Sablan: Political intimidation in gov’t must end
Rep. Christina Marie E. Sablan (D-Saipan), the NMI Democratic Party’s candidate for governor in the November general election, said Monday that if elected, she and her running mate, Rep. Leila Haveia Fleming C. Staffler (D-Saipan), are going to end what they described as a “culture of political intimidation in government” that she claimed is happening in the administration of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres right now.
During a press conference at Island Café and Restaurant in Garapan, Sablan said Staffler is a champion of the Whistleblower Protection Act, which she is a co-sponsor along with other colleagues in the House of Representatives.
“In a lot of ways, that is a response to the culture that we see now and that we hear about all the time in government employees who are afraid to speak, afraid to exercise their First Amendment right. Because retaliation is real and that needs to stop,” she said.
On the House’s impeachment of Torres, Sablan said in terms of their roles as legislators and in reviewing the documents and evidence and listening to the testimonies that came out during the House’s Judiciary and Governmental Operations Committee’s investigations, they were doing their jobs. Sablan said these are jobs that she and Staffler, along with her colleagues in the House, take very seriously.
The JGO is investigating Torres’ expenditures of public funds and travels. It has yet to issue a final report.
Sablan noted that the impeachment was a bipartisan vote, as it was Democrats, independents, and Republicans that came to the conclusion over the course of this investigation in the last two years that Torres’ conduct rose to the level of impeachment.
Now that the vote to impeach Torres is done and there will be trial in the Senate, Sablan said that she and Staffler are ready to move forward with presenting their vision of what government could and should be like.
She said when they talk of good governance, it means fairness and honesty, and fiscal responsibility.
Sablan said everything that they learned in these last two years during the JGO investigation, but also even before that, with this House special committee on impeachment, they were looking at all kinds of examples of how not run a government, how not to take care of public funds,
and also how not to take care of the people who work in government.
“So we are presenting a much different and more positive vision of what leadership and government should be,” she said.
As to the issue of Staffler running for the second highest position in office without much experience, Staffler said she may be new to this system but the one thing that she can tell is that she has a lot of experience with systems, which are her passion.
“One of the things that I’ve always been really good at is getting people to work together for a common goal,” said the 42-year-old Staffler, who is serving a first term in the House representing Precinct 5.
She said one of the main reasons that she wanted to do this work is that she felt that the government could do better at collaborating with each other to provide the common goal of giving services to people.
Staffler said she feels that with the right leadership, it always comes from the top. “Your culture, your work, your school culture, it comes from the top. And how you operate, the principles that you believe in, the principles that guide you are the things that will change the way an operation or system works,” she said.
“The things that we believe in, the principles that guide us are good governance principles. These are things that can change systems, the culture of systems. It’s never easy,” Staffler said.
She said she has had extensive training helping people manage change.
“I don’t think you need years and years of experience in a certain system. If you have experience in multiple systems, you can use them anywhere,” she pointed out.