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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

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NMI Lieutenant Governor ‘Prepared’ For Fitial Impeachment
Other officials hope governor will step down of own accord

By Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Nov. 15, 2012) – In the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Lieutenant Governor Eloy S. Inos says he is prepared "to carry out the mandate" in case Governor Benigno R. Fitial steps down or is impeached and convicted.

Incoming Speaker Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero, for his part, told Radio Australia that he has secured enough votes to impeach the governor, and that the Senate "also ha[s] the numbers so it does look like we’ll be able to push this thing forward and through."

Inos, in an interview, said he and the governor have never discussed the impeachment issue, but as lieutenant governor, he said he must be prepared to take over the governorship in case Fitial is removed from office.

"You don’t want [a lieutenant governor who is] not capable of carrying the mandate in the event that the [governor] is unable to perform his duties," Inos added.

He said the governor should be given the chance to defend himself.

"This can’t be just something that is a foregone conclusion. I mean, he should be able to tell his side. We can’t do it like this, I am sorry but we [also] cannot try him in the media," Inos said.

Fitial has options, the lieutenant governor added, referring to resignation, "but I am not [going to] make a judgment on that."

Inos said he will "work with whatever comes about as a result of this situation."

The governor’s impeachment, he added, appears to be "kind of a foregone conclusion."

Asked who he would like to be his lieutenant governor, Inos said he has not "crossed that bridge yet," but "I think it would be nice if I am given that opportunity [to choose.]"

The next lieutenant governor will be the new Senate president.

Inos said the relationship between the governor and lieutenant governor "requires a lot of compatibility, mutual understanding and so forth."

Inos is one of Fitial’s long-time associates and has served as his campaign manager and, later, finance secretary. When then-Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Villagomez was convicted in federal court for corruption, Inos agreed to be Fitial’s running mate in the 2009 elections.

Yesterday, Variety learned that some senators met again to discuss the selection of the new Senate president. Under their "gentleman’s agreement," it should be Tinian’s turn to hold the Senate presidency which means Senate Vice President Jude U. Hofschneider, R-Tinian, is next in line.

But because the next Senate president will also become the lieutenant governor, some members want the post to go to Sen. Ralph DLG. Torres, R-Saipan.

Resign, governor

Rep. Frank S. Dela Cruz, one of the pro-impeachment House members, said he is hoping Fitial will just step down so that the CNMI can finally move forward.

"I will be elated to see the lieutenant governor move up so that we can begin the process of fixing our dire problems. We can begin immediately in the 18th Legislature to work on the pressing issues in the commonwealth," Dela Cruz said. "I believe the lieutenant governor is most prepared."

Sen.-elect Ray N. Yumul, another pro-impeachment House member, said Inos is fit to be the next governor and is known for his ability to work well with the Legislature.

Anti-corruption activist Glen Hunter said it was good to hear that Inos is prepared to "step in" and is aware of the public mandate.

"I think everything is in stages. The first step is to hold the impeachment proceedings. The most important thing is to deal with the public mandate," Hunter said.

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