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OPINION | Poor leadership

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I WAS supposed to send editorial article for publication on Friday of last week, but withheld it to allow Governor Torres more time to give retirees and PSS responsible, honest and consoling responses for the cruelty and hardship he was solely responsible putting us through this man-made economic calamity. Instead of more honest and practical solutions to the crisis he created, he put up his website and dumped into it his personal and political propaganda garbage.

I am not at all surprised with his behavior because, it fits the patter of human reactions, especially on those who have reached the pinnacle of their career but falls in disgrace for dishonoring themselves by abusing their authority. In desperation for rebuilding his fake public persona, Governor Torres gets recklessly incoherent.

But on a second thought, what he is doing is using Donald Trump’s playbook of not admitting an iota of wrongdoing and plunge forward. Besides, if his federal case becomes indictable and eventually found guilty by a grand jury, he will be on top of Donald Trump’s list of criminals to be pardoned. This seems to be his game plan because he appears to have little regards to the consequences of his actions. The way he handled the retirees and PSS issues speak clearly of his apathy.

Leadership at war with itself

Never in the history of the NMI, even way back since 1945 after the second World War, where the lives of our citizens are in such peril and our own Governor literally put a class of people in opposition against one another for their economic survival (retirees vs. Teachers and our children at schools-PSS).

Rather than announce practical ways to help us get out of this economic disaster, he publicly blamed three members of the Board of Education for denying retirees their full pension. The real fact was the three board members exercised their fiduciary responsibility by taking legal claim against Governor Torres administration over PSS 25% constitutional budget allocations.

Moreover, the Governor did it by childishly attesting to retirees the reason why he was diminishing their pension by 25% was because the three Board of Education members are doing what they were elected to do...fight for our school children’s constitutionally guaranteed share of the CNMI’s total revenues. As Governor and leader of the land, how can he not be impassioned to the financial plights of both PSS and retirees?

The absurdity of the Governor’s decision and action in pitting retiree's vs PSS was he conveniently failed to recognize it was HIS MISMANAGEMENT of the government finances that got us to where we are now. Yes, I am making this assertion not only in political term but more assertively because of poor leadership...leadership that is incoherent and at “war with itself.”

Governor Torres is exclusively responsible for not paying retirees their full pension and PSS budgetary right to 25% of total government revenues, a total betrayal of trust. Governor, no amount of diversionary blame-game will work to fool retirees and PSS of your motive this time. The saddest thing about betrayal is that it never comes from your enemies. It comes from friends and love ones but worst of all, it comes from within.

Maybe Governor Torres needs to be reminded of his active role, when he was in the Senate, pleading with retirees to support the casino bill. He used the retirees, at a moment when they were financially vulnerable, for the passage of the casino bill. He knew at the time that without the support of retirees, the poisonous casino bill, which the voters on Saipan rejected twice, would not have gone through.

After retirees flexed their voting power to protect their pension through lobbying for the passage of the casino bill, now Governor Torres disingenuously reciprocated by cutting 25% off their annuity. How pathetic is it that after retirees placed their trust in Governor Torres who retirees consider their protector, he and his family became financially well of at their expense? Furthermore, Governor Torres dealt retirees a triple whammy by first, pit them against their own children and grandchildren at schools-PSS, Second, cut 25% off their pension and third, brutally stabbed them on the back.

I am not blaming Governor Torres for the Covid-19 pandemic...a world-wide infestation. I will, however, blame his poor leadership with the way he handled our economy. He deceived us back in 2018 when he launched his propaganda by claiming that the CNMI had super economy and prosperity. The truthfulness of Governor Torres claim of super economy and prosperity became suspect based on the progression of the economy itself right into austerity. For example, how can the economy be supper in August 2018 and in December of the same year a deficit was silently recorded, in 2019 he was served with an FBI subpoena and in 2020 the government went broke?

It was true Governor Torres had to deal with the devastation of two typhoons. However, whatever local money used to mitigate the recovery work, our government got reimbursed by the federal government, because the President of the United States declared the CNMI a disaster area, and we were eligible for FEMA and SBA assistance. Ultimately, all costs associated with the typhoon's recovery efforts, FEMA reimbursed us for those expenditures. As a matter of fact, up till this very moment, FEMA continues to reimburse the CNMI government for those costs. So, the serious question is, where did the millions and millions of dollars from the super economy, millions of tax and other financial obligations IPI under paid, private donations received by the government and FEMA reimbursements go?

A public watchdog and regular commentator, Ambrose Bennett, wrote in 2018 and recently in his Epitaph about the missing and unaccounted millions of dollars from the Community Chest fund, and more recently Sen. Paul Manglona has been asking similar questions about IPI legal obligations. It should also be noted the minority members of the House have also expressed repeated concern by the Governor’s inaction or lack of interest in demanding that IPI live up to its contractual obligations.

Governor Torres has absolutely no sympathy for inflicting economic pain and misery on his citizens, so long as he protects the financial interests of IPI and his family. Dig deeply into the government affairs and you will find that Governor Torres’ family members are benefiting all over the “fruited plain” (government departments), especially when it comes to service contracts. Kandit News continues to expose some but there are plenty more.

