The Senate confirmed Friday the appointment of Martin T. Mendiola as a member of the Commonwealth Casino Commission representing Rota.
At a special Senate session in the Senate chamber, seven senators voted “yes” and one abstained for the confirmation of Mendiola.
It was Sen. Paul A. Manglona (Ind-Rota) who abstained. Senate President Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian) was absent. Acting Senate President Justo S. Quitugua (R-Saipan) presided over the session.
Sen. Francisco Q. Cruz (R-Tinian), who chairs the Senate Executive Appointments and Government Investigations Committee, moved for the adoption of their recommendation to confirm Mendiola’s appointment.
Cruz said the committee has examined the credential and all pertinent documents relating to the executive appointment of Mendiola. “Based on overall assessment of Mr. Mendiola’s credentials, experiences, testimonies, goals for the agency, and other relevant issues consider, your committee is convinced that Mr. Mendiola has the qualification and leadership skills necessary to serve as a member of the Casino Commission,” Cruz said.
Manglona said he really has no issue with the qualification or the desire of Mendiola to help the people of the CNMI as a member of the CCC board. His concern, Manglona said, is the issue of the CCC’s operation. He noted that since last year, he and Sen. Edith E. DeLeon Guerrero (D-Saipan) sponsored at least two legislations that they feel can go a long way in helping the people of the Commonwealth and its leaders in trying to address a Plan B option for what is happening now with the casino industry.
Manglona said in the future if there’s a vacancy coming out with the CCC, the committee should actually question the commission as to how do they expect to continue to pay the commissioners.
He said being a commissioner is a full-time employment and that it’s a financial burden for the CCC. Manglona said that, once a nominee is confirmed, the Commonwealth is liable for the person’s salary.
“I’m just worried that we’re [going to] be committing this financial burden again,” he said.
DeLeon Guerrero said she will plead with Mendiola and all the casino commissioners to not disregard the interests of the people of the Commonwealth, and to look primarily into the receivables that remain outstanding for the Commonwealth.
DeLeon Guerrero said there are tax liens and unpaid liabilities that are still owed the people of the Commonwealth and its retirees.
She said any time there is any form of discussion about a settlement with Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC, the interest of the Commonwealth, its people, and the future of the Commonwealth should not be disregarded and there should be representation at the table.
“It has to a win-win situation for all if there’s [going to] be a settlement and that no liability due the Commonwealth should be written off for the sake of trying to settle,” DeLeon Guerrero said.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres appointed Mendiola to replace Diego M. Songao, who resigned as CCC commissioner in September 2021 due to health reasons.
With the Senate confirmation, Mendiola will serve the remaining term vacated by Songao, which will expire on April 30, 2024.
Mendiola used to serve as administrator of the Rota branch of the Northern Marianas College and resident director of the Rota Commonwealth Ports Authority.