Benigno Fitial

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Benigno Fitial
Benigno Fitial 2009.jpg
7th Governor of the Northern Mariana Islands
In office
January 9, 2006 – February 20, 2013
Lieutenant Timothy Villagomez
Eloy Inos
Preceded by Juan Babauta
Succeeded by Eloy Inos
Personal details
Born Benigno Repeki Fitial
(1945-11-27) November 27, 1945 (age 69)
Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands, U.S.
Political party Republican Party (Before 2001; 2011–present)
Covenant Party (2001–2011)
Spouse(s) Josie Padiermos
Alma mater University of Guam
Religion Roman Catholicism

Benigno Repeki Fitial (born November 27, 1945) is the former governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Fitial was elected on November 6, 2005 and assumed office on January 9, 2006 and was re-elected to a second five-year term in 2009. He was impeached by the CNMI House of Representatives on February 11, 2013, and was scheduled to face trial before the CNMI Senate to determine if should be removed from office.[1] He resigned on February 20, 2013.

Fitial founded the Covenant Party in 2001 after leaving the Republican Party.[2] He rejoined the Republican Party on January 5, 2011, announcing that his goal will be to merge the Covenant Party back into the Republican Party.[2]

Fitial was the first governor in any US territory or commonwealth to be impeached and only the 13th governor in the history of the United States.[3] On February 11 & 12, 2013 the CNMI House of Representatives voted to impeach Fitial on 18 different charges contained in Articles of Impeachment.[4] The charges include neglect of duties, commission of felonies and abuse of power.

Rather than facing a trial before the CNMI Senate which was set for March 7, 2013, Benigno Repeki Fitial became the first governor in CNMI history to resign from office on February 20, 2013.[5] In his resignation letter he cited "personal health" reasons and the "best interests of the Commonwealth".

Personal life[edit]

Born on November 27, 1945, and raised in a Satawalese family, Fitial graduated with honors from Saipan's Mt. Carmel High School in 1964. He obatined a Bachelor of Business Administration with an emphasis on business management from the University of Guam.[6] He is recognized as a University of Guam Distinguished Alumni.[7]

Fitial is the first elected governor of Carolinian descent in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).[8] Carolinians are indigenous to the Caroline Islands, and the ancestors of most Carolinians now living in the northern Mariana Islands immigrated there in the early 19th century, from the Yap and Chuuk island groups of what is now the Federated States of Micronesia. The Chamorro are the indigenous inhabitants of the Marianas, and past winners of gubernatorial elections in the CNMI had been Chamorro.

The former Governor is married to Josie Fitial (née Padiermos), a Filipino who as a contract worker in 1983 moved to the CNMI, where Filipinos outnumber residents of all Pacific Islander ethnicities combined.[9][10] Padiermos, like many Filipinos, moved abroad for employment to send financial support to family members still in the Philippines.[11] The couple met while she was working as a waitress on Saipan.[12] They have two children together, Patrick and Christina, in addition to Benigno Fitial's four children from a previous marriage, Jason, Cathy, Junella and Julie. [11]

Fitial has described himself in the past as a "good friend" of convicted US Lobbyist Jack Abramoff, which has caused some controversy in both the Commonwealth and Washington. As vice president of Tan Holdings, Fitial worked closely with Abramoff, who was a consistent client of the family textile conglomerate.[13]

Fitial and his wife are residents of the Gualo Rai, Saipan.

Political career[edit]

Impeached by the 18th CNMI House of Representatives on February 11, 2013 & February 12, 2013 on 18 Articles of Impeachment.[4]

Fitial worked as a budget analyst for the government of the former Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.[6] He also worked as a former executive for Tan Holdings Corporation, which was the largest garment manufacturer in the Northern Mariana Islands at the time.[14]

Fitial is a former member of the Republican Party, and even served as the chairman of the Republican Party in the CNMI.[14][15]

Fitial left the Republican Party, and founded his own political party, the Covenant Party in 2001.[14] He used the Covenant Party as a vehicle to run for Governor of the Northern Mariana Islands in the 2001 gubernatorial election with his running mate, then-Education Commissioner Rita Inos.[14][16] However, Fitial was defeated in a landslide by the Republican ticket of Juan N. Babauta and his running mate, Diego Benavente. The Babauta-Benavente ticket received 5,512 votes, the largest number of votes ever received by a gubernatorial candidate in history to date.[14]

In 2003, Fitial was elected to the Northern Mariana Islands House of Representatives in the 2003 midterm election.[14] Candidates from his Covenant Party were also elected, giving the party the majority in the House of Representatives. Fitial was further elected the Speaker by the House in 2003, replacing Republican Speaker Heinz Hofschneider.[14] He represented Precinct 3, which includes parts of Saipan and the northern islands.

