josh Tenorio soon issued a statement, saying they are deeply saddened to hear of Blanco’s passing.
Leon Guerrero said she is fortunate to have worked alongside Blanco through the Marianas Working Group, strengthening Guam’s partnership with the NMI.
“He was a true diplomat, whose commitment to service has bridged communities throughout Micronesia,” the governor said.
Tenorio said he and Leon Guerrero join the people of the NMI in mourning Blanco’s passing and extend their deepest condolences and prayers to Blanco’s wife, Carmen, their children and all his loved ones.
Torres said he and Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, along with their families and the Commonwealth, also extend their deepest condolences to Blanco’s wife Carmen, their children Lilly, JC, +Pierre, Kide, Paige, and the entire Blanco family.
The governor said Blanco was a true statesman in every sense of the title.
“He was humble, intelligent, and passionate, and he held a deep love for our islands and the people who call them home, especially his beloved Precinct 3,” Torres said.
He said Blanco was a gifted communicator that brought people together and knew how to make anyone feel welcome.
The governor said Blanco treated everyone with kindness and respect and worked until his passing day to make a better Commonwealth so that the CNMI’s future generations are blessed with an opportunity to have a better life.
In a joint statement, Senate President Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian) and House Speaker Edmund S. Villagomez (Ind-Saipan) said they and the members of the 22nd CNMI Legislature extend their condolences on the passing of Blanco.
First elected into the Legislature in 2016, Blanco served in many different capacities as a member of the House as chairman of the Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations in the 20th Legislature and chairman of Ways and Means Committee in the 21st Legislature. Most recently, he served as House minority leader, vice chair of the Ways and Means Committee, and vice chair of the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation in this current term.
As a former official in both the CNMI and FSM state governments, Blanco’s knowledge of regional affairs greatly assisted his colleagues in fostering working relationships with many different jurisdictions throughout Micronesia, Hofschneider and Villagomez said.
An extraordinary leader
The Office of the House Minority also described Blanco, who was the minority leader, as an extraordinary leader who exemplified passion, commitment, and dedication to public service.
The bloc said Blanco served honorably and with utmost distinction. “He was a beloved leader of the Commonwealth and a proud son of Micronesia,” the bloc said in a statement.
They also credit Blanco with helping mold a minority family amongst their spouses and children. Shortly after his inauguration, Blanco engineered the minority bloc’s first ever Family Fun Day on Managaha.
“And throughout these past six months, we sustained the tradition he loved so much by hosting minority gatherings at our respective residences and at our community project sites,” the bloc said. “He’s given so much of himself to our islands, and for this, the Office of the House Minority remains committed to honor leader Blanco’s legacy of service, of camaraderie, and of love for all in the days and years to come.”
The minority bloc said Blanco loved his wife, Carmen Sablan, unconditionally, and was a tremendous father to their children.
“We will miss you. …We thank you and love you for sharing your life with us and our islands. Rest peacefully,” the minority said.
The NMI Judiciary also extended its condolences, describing Blanco’s passing as a great loss to the Commonwealth.
The Judiciary said Blanco’s character exemplified servant-leadership, compassion, and humility.
“He dedicated his life for the betterment of our people. The Judiciary is profoundly grateful for his support of the Judiciary’s mission in protecting the people’s rights and liberties,” the Judiciary said.
‘An incredible example’
Members of the 18th CNMI Youth Congress also issued a statement, describing Blanco as“a beloved colleague, team leader, and statesman.”
Youth Congress acting speaker Liekeila’akata T. Iakopo said Blanco played a vital role in her and Youth Congress member Sen. Easton Dela Cruz’s leadership development.
“Rep. Blanco was a true leader and set an incredible example for the community and communities across the Pacific,” Iakopo said.
She said Blanco helped to spearhead many fundraising campaigns to assist those displaced by disasters in Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia and was at the helm of coordinating efforts with relief workers from these areas deployed to the CNMI in the aftermath of Super Typhoons Soudelor and Yutu.
She said Blanco, or Jimbo as he was affectionately called, graduated at the top of his class at Xavier High School in Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia and eventually becoming a public official for the FSM national government. Upon moving to the CNMI, Iakopo said, Blanco worked for the Department of Commerce before joining the Office of the Governor under the Grants Management Office. He eventually became press secretary under the late governor Eloy S. Inos and incumbent Gov. Ralph DLG Torres,
In 2015, Blanco entered the political arena when he ran and won a seat in the House of Representatives. He was re-elected twice to represent the residents of Election District 3.
Others that also expressed condolences was the cohort of Executive Leadership Development Program of the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Graduate School USA that Blanco participated in.