The name of House Speaker Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan) has been dragged into a lawsuit filed by a woman of Chinese descent who is suing Department of Public Lands and Secretary Pedro A. Tenorio in federal court for allegedly cancelling her temporary agricultural and grazing permit because the “big boss” needed his land back.
Congxiang Su Palacios, through counsel Braddock J. Huesman, is suing DPL and Tenorio for breach of contract. In addition, she is suing Tenorio for violation of her due process and equal protection.
Palacios asked the U.S. District Court for the NMI to hold DPL and Tenorio liable to pay her damages, attorney’s fee, and court costs.
Saipan Tribune tried but failed to get Tenorio’s comment about the lawsuit.
In Palacios’ lawsuit filed on Thursday, Huesman said the lawsuit was prompted by Tenorio’s and DPL’s attempts to curry favor with politically powerful persons of Northern Marianas descent over those of Chinese descent.
Huesman said Palacios is the victim of collateral damage that occurred due to the political intrigue and machinations surrounding the impeachment of former governor Benigno R. Fitial.
The lawyer said that House Speaker Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan) had a temporary agricultural and grazing permit. Unfortunately, Huesman said, Deleon Guerrero neglected to sign the renewal and pay the permit and processing fees required by the permit. DPL canceled the permit.
Around the same time, Palacios was attempting to lease a parcel of public land. DPL gave Palacios temporary authorization to use public land.
According to court records, on Feb. 28, 2013, Antonio A. and Congxiang Su Palacios, owners of SA Farming, asked for authorization to use 48,000 square meters of public land in Unni Dangkulu, Saipan, to develop a commercial orchard for dragon fruit and other fruits. The term of the temporary use was for four months beginning on Feb. 28, 2013, and ending on June 27, 2013.
Almost immediately after being given the permit, Palacios invested thousands of dollars, time, and effort for her venture, including purchasing dragon fruit and betel nut plantings, Huesman said.
A month after Palacios got the authorization, Tenorio called Palacios into his office at DPL, where he said he was canceling the authorization because the “big boss” needed his land back, Huesman said.
He said Palacios was confused by what “big boss” meant and Tenorio then explained that Deleon Guerrero needed the land back and that it should not have been taken from him in the first place.
“This statement makes no sense as Speaker Guerrero clearly failed to pay the required fees,” the lawyer said.
Huesman said Palacios objected and stated she did not want to give up the authorization, but Tenorio became angry, slammed his hand on the desk, and told her the “big boss” was getting the land back.
“Neither Tenorio nor the department ever gave a written reason for its actions—the only reason given was that the Speaker of the NMI House of Representatives, the big boss was more important than Mrs. Palacios,” Huesman said.
Huesman pointed out that Palacios is of Chinese descent and has little or no political power in the CNMI.
Huesman said the contractual rights found in the authorization are clearly established under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Huesman said that Tenorio, through DPL, has interfered with the authorization without a written notice.
Given that the “big boss” has an interest in the land because he is an important person of Northern Marianas descent and the plaintiff is of Chinese descent is not a legal or valid reason to breach the authorization, the lawyer said.