Impeachment[edit]

Fitial became the first governor in any US insular area and the 13th in the history of the nation to be impeached (February 11, 2013).[1] The CNMI House of Representatives pre-filed 18 Articles of Impeachment against Fitial on the day of their Inauguration (January 14, 2013).[17] They voted to adopt 13 of the Articles of Impeachment on February 11, 2013 and adopted the remaining 5 Articles of Impeachment on February 12, 2013. All 18 charges were transmitted to the Senate where Fitial would have stood trial had he not resigned.

House Votes:

Article Charge Yes No Abstain
Article 1 Commission of Felony 16 4 0
Article 2 Commission of Felony 16 4 0
Article 3 Commission of Felony 16 4 0
Article 4 Commission of Felony 16 4 0
Article 5 Corruption 16 4 0
Article 6 Corruption 16 4 0
Article 7 Corruption 16 4 0
Article 8 Corruption 16 4 0
Article 9 Corruption 16 4 0
Article 10 Neglect 16 3 1
Article 11 Neglect 16 4 0
Article 12 Neglect 16 4 0
Article 13 Neglect 16 4 0
Article 14 Neglect 16 4 0
Article 15 Neglect 15 4 1
Article 16 Neglect 16 4 0
Article 17 Neglect 16 4 0
Article 18 Neglect 16 4 0
Source: [2]
Articles: [3]

"No" votes: Minority leader George Camacho (R-Saipan), Reps. Felicidad Ogumoro (R-Saipan), Teresita Santos (R-Rota), and Richard Seman (R-Saipan) === except for Article 10 - Rep. George Camacho abstained due to conflict.

“Yes” votes: House Speaker Joseph Deleon Guerrero (IR-Saipan), Vice Speaker Frank Dela Cruz (IR-Saipan), floor leader Ralph Demapan (Cov-Saipan), Reps. Antonio Agulto (IR-Saipan), Anthony Benavente (IR-Saipan), Roman Benavente (IR-Saipan), Trenton Conner (Ind-Tinian), Lorenzo Deleon Guerrero (IR-Saipan), Cris Leon Guerrero (Cov-Saipan), Janet Maratita (IR-Saipan), John P. Sablan (Cov-Saipan), Tony Sablan (IR-Saipan), Mario Taitano (IR-Saipan), Ray Tebuteb (IR-Saipan), Edmund Villagomez (Cov-Saipan), and Ralph Yumul (IR-Saipan) === except for Article 15 - Rep. Roman Benavente abstained unknown reasons.

Governorship[edit]

Fitial is the seventh governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). He defeated independent candidate Heinz Hofschneider and incumbent Republican Governor Juan N. Babauta during the 2005 gubarnatorial election with 28.1 percent of the total vote after absentee ballots were counted.[18] The 2005 gubernatorial election margin of victory was the closest in the history of the Commonwealth.[8] Fitial and his running mate, Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Villagomez were sworn into office on January 9, 2006.

Fitial has faced many challenges during his term as governor, including budget shortfalls, a weak economy even before the Financial crisis of 2007–2010, and declining Japanese tourism. He implemented a dress code of business attire for all cabinet members shortly after his inauguration.[19]

Some observers and prominent publications (such as the Marianas Variety) have accused Fitial of concentrating power in his office.[20] This includes a decision made to abolish the autonomy of at least two government agencies, with their functions being transferred to the executive.[21] The governor and his supporters have asserted that drastic measures need to be taken to cut excessive government spending during the tenure of the previous governor, Juan Babauta.[13][22]

Fitial meets with United States Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne on Saipan, CNMI, 6 June 2007

Fitial was away from office for several weeks in late 2006 when he underwent successful surgery at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles on October 31 to correct spinal stenosis.[23]

