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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

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Fitial’s Emergency Declarations May Be Overruled In CNMI
Senators call on Legislature to reject ‘unnecessary’ declarations

By Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Feb. 1, 2013) – The Northern Marianas Senate may soon consider a measure empowering the Legislature to reject the governor’s emergency declarations.

Gov. Benigno R. Fitial’s latest Executive Order 2013-02 declaring the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. under a state of emergency prompted Sen. Pete P. Reyes to bring up the House of Representatives’ concern regarding the governor’s "unnecessary" emergency declarations.

During the House’s first session last week, Vice Speaker Francisco S. Dela Cruz, IR-Saipan, asked House Floor Leader Ralph S. Demapan, Covenant-Saipan, to draft a bill that will allow the Legislature to reject the governor’s emergency declarations if they are deemed unnecessary.

Reyes, R-Saipan, urged his colleagues to consider the measure.

Sen. Ray N. Yumul, IR-Saipan, noted that the NMI Constitution allows the governor to mobilize resources in times of emergency only but not suspend provisions of the law, or procurement rules.

Yumul said Fitial suspended a number of laws in the executive orders, the governor has been issuing for almost a year now.

He said there is nothing in the Constitution that allows the governor to suspend laws under emergency declarations.

Sen. Jovita M. Taimanao, Ind.-Rota, said it is "imperative" for the members of the Legislature to work together in times of crisis with CUC so the governor does not have to declare emergencies.

"We should work in unison on issues before letting the governor declare emergencies," she said.

Sen. Victor B. Hocog, R-Rota, asked Senate President Jude U. Hofschneider to refer Fitial’s communications regarding his emergency declarations to the Senate Committee on Public Utilities, Transportation and Communications, which Hocog, a Fitial ally, chairs.

He said he wants his committee to determine whether Fitial’s emergency declarations are valid.

Hocog noted that the 15th, 16th and 17th Legislatures "tolerated" the governor’s emergency declarations so "I wonder why it took us until this time to address this."

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