NMI Democratic Party’s female candidates share thoughts on resiliency

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THE nine women running under the NMI Democratic Party banner on Saturday shared their thoughts about resiliency in the CNMI amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a press conference at their party headquarters in Garapan, they also talked about public safety, fiscal responsibility, household stability, accountability, proper financial management, sustainability, self-sufficiency, collaboration and compassion.

Kagman High School principal Leila Staffler, who is running for one of the two House seats in Precinct 5, said the Covid-19 pandemic made every member of the community rethink how to approach everything. Even in this  election year, she said everyone has to be careful not to spread the virus.

“We have to think about safety not just for this [event] but for every aspect of life. It changed everything that we think to be normal,” she said. Data-driven decision making, she added, is very important nowadays.

“It is important that we look at everything in life a little bit different until there is a cure, until there is data that shows that the safety for our entire community is out there,” Staffler said.

She also stressed the importance of investing in education. She said the school system will need more money to make sure that students are safe and sound.

Precinct 3 candidate Denita Yangtemai, who has been an educator for 22 years, said she wants see accountability in the monies that the CNMI has been receiving from the federal government to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. “We need to know where they are going,” she said.

Former Labor Secretary Edith Deleon Guerrero, who is running for Saipan senator, said, “We need to restore fiscal responsibility in the government.”


The female candidates of the NMI Democratic Party pose for a photo after a press conference at their party headquarters in Garapan on Saturday. From left, standing, are Precinct 1 House candidate Celina Babauta, Precinct 2 Rep. Tina Sablan, Precinct 3 candidate Corina Magofna, Precinct 4 candidates Rep. Sheila Babauta and Jenita Castro, and Precinct 3 candidate Denita Yangetmai. Seated, from left, are Precinct 2 candidate Luella Marciano, Saipan senatorial candidate Edith Deleon Guerrero and Precinct 5 candidate Leila Staffler. Photo by Emmanuel T. Erediano

She added, “Because if you are running a government on a deficit, if you are running a government without any financial management, you are mostly likely running as bankrupt government. So we need to make sure that our financial house is in order for our people to recover. As long as we don’t do that our government is not going to be able to get itself out of the black hole.”

Precinct 3 candidate Corina Magofna said people must be encouraged to start their own business “so that we can generate revenue within our economy.”

A budget officer of the Commonwealth Utilities Corp., she believes there is a solution, “moving forward.”

Luella Marciano, a Precinct 2 candidate and a retired teacher, said it is important to maintain “stability in our homes because that is how we are going to survive.”  Right now, she said no one knows how long this pandemic will continue, so “it is about time that people make do with what they have like farming, fishing and whatever we have here on our island.” 

Rep. Sheila Babauta, who is seeking reelection in Precinct 4, said it is very important to work together in this time of uncertainty. It is important to have leaders who know how to work with others to develop solutions that work for all, she added.

Precinct 2 Rep. Tina Sablan, who is also seeking reelection, said if the CNMI government had not been on deficit spending, “we would have been a much more resilient community dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, and even with typhoons and any other forces outside of our control that impact public services, that impact that quality of life here.”

The government, she added, does not have to spend every single penny of taxes it collects and, certainly does not have to overspend. “And we have to be really mindful of the priorities of the government,” she said.

The government should not squander financial resources that could be provided to people who are in dire need, she added.

Precinct 1 candidate Celina Babauta said the pandemic has given the people more reasons to embrace new technology.

“Our kids can get degrees online now and we need to help our education system jump on that, and it is so important now because of this pandemic,” she added.

She does not think “we need more laws to ensure transparency.”  All the government has to do is enforce existing laws, she added.

Precinct 4 candidate Jenita Castro, who works at the Department of Commerce as workers compensation analyst, said amid an economic crisis, it is important for the leaders and the candidates  to reach out directly to the people who are in dire need of help.

She shared stories of families and what they have been going through after they were furloughed.

Just by listening to people, Castro said, leaders can right away come up with ideas on how to help them. There are government programs that can assist people in this time of crisis, she added. “That is what I want to bring to our community especially in Precinct 4,” she said.


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