Felipe Atalig disputes AG’s legal opinion  on civil engineer’s license

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A GUALO Rai resident disagrees with the legal opinion of the Office of the Attorney General regarding his complaint about a local civil engineer.

Felipe Atalig, in his July 14 letter to Attorney General Edward Manibusan, said the engineer does not possess the requisite educational degree for civil engineering.

Because Variety was unable to get a comment from the  engineer, we will not mention his name.

Atalig said it is “now clear” that the decision of the Professional Licensing Board to include “classes taken” as part of  lawful experience “is completely contrary to law and therefore illegal.”

“The Office of the Attorney General has an ethical responsibility and duty to reconsider its erroneous legal opinion and reissue an amended legal opinion concluding that the license of the civil engineer is contrary to law and such license must be stripped from him,” he said.

On May 29, 2019, Atalig filed his complaint with the CNMI Board of Professional Licensing, challenging the qualifications and license of the civil engineer.

Atalig said the civil engineer failed to meet the required 12 years of progressive engineering experience.

The board, however, noted that the civil engineer had attended multiple colleges and was two classes away from graduating with a degree in civil engineering or CE.

The civil engineer was allowed to sit for the requisite CE examination and attained passing grades, the board added.

The civil engineer had applied twice for licensing as a CE. The first was in 1998 when he was granted an engineer-in-training license.

In 2001, the civil engineer, applied again and was approved for a full CE license.

The AG’s office said the civil engineer was duly licensed on Feb. 12, 2001 due to his having over 12 years of experience and passing the required examinations.

When  the civil engineer applied for a license in 1998, the AG’s office noted that Public Law 4-53 was the controlling authority, which required “12 years of full-time lawful experience in engineering or landscape architecture work as the case may be, of a character satisfactory to the [Professional Licensing] Board, or part-time experience which the board finds to be the equivalent thereof; and has also successfully passed a written or oral examination, or both, prescribed by the board and designed to test such person’s knowledge, skill, and competency in the profession for which registration is desired.”

Citing Public Law 11-99, the board approved the civil engineer’s application to take the exam and to work as engineer-in-training.

The AG’s office stated that the civil engineer attended classes from 1984 to 1990 that were directly related to civil engineering.

But according to Atalig, Public Law 11-99 is the applicable law that removed reference to a full or part-time “work,” which was replaced with “lawful experience.”

He said the board approved the civil engineer’s application because its decision took into consideration the classes taken by the applicant from 1984 to 1990.

“For the Office of the Attorney General to agree and interpret that the ‘classes taken’ constitute lawful experience is not only mind-boggling but also appalling and completely irresponsible,” Atalig said.

He said no matter how the board decides to interpret the meaning of “lawful experience,” its decision is subordinate to the law, adding that the interpretation of the board is not in conformity with the mandate of the law.

Atalig said the AG’s office should know that “classes taken do not constitute lawful experience unless so interpreted by promulgated regulation.”

Variety was unable to get a comment from the AG’s office.

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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