Lieutenant Governor Timothy Villagomez resigned from office on April 24, 2009, following his conviction on federal criminal charges related to fraud while he was a member of the CMNI House of Representatives.[24] Villagomez became the highest ranking CMNI official ever to be convicted in a criminal trial.[24] Under the Northern Mariana Islands Commonwealth Constitution, when a Lieutenant Governor vacancy occurs, the governor appoints a successor with the "advice and consent" of the Northern Mariana Islands Senate.[24]

Governor Fitial nominated the CNMI Secretary of Finance Eloy Inos to fill the Lieutenant Governor vacancy on April 27, 2009.[25] Fitial and Inos had first met years earlier while both were working for the government of the now defunct Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.[6] Fitial was working as a budget analyst, while Inos was employed as a tax manager for the Trust Territory's revenue division at the time.[6]

Inos was unanimously confirmed in a vote by all 29 members of the Senate on Friday, May 1, 2009.[26] Inos was sworn into office by Governor Fitial shortly after the Senate vote, becoming the Northern Mariana Islands first unelected Lieutenant Governor.[26]

A minority bloc in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands' House of Representatives filed an impeachment resolution August 28, 2012 against Governor Fitial, who was at that time in the United States for the Republican National Convention. The resolution was filed by Joseph Deleon Guerrero, a former Republican who has left the party and is now an independent. It accuses the governor of "multiple felonies, multiple acts of public corruption" and of neglecting official duties. [4]

2009 Gubernatorial re-election campaign[edit]

Governor Benigno Fitial announced in March 2008 that he would seek re-election to a second term in 2009. [27]

On June 12, 2009, Fitial presided over Covenant Party midterm rally in Susupe with an estimated crowd of approximately 3,000 people in attendance.[28] Fitial and Inos officially filed to run for re-election with the CNMI Election Commission on July 23, 2009, in the presence of nearly 200 family and supporters.[28] In the November 2009 gubernatorial election, Fitial was challenged by the Republican nominee, Heinz Hofschneider, as well as independent candidates Juan Pan Guerrero and Ramon "Kumoi" Guerrero. In March 2009, Fitial had publicly stated that he will retire from politics if his re-election bid was unsuccessful.[29] In the general election, Hofschneider led Fitial by just 8 votes; because none of the candidates won a majority, a runoff between Hofschneider and Fitial was triggered.[30][31] Fitial won the runoff by 370 votes and therefore was re-elected.[32] Due to a newly ratified legislative initiative, Fitial was expected to serve a five-year term, as the next gubernatorial election would now be held in 2014.[32]

2005 Gubernatorial Election Results[edit]

e • d Summary of the 5 November 2005 Northern Mariana Islands Gubernatorial election results
Candidates and nominating parties Votes %
Benigno R. Fitial - Covenant Party 3,809 28.1
Heinz Hofschneider - Independent 3,710 27.3
Juan Babauta - Republican Party 3,610 26.6
Froilan Tenorio - Democratic Party 2,442 18.0
Total 13,517  

Career prior to governorship[edit]

  • Government:
    • Speaker of the House of Representatives, 3rd, 12th, & 14th NMI Legislature
    • Vice Speaker, 5th NMI Legislature
    • Minority Leader, 2nd and 4th NMI Legislature
    • Chief Administrative Officer, 1st NMI Legislature
    • Budget Officer, 1st NMI Legislature
    • Budget Analyst, Trust Territory Government
    • News Director, KJQR Radio Station
  • Business:
    • President, Bank of Saipan
    • Vice President, Tan Holdings Corporation
    • Special Consultant, L&T Corporation
    • President, Century Insurance Corporation
    • President, Century Travel Corporation
    • President, Consolidated Transportation Services Inc. (CTSI)
    • President, Pacific Oriental Inc. (POI)
    • President, Home Improvement (MPI)
  • Politics & Civic Contributions:
    • Founder, CNMI Covenant Party
    • Chairman, Northern Marianas Republican Party
    • Chairman, Bush for President Committee for the CNMI
    • Chairman, CNMI Zoning Board
    • Chairman, NMI Trusteeship Termination Task Force
    • Chairman, 1st CNMI Civil Service Commission
    • Chairman, Saipan Municipal Scholarship Board
    • Member, CNMI Tax Task Force
    • Member, Republican Presidential Task Force (US)
    • Delegate, 1st Northern Marianas Constitutional Convention
    • Chairman, Constitutional Convention Committee(s) on Tax, Public Debt, Education, & Local Government

