Special election not discretionary but prescriptive


The lucid, penetrating, and incisive analyses by Saipan duo-writers Francisco Agulto and John Pangelinan on gubernatorial succession conform to their duty for a better informed citizenry over an opinion the local press treated as conclusory homily.

I will not comment on the AG’s opinion or the duos’ analyses. I will simply present a snapshot of events publicly known in better understanding the issue on gubernatorial succession that could have been readily disclosed upon Inos’ passing in 2015

The snapshot is, therefore, intended to contribute to informed citizenry on succession by not taking sides on positions taken above and known prior to the presentation here, which I appeared in Saipan Tribune’s Dec. 30, 2015 commentary at http://www.saipantribune.com/index.php/on-the-occasion-of-the-passing-of-rotas-son/ .

During Inos’ time as lieutenant governor and as a candidate for governor before the 2014 gubernatorial election are events not limited to what follows below:

1. Pre-gubernatorial/candidate Inos for governor

-The late governor Inos was known publicly as having health issues: when he was a lieutenant governor under governor Fitial, and when lieutenant governor Inos succeeded Fitial when Fitial exited as governor.

-Inos’ health challenges relate to cardiology (the heart) and issues associated with cardiovascular, which required thrice weekly dialysis.

-Undisclosed other health issues brought Inos back to the Philippines as lieutenant governor and during the 2014 gubernatorial election.

-Inos convalesced in Manila for six weeks prior to the 2014 gubernatorial election. He did not campaign as much as he normally would have liked to, for it was not Eloy’s style to be sidelined as a robust and resolute man of faith as well.

2. Inos elected governor in November 2014, and took over the helm as a newly-elected governor Inos in January, 2015.

3. Even after he took over as governor in January 2015, Inos would visit Manila for ongoing medical issues, checkups, follow-ups, and R&R.

4. After the January 2015 inauguration, in addition to taking weekend trip(s) to Manila, Inos travelled to U.S. in 2015 reportedly for “vacation.”

5. Subject to verification but a few within his inner circle admitted to the personal vacation by Inos as a desire to determine organ matching with another sibling and to determine Inos’ overall health capacity to undergo major multiple surgeries under extended anesthesia.

6. There was a belief within his inner circle too that the trip was recommended to rule out creeping issue with abdominal tumor that it was not progressive.

7. Inos was challenged by his thrice weekly dialysis and the stress and fatigue from the weekly dialysis.

8. Inos’ thrice weekly dialysis challenged his on-going cardiovascular issue(s).

9. Inos’ dialysis, cardiovascular issue, and other health issue(s) triggered or compromised his immunity, an injury which required regular anti-biotic treatment, and attributed to a need to put on a jacket in Saipan’s hot weather.

10. Identified incidence above was cumulative.

11. All of the above were complicated further by the required dosage of medications.

12. The cumulative effect of Inos’ health issues above was further challenged by the dosages of medications that ultimately compromised even his vocal articulation, appetite, recall, and physical motor skill coordination.

13. Governor Inos left Saipan to the United States in July 2015.

14. Governor Inos went to Seattle before Aug. 2, 2015, when Typhoon Soudelor hit Saipan.

15. Governor Inos returned to Saipan after Typhoon Soudelor passed Saipan in August 2015.

16. Governor Inos returned from Seattle, Washington at least one (1) week following Typhoon Soudelor’s devastating effect. Inos in August 2015 did not undergo his planned pre-op procedures in the U.S in August, 2015.

17. Inos was reportedly compelled to return reportedly because of his grave concern for the victims’ sufferings from rationed gas lines, no potable water for weeks until Inos’ arrival, no power for months, rationed drinking water, rationed ice to cool off, fear of looting and burglaries, and the overall state of fear and apprehension people on Saipan had to deal with unprepared after Typhoon Soudelor.

