The whirlwinds of Article 12

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Posted on Oct 21 2011
By John S. DelRosario Jr.
Contributing Author

Article 12, a descendant of Section 805 of the Covenant Agreement, contains provisions that require discussion by our people in order to understand why it should be kept in its entirety, amended, or repealed altogether. I’d like to bring these issues to you and see if you could critically review them for purposes of coming to full grasp with what it actually says, including the less than obvious.

Landownership:

Several issues come into mind as we review the various aspects of this constitutional provision.

For instance, Article 12 restricts landownership to people of Northern Marianas descent, or NMDs. At the same time it limits the sale of your land to NMDs only. This very limitation derails your rights to full ownership of your land.

Isn’t this a clear interference of your rights as the landowner? Isn’t this limitation a sure way of denying you what you could get (in the case of a sale) by way of top dollar or fair market value of your land? Isn’t this a weird sense of landownership where Article 12 says it’s yours and not yours at the same time?

Article 12 says the land is yours, yet you must seek the permission of others to use what you claim as your land. It is a strange form of landownership. Would you agree to surrender a portion of your rights to your private property as provided under Article 12? Isn’t the disposition of your land solely yours and yours alone?

Isn’t this discriminatory against other U.S. citizens? Isn’t this a violation of U.S. citizens’ rights to own property as clearly spelled out under the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution?

Assault against our children:

Article 12 requires ethnicity, specifically, blood quantum requirement of 25 percent in order to qualify to own land in the NMI. Isn’t this alleged protection of NMI land the very source or constitutional provision designed to displace and rob our children of their rights to inherit land? Isn’t it true that such provision also denies our children their rich heritage of home? Why can’t this be one of lineage?

Finally, is DNA mapping equipped with the technology to identify how much Carolinian or Chamorro blood is in each of us? Indeed, DNA is a map of a person’s physiological makeup. But it lacks the means to identify which is one is Carolinian and by how much. This constitutional provision only goes to show the shortsightedness of imposing ethnicity and blood quantum as a requirement for qualification to landownership.

Is NMI land for NMDs only? 

It’s healthy to take a quick glimpse into whether Article 12 fulfilled its intent to limit landownership strictly to the indigenous Chamorros and Carolinians. Or where there are issues where it failed to do so. Therefore, the inclusion of provisions for purposes of convenience that illustrate, time and again, its obvious shortsightedness.

Were you aware that Article 12 gave land to non-NMDs? It defined Micronesians who were here on Dec. 31, 1950 as NMDs. Therefore it made NMDs by imposing a date in order to be what’s known in legal lingo as “grandfathering.” At the same time, it disqualified Chamorros and Carolinians who weren’t here on Dec. 31, 1950.

This provision conveniently disqualified factually and biologically full-blooded Chamorros and Carolinians. It goes to show that this provision failed in its attempt to keep local land for the real hosts of these islands.

Too, there’s the adoption provision where a minor (Chinese, Filipino, Bangladesh, and others) adopted by NMD parents fully qualify to inherit land in the NMI. Do you see the troubling contradiction under Article 12?

Denial of opportunities 

There are federal housing programs that are available for our young people and military veterans that can’t be implemented here because of Article 12. Banks have also closed their real estate loan departments because of the troublesome nature borne by this constitutional provision.

This is an issue that you need to think through in that as our young people begin establishing new families, the opportunity to build the first family home becomes next to impossible. Thus, is it right for us to keep Article 12 when in fact it is the obstruction that shuts off homeownership for our up-and-coming young people?

There’s also the creeping and steady loss of revenue generation that would mean far less for far more either way we turn. It includes far less for scholarships, medical referral, and other family obligations. Article 12 prevents you from using the equity or value of your land for loans that would enable you to deal with urgent family issues. Is it right to retain Article 12 in perpetuity and subject families to undue hardships?

The issue is in the palm of your hands and only you can make a major difference in your forward-looking plans to living and raising your children in our tiny paradise. The foregoing gives you a glimpse of issues that you need to understand as you decide whether to retain or repeal Article 12. It’s in the palm of your hands!

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