In today’s millennial dominated generation which Governor Torres based his campaign on and claimed to a representative of the generational divide, did a great disservice to this young group of voters by turning himself as a CON LEADER. As citizens of this community, we need to recognize we are now dealing with a new breed of CON LEADERS — leaders who mastered the art of deception. Not only did they mastered their trade, they are also perfect illusionists who can magically make things look different from what is.

The prevailing fictional thoughts amongst con leaders, is they tried to defy what President Lincoln famously said “you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” The funny thing that perpetually happened to conn leaders is they keep doing the same thing and never learn their lesson, so they always get caught.

With all the hardships and anxieties, we are going through now, we need to realize that Governor Torres is incapable of leading us out of the miseries he put us into. Just listening to the Governor’s commentary on the retiree's impairment of their pension and PSS budget claim, he sounded so uncanny and he even looked daze. A true leader becomes one by the quality of his ACTION and the integrity of his INTENT. Both elements were absence in his public address and not a single feeling of passion in his voice.

The only thing that is certain right now and perhaps months ahead, is Governor Torres and Senate President Victor Hocog families are not affected by this economic destitution and health malady. Cabinet members are transferring their chosen few to Federally funded positions and furloughing the ones who are unfaithful to the GOP. They are not feeling any of the hardships experienced by the average citizens who lost their jobs, that is why they are in no hurry to help the rest of us. To-date, the Governor has not advised anyone, and we still don’t know how to make sure eligible citizens get their stimulus checks.

Which leads me to ask, what kind of Governor is Ralph Torres? How can he be so brazenly uninspired and empathically callous? I can only suspect his incoherent leadership is influenced by his personal legal problem which is sucking out all his energy and prudent judgement matters little to him at all anymore. Such behavior usually happens to a person who is under criminal investigation, added to the pressure of impending judgement and knowing that the days ahead are numbered.

Leaders are tested not in the best of moments but in the worst of times. Right now, we faced the worst of two evils: 1) economic calamity and 2) an invincible pandemic that catastrophically destroying our very survival. So, what are our leaders doing to help us through this crisis?

As for Governor Torres, he is showing leadership by engaging in his usual style of a blame-game and finger-pointing accusation. The Senate President who glamorizes being called by his inner circle, the “political genius” of the CNMI and godfather of gambling, is silently praying that the FBI does not cause the shutdown of the casino “integrated” facilities.

At least the Speaker of the House had something good to say about Congressman Kilili, who worked with his U.S. congressional colleagues to include the CNMI in the CARES Act of which we are now eligible for millions of dollars in financial assistance for our people, businesses and government. Kilili may still provide more financial rescue to the CNMI under another 5 billion dollars economic bill that is currently being worked through Congress.

Are we, the citizens of the Commonwealth, confident with the current leadership to get us out of our financial hardships? Purely based on their past track records, Governor Torres and Senate President Hocog, will not be able to bring the CNMI back to normalcy. With the casino debacle and their sinister involvement with IPI, there is deep and real mistrust on both.

After all, one is a silent public coffer raider and the other one is a notorious gambler. Their acquired behaviors are not conducive to the principle of TRUST and STATESMANSHIP. As a matter of fact, this is the kind of leadership quality Frederick Douglass an African-American statesman was referencing when he said. “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” How then can we, as citizens of this great Commonwealth, be hopeful of our future while in the hands of these kinds of leadership who not only are incapable of leading us out of our financial miseries, they are also busy fighting a war with their own personal demons? This is truly a leadership that is at war with itself.

While our future under the current Republican leadership seems hopelessly acute, it is by no means irreversible. We can get ourselves out of the strangulation of the Torres and Republican administration by using the most lethal power every single citizen in the Commonwealth have...THE POWER OF OUR VOTE.

I earnestly encourage citizens who were victimized by the Torres administration: retirees, PSS employees, those who were removed from their employment, citizens who are tired of corruptions, citizens who, by their social dispositions, were disenfranchised, citizens from Rota, Tinian, Saipan, residents of Northern Island, as well as our off-island voters and citizens who are just plain tired of the same leaderships who ruled the Commonwealth for 34 long years without a clear vision of where we are heading, to vote Democrats in the upcoming elections. By doing so, you will see real change in the way government businesses are carried out because TRUST and TRANSPARENCY has been the trademark of its successes in the past.

Now that the Democratic Party successfully reorganized and outlived its internal divisive habit, we are offering a political option to the citizens of the Commonwealth. The Democratic Party believes that our past is our lesson. The present is our guide. The future is our motivation to creatively use the power of our collective intellects to develop new and surprising potentials using attractive internal attributes first and acknowledging, at the same time inherent limitations. The reputational and institutional damage Governor Torres has done to this community may not be erasable, but the future of the Commonwealth under a Democratic leadership will be an enlighten discovery of new and interesting possibilities. Now, in affirming our desire to realign our future direction from the current corruption inclined GOP leadership, to that of governed by consent, integrity and accountability to our citizens is whom we will be loyal to, and a vision of inclusive leadership where no one will be left behind is our commitment.

The writer is a resident of Kanat Tabla, Saipan.

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