18. In September 2015, when the ravages of Typhoon Soudelor appeared manageable, Inos returned to the U.S. for his multiple surgery under anesthesia postponed when Inos had to return to Saipan to give people moral support and assurance of recovery from Soudelor’s devastation.

19. In summary, following Inos’ scheduled surgery, Inos remained in a Seattle hospital ICU ward convalesced under sedation and around-the-clock watch.

20. Inos passed on Dec. 28, 2015 Seattle time zone, or Dec. 29, 2015 Saipan time zone and his remains returned home on January 2016.

21. Late governor Inos remained in his official elective capacity on Saipan as governor:

(a) from January, 2015 to July, 2015;

(b) while on Saipan, Inos was on dialysis thrice weekly from January to July 2015, until he left Saipan in July, 2015.

(c) Inos came back to Saipan after Soudelor in August 2015,

(d) And then left Saipan for Seattle in September 2015,

(e) where Inos remained in Seattle (outside Saipan) since September 2015;

(f) Inos’ remains arrived on Saipan the second week of January 2016,

(g) and his body laid to rest on the 3rd week of January 2016 in the Chalan Kanoa Cemetery

22. When elected as governor in November 2014, Inos took the helm as newly-elected governor Inos on January, 2015. Every now and then, Inos would return to Manila for further exploratory medical checkup after he assumed office in early 2015.

23. In 2015 when Inos was in office as Governor in 2015, Inos occasionally visits to CHC Dialysis Ward thrice weekly.

24. Inos’ weekly dialysis schedule allowed Inos to clock in at work as governor on Tuesdays and Thursdays full-time and part-time on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, due to his dialysis schedule, which typically runs 3-4 hours at a time, with at least two hours thereafter for recovery from the dialysis procedure.

25. No. 24 dialysis schedule allowed a total record time equivalent time to 48 work days, or two work days weekly on a 4-week work month from January to July, 2015.

26. Forty-eight days is equivalent to one forty-hour work week, or one (1) week fulltime work as governor from January 2015 to July 2015.

27. The CNMI Constitution states that whenever the governor performs travel outside the CNMI, the lieutenant governor automatically assumes the office and serves as acting governor.

28. Lt. Gov. Ralph Torres automatically assumes the office of governor as acting governor, and did so whenever governor Inos was outside the Commonwealth in on the dates identified above during 2015 and in January 2016.

29. During Governor Inos’ on-island 3-4 hours, 3-times weekly dialysis procedure (on at least a 5-day work week), the NMI Constitution required assumption and occupancy by Lt. Gov. Torres of the Office of Governor as acting governor while governor Inos became temporarily discharged of his official capacity and function due to being physically incapacitated.

30. In other words, while Inos remained on island, Inos was capable to physically clocked full time for work on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays were committed for dialysis that usually last 3-4 hours each time, allowing two hours for dialysis recovery.

31. Realistically, only a total time of 48 days (i.e., 2 days a week on a 4-week month in January to July, 2015) of service time by Governor Inos at the Office of the Governor from January 2015 to July 2015 and briefly in August until September 2015.

32. At forty 48 out of 365 days in 2015 calendar year is the equivalent of one forty-hour work week, or one week fulltime work by Inos from January 2015 to July 2015.

33. Governor Inos would then serve in real time as governor and assumed the office of the governor for only one (1) week out of 52 weeks in a work calendar year, or 26 government payroll periods.

34. Continuous acting-ship and occupancy of the office of governor by Lt. Gov. Torres not in his official capacity as lieutenant governor in vacating the Office of Lieutenant Governor by occupying the office of governor was from September 2015 through Dec. 29, 2015, when Inos passed away while outside the CNMI though on personal leave and not on official business.

35. Torres’ continuous acting-ship as acting governor occasionally in 2015, when governor Inos was on dialysis on island, or when Inos was outside the CNMI, and continuously from September 2015 on when governor Inos was physically and medically incapacitated during a procedure under anesthesia throughout surgery and during Inos’ post-surgery until Inos’ passing on Dec. 29, 2015 until his return to Saipan in 2016.