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/53535-impeached
  2. ^ a b Eugenio, Haidee V. (2011-01-08). "Fitial now back to Republican Party, Governor's end goal to merge Covenant with GOP". Saipan Tribune. Retrieved 2011-01-08. 
  3. ^ Impeachment in the United States
  4. ^ a b http://www.cnmileg.gov.mp/documents/house/hse_res/18/HR18-002.pdf
  5. ^ http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/53754-breaking-news-governor-fitial-resigns-effective-today
  6. ^ a b c d Casas, Gemma Q. (2009-09-28). "Fitial, Inos hold rally". Marianas Variety. Archived from the original on 2009-10-11. Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  7. ^ "Distinguished Alumni"
  8. ^ a b http://www.pacificislands.cc/pm122005/pmdefault.php?urlarticleid=0004
  9. ^ Zotomayor, Alexie (December 5, 2012). "2010 Census: More Asians than Pacific Islanders in NMI". Marianas Variety. Retrieved 14 December 2012. 
  10. ^ Zotomayor, Alexie (6 December 2012). "Census: 49.36% of residents born in NMI". Marianas Variety. Retrieved 14 December 2012. 
  11. ^ a b "Governor Spouse's Information, Josie Fitial". National Governors Association. Retrieved 2009-01-03. 
  12. ^ Casas, Gemma Q. (2009-05-05). "From waiting tables to meeting 3 US presidents". Marianas Variety. Retrieved 2009-07-18. 
  13. ^ a b http://pidp.eastwestcenter.org/pireport/2006/June/06-27-13.htm
  14. ^ a b c d e f g Hernandez, Criselda B. (2005). "Politics: 4-Way Gubernatorial Election Heats Up". Islands Business. Archived from the original on 2009-10-11. Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  15. ^ "Lt. Governor Not Committed To Running For Re-Election, Report Says". Marianas Variety (Pacific Magazine). 2008-07-03. Retrieved 2008-07-02. 
  16. ^ Deposa, Moneth (2009-08-11). "Dr. Rita Inos, 55, dies of cancer". Saipan Tribune. Retrieved 2009-08-18. 
  17. ^ http://www.saipantribune.com/newsstory.aspx?newsID=124599&cat=1
  18. ^ "CNMI election outcome hinges on absentee ballots yet to be counted". Radio New Zealand International. 2005-11-07. Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  19. ^ New look for Fitial Cabinet
  20. ^ [1]
  21. ^ "FITIAL INITIATIVES RAISE QUESTIONS IN CNMI". Marianas Variety. 2006-02-03. Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  22. ^ Casas, Gemma Q. "NEW CARS FOR GOVERNOR, LIEUTENANT IN CNMI". Marianas Variety. Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  23. ^ "CNMI Governor Recoverning from Back Surgery". East West Center. 2006-11-01. Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  24. ^ a b c Eaton, Kristi (2000-04-27). "Villagomez resigns". Saipan Tribune. Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  25. ^ Eaton, Kristi (2000-04-28). "Fitial appoints Inos as lt. gov; Senate could vote tomorrow". Saipan Tribune. Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  26. ^ a b Casas, Gemma Q. (2000-05-04). "New CNMI Lieutenant Governor Confirmed". East West Center (Marianas Variety News & Views). Archived from the original on 2009-10-11. Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  27. ^ Rabago, Mark (2009-01-07). "Kumoi launches bid for gubernatorial post". Saipan Tribune. Retrieved 2009-10-13. 
  28. ^ a b Deposa, Moneth (2009-07-28). "Ben & Eloy files election candidacy". Saipan Tribune. Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  29. ^ "CNMI Governor to quit politics if he loses November election". Radio New Zealand International. 2009-03-16. Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  30. ^ Eugenio, Haidee V. (2009-11-09). "Independents to seal Heinz or Fitial victory". Saipan Tribune. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  31. ^ Eugenio, Haidee V. (2009-11-23). "CNMI holds first runoff election". Saipan Tribune. Retrieved 2009-11-23. 
  32. ^ a b Eugenio, Haidee V. (2009-12-08). "Fitial seals victory with 370 lead". Saipan Tribune. Retrieved 2009-12-20. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Juan Babauta
Governor of the Northern Mariana Islands
2006–2013
Succeeded by
Eloy Inos