NMI Landowner’s Hopes For Compensation Deferred
By Ferdie de la Torre
SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Dec. 21, 2012) – Eighty-year-old Luisa Borja Quitugua couldn't help but cry shortly after the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation failed to vote for the passage of a local bill that would have allocated partial payment for her land compensation claim.
"I'm not coming back! No more!" said Quitugua as she slowly walked outside the legislative building on Capital Hill on her way to a car driven by her son.
Some lawmakers followed and briefly talked with the Quituguas outside the building.
The delegation, chaired by Rep. Ramon A. Tebuteb (IR-Saipan), will resume its session today, Friday, at 9am to continue discussing the bill, H.L.B. 17-89, which seeks to appropriate $200,344 for various projects in Precinct V, including partial payment for Quitugua.
Saipan Tribune learned yesterday afternoon that delegation members decided to amend the bill to give partial payment to Quitugua in the amount of $76,144.
Tebuteb then called for a postponement on the vote for passage of the bill until the Office of the Attorney General provides more information about Quitugua's lawsuit. That's when Quitugua burst into tears.
Shortly after Tebuteb called for a recess before 12pm, a crying Quitugua addressed the chamber in Chamorro to express her frustration. Rep. Tony Sablan (IR-Saipan) and other lawmakers approached to comfort her.
Quitugua's son, Elbert Quitugua, told Saipan Tribune that her mother has been begging the government for fairness for almost 28 years now. He accused the OAG of playing games and of dilatory tactics.
"She's not asking for the whole $200,000. [Just] at least half of it," Elbert Quitugua said.
Luisa Quitugua has been seeking $77,179 in court judgment, plus accrued interest, due her. Recently, the government paid her $10,000.
In an interview, Tebuteb said they need more official information on what they are appropriating.
Tebuteb said that based on the OAG's information, there are about $22 million pending judgments against the government. Those judgments range from land compensation to other lawsuits.
"In this specific case, it's at the court. In fact, they have a Jan. 3 hearing," the lawmaker pointed out.
H.L.B. 17-89, introduced by Rep. Ray Basa (Covenant-Saipan), seeks to re-appropriate Precinct 5 funding balance of $200,344 for various projects for the precinct that covers Kagman, and parts of San Vicente, Kannat Tabla, and As Teo.
Rep. Joseph M. Palacios (R-Saipan) introduced yesterday a floor amendment to the bill. Of the $200,344 funding, Palacios moved to appropriate $22,468 for the payment to Luisa Quitugua; $128,908 for various projects in Precinct 5; and $4,200 for the purchase of a mower for Saipan.
Palacios asked to remove the $44,768 for the Saipan Call-A-Ride Transportation Services for people with disabilities and elderly.
Palacios also moved to re-appropriate lapsed funds in the amount of $31,905 and $38,963 for the payment of Quitugua's land.
Tebuteb reminded the lawmakers that they are not sure about the actual amount involved in the court judgment in Quitugua's case.
Rep. Frank Dela Cruz (IR-Saipan) said the issue of compensation has already been made and that partial payment to Luisa Quitugua is a good start and good faith efforts on the part of the legislators.
Cruz also requested to include in the appropriation bill funding for the Saipan Mayor's Office's bucket truck that is needed to cut trees.
Basa objected to the bucket truck, saying the funding is for Precinct 5. "Don't use this money, my constituents are counting on me," said Basa, citing that Saipan lawmakers had just passed a local bill that gives $15,000 for a basketball court.
"Where's our priority? If you have money, give it to the bucket truck," he said.
Lawmakers then decided to introduce more amendments to the bill.
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