Sablan re-elected as CEC board chairman

Sablan re-elected as CEC board chairman

Jesus I. Sablan presides over a Commonwealth Election Commission board meeting after he was re-elected as chairman Friday at the CEC conference room in Susupe. Also in the photo, from left, are deputy attorney general Lillian Tenorio as CEC counsel, commissioner Dorisann Aldan-Atalig, CEC executive director Kayla Igitol, and vice chair Esther Yatar. (FERDIE DE LA TORRE)

Commonwealth Election Commission board members re-elected Friday Jesus I. Sablan as their chairman, a position that he has been holding since 2018.

At a board meeting held at the CEC conference room in Susupe, commissioner Esther Yatar, who is representing Rota, was elected vice chairman.

It was Yatar who nominated Sablan, who is representing Saipan and Northern Islands, as chairman.

Commissioner Dorisann Aldan-Atalig, who is representing Saipan and the Northern Islands, declined to be nominated as vice chair for health reason and, instead, nominated Yatar for the position.

Sablan, 74, said that during their last board meeting, they tried to elect a chairman, but Atalig declined for health reasons.

Sablan said commissioner Jesus Cepeda declined because he’s still new to the board, while the commissioners from Tinian and Rota believe that the chairman and vice chair should be from Saipan.

Sablan nominated Atalig as vice chair last Friday, but Atalig declined and, instead, nominated Yatar. Atalig said she just want to devote her time this year to getting her health back. Atalig said she’s still traveling out of the Commonwealth every quarter for her health treatment.

“I don’t feel comfortable. I can [however] continue in this capacity [as commissioner],” she said.

Atalig said if there is any upcoming event, Yatar may participate through Zoom or through any kinds of social platform.

Yatar said that she can take the nomination as vice chair, considering Atalig’s health concerns.

Sablan said he appreciates the confidence that the commissioners are putting in him to continue as the commission’s chairman.

Sablan mentioned at their last meeting that he was not interested in continuing his service as a commissioner for personal reason. However, since no commissioner wanted to be the chairperson, he was asked to reconsider.

Sablan said he was at a point of saying he would not going to continue, but CEC executive director Kayla S. Igitol called him and told him what’s going to transpire with the board without him. He said Gov. Ralph DLG Torres apparently is having a hard time finding somebody to join the CEC as commissioner. Sablan said nobody is willing to become a commissioner because of politics; the other factor is compensation.

“I’m not complaining, but $60 a day is way too low,” the chairman said.

He suggested that Igitol look into the compensation of commissioners and work with the Legislature on this. He did clarify, though, that this was not part of his reason why he initially thought about not continuing to serve as commissioner. He reiterated that it’s for a personal reason.

Sablan said that, as he was mulling over his final decision in the matter, Igitol told him that the commission will be left with only five commissioners and that one commissioner is also going off-island. He said this prompted him to consult his wife and family and reconsider his decision. Torres then immediately re-nominated him as commissioner.

Sablan’s four-year term as commissioner expired last July 21. The Senate confirmed Sablan’s as well as Yatar’s re-nomination the following day, July 22.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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