The minority bloc of the incoming House of Representatives would like to see the majority makes its moves first before deciding on who they would support as speaker of the 20th House, which formally opens in January next year.
“I think the GOP [NMI Republican Party] are now discussing who will be the next speaker,” said Rep. Blas Jonathan T. Attao (Ind-Saipan), who came second in Precinct 3 with 1,119 votes behind top vote getter and former press secretary Ivan A. Blanco’s 1,209.
Reps. Edmund S. Villagomez (Ind-Saipan) and Attao were among the five independent lawmakers who survived the GOP onslaught and won their respective re-election bids last week. Villagomez placed third in a 12-candidate field to win his fourth straight term in Precinct 3 with 1,092 votes.
Reps. Edwin K. Propst (Precinct 1), Vinson F. Sablan (Precinct 4), and Lorenzo I. Deleon Guerrero are the other members of the minority bloc that also ran as independents.
The local Republican Party has 15 members—Angel A. Demapan, Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero, Janet U, Maratita, Joseph Leepan T. Guerrero, Gregorio M. Sablan Jr., Rafael S. Demapan, John Paul P. Sablan, Francisco S. Dela Cruz, Donald C. Barcinas, Jose I. Itibus, Alice S. Igitol, Blanco, Francisco C. Aguon, Edwin P. Aldan, and Glenn L. Maratita.
Villagomez said the minority wants to see first who are vying for the speakership. House Speaker Rafael S. Demapan had already expressed his intent to keep his post.
“We need to see first who will be the candidates. Whether there would still be two or more candidates, we don’t know. It would be amongst them first to decide. We’re going to wait how it goes and we need to get a clear picture first,” Villagomez told Saipan Tribune.
“If there’s only one, what does it matter if five of us abstain? According to the statement made by House Speaker Demapan, there would be no sharing of terms anymore. And I don’t think they would like to create any division within their group,” Villagomez added.
The five-member minority group has not decided yet who would be their leader. “We haven’t decided yet but we’re leaning toward seniority and we respect that. So the most senior among us is Rep. Villagomez. He is the best candidate,” said Attao.
Villagomez said that nothing is official and they have to discuss things first. “We still haven’t officially approved [me as minority leader]. We’re still going to meet to make it official, before anything happens.”
Both independent lawmakers said although they are in the minority, they would continue to support policies and programs that would benefit the CNMI.
Attao said that they were saddened that five of their colleagues from the independent bloc failed to secure a spot in the 20th House.
House minority leader Rep. Ramon A. Tebuteb and Reps. Anthony T. Benavente, Ralph N. Yumul, and Roman C. Benavente were the other independent bloc members who were unsuccessful in their bids for another term at the House. Joseph A. Flores was also unsuccessful in his first time to run for office.
“There are only five of us now. We accept the election results and we respect the whole process. The people have spoken and we respect their decision. They ultimately made the decision and their actions decide who were the best to represent them,” said Attao.
“What’s really important is they performed their civic duty and cast their votes,” he added.