Investigate allegations of coercion of Rota residents

A CNMI senator has publicly revealed accusations by Rota residents that they were coerced to sign a political petition circulated by another senator. That petition was used to torpedo the nomination of a reform-committed gubernatorial appointee to the beleaguered and mismanaged Commonwealth Ports Authority.

These are major accusations.

As senators in session were discussing the CNMI governor’s letter withdrawing his nomination of Bruce Jorgensen to the CPA board of directors, Celina Babauta said an anti-Jorgensen petition circulated by Dennis Mendiola of Rota contained signatures of people “coerced” to sign it. “I personally called random people whose signature appeared on that petition. All the individuals I contacted expressed that they were victims of coercion and pressure tactics,” Ms. Babauta said in floor remarks lamenting the secretive and destructive politics that led to the Jorgensen nomination withdrawal.

Mr. Jorgensen needed five votes out of the nine senators for confirmation. The senate is tipped by one vote to an independent-democrat coalition majority, while the four republicans are in the minority. All four members of the Executive Appointments and Government Investigations committee (Babauta, Corina Magofna, Donald Manglona, and Paul Manglona) had voted to refer the Jorgensen appointment to the full senate for confirmation, leaving only one member of the majority party left to commit to his confirmation: Edith Deleon Guerrero, the senate president.

The governor’s withdrawal of Jorgensen’s appointment prevented the public from seeing how the senate president would have voted.

Mendiola: It’s a misconception

Dennis Mendiola

Mr. Mendiola said he finds the accusations intriguing, because they imply criminality. “If she implied that I coerced signatures, it’s a misconception,” he said. “Coercion would involve threats, but given my minority status in the senate and my lack of influence in the municipal and state administration, it’s unclear how I could exert such influence. Notably, even my senate employees refrained from signing the petition.”

Asked whether it is possible some one else, or other people, may have threatened or otherwise coerced some of the petition signatories, Mr. Mendiola said he prefers to believe what he has seen and heard himself on Rota.

“[E]very trip to Rota, the talk of the town is: ‘Why was this guy appointed and he does not live here?'” he said. “Some even questioned, ‘who is this person?’ I myself had to do a background check because I have been doing house to house for politics since 2016 and have not seen this guy’s name on the voting roster nor have I seen him on Rota. Everyone knows everyone in Rota.”

Ms. Babauta is not buying that.

Celina Babauta

“I personally hope that in the future the entire senate can be afforded the opportunity to vote on the record as opposed to political plays behind the scenes,” she said. “If a senator has something to say let it be done to the nominee’s face. Let’s have each senator publicly take a position whether for or against.”

The Jorgensen nomination represents what needs to be important in the public discourse: Change.

The former nominee signaled a commitment to reform CPA and bring accountability to a government operation that is woefully underperforming and, according to audited financial, unwilling to follow the law and the Code of Federal Regulations pertaining to aviation.

The failure of this appointment is a blow to the charge for change, and it emboldens the corrupt wanting to come back to power. No matter what Mr. Mendiola’s motives are in this case, it stands to reason that the Torres republican establishment is celebrating this political championship against change.


The cockroaches that thrive in darkness

Change is quite clearly what people want and what is in the best public interest. But, the powerful and the corrupt, who made their money and peddle their influence off kickbacks and government contracts, are pushing every which way to stop that change from happening.

The voters resoundingly rejected the politics of cronyism and fear mongering in last year’s election. But the corrupt are like cockroaches. Last year, they fled the intense light of public scrutiny. This year, they are silently making their approach back with every crevice of darkness that has formed in the absence of the criticisms and anger that led up to the election.

Part of this blame belongs to Arnold Palacios’ cabinet. A big part of their job – especially considering the voter mandate given their boss – is to constantly remind the public, in a very public way, why poverty pervades, problems persist, and the public purse has no money to throw at these issues. Three words: Ralph Torres Republicans. The Palacios cabinet – his first line of defense – should not be shy about this in their public engagements, which should be occurring far more than what we’ve seen.

Part of the problem are some people within the Palacios-Apatang camp, who don’t take seriously the voter mandate for change; impactful, major change. To some in the political establishment who supported Mr. Palacios, the election was about a new turn, but with the same rules as always: ‘I scratch your back, you scratch mine.’ That mindset needs to change, especially with a new governor so dedicated to that reform.

Part of the problem is the media. We fail to cover what is important, and to dig up what has been buried from public view. Kandit is just as guilty as the next newsroom for failing to pay attention and to report. Just because Ralph Torres is no longer governor does not mean corruption has magically disappeared.

And then there’s the infighting and behind-closed-doors dealmaking in the Senate. Politics. Politics. Politics.

The claim reported by Ms. Babauta that people were coerced to sign that petition must be investigated by law enforcement. Perhaps Mr. Mendiola had no knowledge of the alleged coercion, but a proper investigation hopefully can uncover the facts. This is important, not simply because of criminal justice, but because of the chilling effect this can have.

If the people in power cannot protect the people of the Commonwealth from the lurking cockroaches in the dark, then what good is that power if it is not used to correct wrong and fight the good fight? And why should good, decent people support change for the better, if all it will get them is the same song and dance of yesteryear, with the risk that the corrupt will be back in power to take revenge on them? One shouldn’t wait for the cockroaches to grow wings and fly right into your face.


  • Thank God for Kandit! Otherwise, this news will never surface from the two big papers. Thank you, Troy.

    • Mabel Doge Luhan

        08/30/2023 at 1:58 AM

      How DARE you question Saipan’s Beach Road Bootlickers?

      Don’t you know that Zaldy “Kneepads” Dandan bough– “won” a Best Editorial Writer Award from the Very Real Society of Extremely Legitimate Not A Vanity Publishing Scam Journalists? And his little buddy Man At Bat has, after only ten years as a professional reporter, learned that English has plurals? And best of all, E.T.-e has sometimes even added a few of his own awkward sentences to what his “sources” write for him. I swear, a few more years of practice, and these guys would be 100% qualified to attend middle school.

      It all reminds me of a charming brick building at 6-13-2 Roppongi, Minato-ku, up the rusty iron fire escape. The whole street smells of daikon. There’s a door marked トイレ and inside, an obasan who will for twenty-two thousand five hundred forty-three yen — cash only, of course — allow you to, without limit on quantity, shit in her mouth. The difference is she does it for the money, but the Variety actually likes it!

  • This can ultimately be laid back on this Gov. as he has shown who has a great influence and control from Rota (and Tinian) on his Admin.
    Reportedly only about 90 people actually signed that petition out of about 3000 (3K) resident of Rota. THAT is not nearly anything to look at. BUT i all of the names were made public, THEN the dots could be connected and actually see who is in charge and running this Amin.

    It is highly suspect that “slick Vick” and family was responsible and involved in that “coercion” as they have much to lose with any “real” investigation and actions into CPA “suspected” improper activities and cover up ups over the years.
    What is CPA so scared about that would actually be uncovered?

    This Gov. is still catering to the same old past polatics that he was a part of and had campaigned against.
    These same people are still in control in much of the Govt. along with this suppressing actions by this AG and suspiciously even the FBI along with the media (as is being uncovered in regards involving the Biden Admin and the US. Dems.

    This Gov. needs to step up and take charge and grow a pair of balls. This has been shown with his (Gov) appointments contrary to promises of change and new qualified faces while a majority or the same recycled proven failures mostly just moved around into another area that they are not qualified for.

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