36. Torres continuous acting-ship and occupancy of the office of governor as acting governor in September through the end of December 2015 by the CNMI Constitution caused Torres’ removal from the office of lieutenant governor and officially as lieutenant governor (i.e. vacancy) and placed Torres in the position as acting governor Torres occupying the Office of Governor.

37. As acting governor Torres, neither Torres nominated nor the Senate provided advise and consent to the position of lieutenant governor to be able to occupy the office of lieutenant governor.

38. In other words, the respective offices of governor and lieutenant governor were vacated by necessity and circumstances owing to the state of shock everyone must had been caught in at Inos’ passing.

39. Lt. Gov. Torres became acting governor in place of Inos while he remained identified as lieutenant ogvernor but vacated the office of lieutenant governor and the position of lieutenant governor when he assumed the position of acting governor and occupied the office of governor as acting governor.

40. There was little to no legal advice which guided acting governor Torres in invoking Article III, § 3 of the NMI Constitution that “(w)henever the office of lieutenant governor is vacant, the governor shall appoint a successor with the advice and consent of the senate.” Serving as acting governor from September 2015 to Dec. 29, 2015 makes the office of lieutenant governor vacant by operation of law. At the same time, the office of governor was vacant because the office was occupied by acting governor Torres at the same time.

41. Contrary to prescription in Article III, § 3 of the NMI Constitution, no successor acting lieutenant governor was appointed by acting governor Torres, nor a successor by and for lieutenant governor Torres consented by the senate as mandated by the constitution.

42. AG Manibusan appeared to have not caused the enforcement of Article III, § 3 of the NMI Constitution in re to this matter.

43. NMI Constitution in Article III, § 7 states: “An acting governor or lieutenant governor who assumes office when more than one year remains in the term may serve only until a governor or lieutenant governor is chosen in a special election provided by law.” A governor and a lieutenant governor in both cases were clearly not chosen in a special election provided by law: acting governor Torres who was lieutenant governor Torres from September 2015 to Dec. 29, 2015 assumed both the office of the governor and the office of the lieutenant governor, thereby making it a prima facie case that both offices were vacant by circumstances and in fact when the requirement for joint candidate for governor and lieutenant governor is factored in and the fact that the office of governor was vacant from September 2015 to December 2015, while at the same time the office of the lt. governor was un-occupied or vacated by necessity.

44. The phrase “as provided by law” includes constitutional law, statutory law, case law, regulatory law, common law, and/or customary law—meaning that if the Legislature did not enact any statutory law governing the subject at hand, then other forms of laws based on a hierarchy of law would apply.

45. When more than one year remains in a fixed four-year term of office in the Office of Governor and Office of the Lt. Governor, a special election as provided by law is prescriptive, not discretionary.

In closing, I invite others to chime in on the information provided, either to dispute or advance and add to the fact pattern in furtherance of making informed opinion on whether or not a special election is required under the facts and circumstances offered above, again, stressing my intention neither to discuss or challenge any theory propounded by the AG or the two writers, nor to engage in any form of analyses beyond what has already been issued by AG Manibusan and Agulto and Pangelinan, in merely presenting a chronology of events known publicly, or should have been made known to the public, bearing directly or indirectly on the issue affecting gubernatorial succession.

In honor of the late governor Inos as the statesman that he was to the full extent life’s gifts allowed him to be, Inos’ risky surgery and subsequent passing left a huge leadership vacuum the CNMI must learn to deal with. In that spirit, I urge any official in the Legislature, the local delegation, councils, or similarly elected or appointed officials to honor Inos through non-confrontation and friendly review as a certified question that provide dignity to the late governor Inos and his family, relatives, and friends in putting closure to this issue and be at peace moving forward.

John C. Castro
San Roque

Press Release
News under Press Release are official statements issued to Saipan Tribune giving information on a particular matter.

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