So, is there a need for a special election or is the Attorney General’s opinion the final word without tweaking due process? Whoa, kinda like the AG is now the judge, the jury and executioner.
Anyway, the questions raised were not meant to be malicious in anyway but to clarify the Article accession process defined in our Constitution, and conclude once and for all, the validity of their actions in assuming the offices of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor. There is a pressing need to remove all doubts with regards to the events, and either hold a special election or declare that Ralph DLG Torres and Victor Hocog are the bona fide governor and lieutenant governor. There’s a problem with that.
The CNMI Constitution can be confusing to many citizens as evidenced by the differences of opinions in and out of the news, thus the popular request for a definitive answer from the COURT, not from the AG. The AG’s opinion is not a law. So is an analysis of the Constitution. It’s just an analysis. Persuasive, but they are only references.
So, for all the members of the 19th CNMI Legislature, we’re still waiting for that certified legal question to be filed in court. Any taker? Or would it be a political suicide, or a political strategy, most specifically for the upcoming election? We do understand that this being an election year, issues and problems may seem miniscule and unimportant but still, we need to know and we certainly are way that a precedent is being set now, one that begs the question of legality. Let’s hope this is not the case, but, again, we are in a representative democracy where accountability is of the utmost importance. Should this issue never be laid to rest, there will always be finger-pointing at what can possibly be seen as a concerted attempt by the parties involved to legitimize an illegal act by circumventing the law.
We should not even be asking whether or not there is going to be a special election. The law on gubernatorial succession exists and it calls for the election mechanism to start rolling the day Inos’s death was announced locally. Theoretically, there are two persuasive guiding procedures to follow. One—when the absence of the governor is temporary. The other—when the governor is permanently gone. In the event that the governor is temporarily absent from the Commonwealth, the lieutenant governor becomes the acting governor the moment the governor leaves the Commonwealth. That leaves the Office of the Lieutenant Governor vacant for the duration. The Senate president, then, can just lean over and assume that vacant office, as Senate president still, without the need for an appointment by the acting governor or resignation from the Senate. This, then, is the instance when the Senate president holds two jobs, straddling the fence as permitted by the Constitution. The Senate president does not have to quit the Senate.
Two—when the absence of the governor is permanent for whatever reason-impeachment, resignation, refusal to continue serving as governor, death, etc. In this second instance, the permanent absence calls for a different consideration. The lieutenant Governor becomes the acting governor, thus vacating the Lt. Governor’s Office. It becomes incumbent upon the acting governor, then, to appoint an acting lieutenant governor. The Senate president does not come in to the picture, in this situation, unless appointed by the acting governor. When appointed, the Senate president resigns from his senatorial position to accept the appointment and to move into the acting Lt. Governor’s Office. The acting governor could appoint someone else. The CNMI Legislature is, then, notified that an appointment has been made. he Legislature, then, meet in a convention-like session to vote for acceptance of the appointee. If accepted, then the special election goes into full swing. If not accepted, the acting governor comes back with a different appointee until an appointee is accepted by the Legislature, starting the special election mechanism. The CNMI Constitution can be confusing as evidenced by the differences of opinions and analyses in and out of the news media, thus the popular request for a definitive answer from the court, not the AG. Doing nothing and hoping for the best will only result in more questions and perhaps give substance to the accusation of a conspiracy to maintain the status quo. Is anyone unsure whether to “cross the Rubicon” or not? So for the 19th Legislature, we’re still waiting for that certified legal question. We understand that this being an election year, issues and problems may seem miniscule and unimportant but still, we need to know and we certainly are wary that a PRECEDENT is being set now, one that begs the question of legality. Let’s hope that this is not the case but again, we are in a representative democracy where accountability is of the utmost importance. Should this issue never be laid to rest, there will always be finger-pointing at what can possibly be seen as a concerted attempt by the parties involved to legitimize an illegal act by circumvention of the law.
Rudy M. Sablan