To Sen. Francisco Q. Cruz, chairman, Executive Appointment and Governmental Investigation Committee:
On behalf of the Matua Council for Chamorro Advancement, we submit our testimony today in opposition to the appointment of Mr. Sixto K. Igisomar as the next secretary for the Department of Public Lands.
The following are reasons for our opposition beginning with his stance in support of the digging of our ancient Chamorro ancestors’ sacred burial site at I Sengsong Anaguan, the current Garapan business district, to make way for the construction of Best Sunshine International’s Grand Mariana Casino, now the Imperial Pacific International Resort.
In 2015, Mr. Igisomar stood up during the CNMI government’s regulatory agency public hearing to support the permit application of BSI, IPI, and the contracted archaeological firm from Honolulu, Hawaii– Dr. Michael Dega, David Perzinzki and crew of Scientific Consultant Service, Inc.—to excavate the entire burial ground, where they desecrated the sacred heritage site of over 400 ancient Chamorro graves.
Secondly, as a senator for the 20th NMI Legislature, Mr. Igisomar did not introduce any legislation or stood up to address or mitigate the serious issues with the Historic Preservation Office on the archaeological data recovery report done at Anaguan village, including the construction of a proper reinterment structure for the reburial of the 700 ancient Chamorros.
Additionally, if he is confirmed by the Senate as the next DPL Secretary, we believe that he has a high propensity to ignore and disregard the importance in preserving and protecting the ancient Chamorro settlement sites or traditional sites in the entire Northern Mariana Islands under the jurisdiction of DPL. These site within the DPL secretary’s management and disposition are highly sensitive and important cultural heritage sites of the indigenous people, the Chamorro or Taotao Tano of the Mariana Islands.
As a senator, Mr. Igisomar opposed the funding legislation for the CNMI Museum to address much needed repair from the damage caused by Super-Typhoon Yutu in 2018, and for the construction of the curation facility to address and comply with the public law that established the CNMI Museum as the repository of all artifacts found in the NMI. The law has been in existence for over a decade mandated the creation of a curation facility at the museum.
Mr. Igisomar, as a sitting senator, asserted his support of the museum legislation dependent upon a portion of the funding shall be allocated to the Carolinian Affairs Office. Yet he failed to seek the same request for the Indigenous Affairs Office, the office that represents the Chamorros.
Again, as a senator, Mr. Igisomar opposed the funding request by the Indigenous Affairs Office unless an equal amount will be allocated to the Carolinian Affairs Office. The Senate made an amendment to the appropriation request by IAO that also provided $50,000 to the Carolinian Affairs Office, which was equal to the amount appropriated to the IAO that represents the Chamorros in the NMI. However, it is critical and important to understand that Mr. Igisomar’s request for an equal amount appropriated to the Carolinian Affairs Office to that of the Indigenous Affairs Office was inappropriate and uncalled for. The 2010 United Stated Census in the NMI stated that there are 2,461 Carolinians and 12,902 Chamorros.
It was clear that Mr. Igisomar was insensitive to the request of the Indigenous Affairs Office because the IAO had been consistently underfunded by the CNMI government and is 500% greater in population compared to the CAO. Therefore, Mr. Igisomar’s request to provide an equal amount requested by the IAO to the CAO of $50,000 each was disrespectful to the Indigenous Affairs Office and to the constituents it represents who are the native inhabitants or host culture in the NMI.
Again, as secretary of Commerce prior to his Senate seat, Mr. Igisomar upon his confirmation of his appointment, removed one of the division directors who is a native Chamorro and replaced the person with a citizen from the Federated States of Micronesia because they were ardent supporters of the Fitial administration.
At the same time, he was also an officer and a board member of the Northern Marianas Retirement Fund when he decided to declare bankruptcy or insolvent of the NMIRF but was rejected by the U.S. Federal District Court of the NMI. Mr. Igisomar was also a chairman and member of the Commonwealth Development Authority where too many Chamorro lands were foreclosed during his tenure as a member and especially as its chairman of CDA.
More importantly, Mr. Igisomar was a member of the 20th NMI Legislature where as a senator he failed to ensure the Department of Public Land’s compliance with Public Law 15-2 in providing an annual report of its budget appropriation and expenditure, land transactions of properties below 50,000 square meters, compliance with the development, adoption and implementation of the comprehensive land use plan, enforcement matters and activities on land transfers to public domain, effective fiduciary collaboration of the DPL advisory board, among other matters mandated in P.L. 15-2.
Further, as a senator Mr. Igisomar failed to insist on the consistent and timely transfer annually of monies from DPL to Marianas Public Land Trust as required by the CNMI Constitution under Article Xl. To date, this issue as the acting DPL secretary has not been resolved.
Furthermore, as an incumbent candidate for re-election to the Senate seat in the 2020 mid-term election, Mr. Igisomar lost the vote of confidence of the largest voting population in the CNMI, Saipan.
If he is confirmed, he has the potential to employ political and/or personal bias against anyone who may encounter the services and programs of the DPL.
It is with utmost importance that the Senate Committee on Executive Appointment and Government Investigation consider the decision made by the voting public in the Third Senatorial District.
In closing, it is with utmost importance that whoever will be appointed to be the next secretary of the Public Land must be a person with no bias or propensity to discriminate against the native Chamorro who will be applying for homesteads and will prioritize those who are currently on the waitlist, prioritize access to scarce agriculture land program, and give priorities in land exchange and land compensation program, contracting opportunity with DPL, and employment opportunities with DPL.
For the reasons stated above, we oppose the appointment and confirmation of Mr. Sixto k. Igisomar as secretary of the Department of Public Lands because of his insensitivity and disrespect of the culture and heritage of the native Chamorros.
Liana M.S. Hofschneider
President, Matua Council for Chamorro Advancement