By Lori Lyn Lirio
SAIPAN’s Board of Education threatens to file a lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands should Speaker Ralph Demapan and the members of the local legislature fail to take part in filing the certified question on or before the end of this month.
The board has been contemplating on filing certified question to the Supreme Court in order to get clarification of what constitute ‘general funds’ within the entire government and address what the Public School System is entitled to in the revenues of the Commonwealth.
The Constitution mandates that the Public School System (PSS) will get a minimum of 25 percent appropriation of the general revenue of the government.
PSS legal counsel Tiberius Mocanu said the board has two routes – file a certified question or file a lawsuit against the CNMI government.
“The question of filing is up to you,” Mocanu told the board members.
“A lawsuit is different from certified question. We are filing it against the CNMI government, the governor and the members of the legislature saying you owe us money. The outcome of that is forcing them to certified question,” Mocanu said.
Earlier, BOE member Herman Guerrero said they could not submit the certified question because none would take the opposite position.
According to Guerrero, Demapan agreed to take part in the certified question and the same is currently being reviewed by the legal team.
Guerrero added that Demapan is planning to file a house resolution in regards to certified question. The board decided to give Demapan until July 31 and if there is no movement on the part of the members of the legislature, the lawsuit will be filed.
In giving ultimatum to the legislature, Guerrero said delaying the filing of either certified question or lawsuit will not solve anything and it is just compounding the problem.
“The board already approved to go to certified question. The fact that administration has not kept what they owe us. We need to move ahead. It is not the question of either good or bad. It is a question of resolving, once and for all, what the PSS is entitled so we can have clear guidance from the court. It does not make you a bad person. We have been talking for this for a number of years. At least let the court decide once and for all,” Guerrero said, adding the government owes them about US$9 million.
Mocanu said the PSS goal is not for the governor or members of the legislature to agree on the 25 percent of overall budget. He said the decision from the Supreme Court will serve as guidance for the future government on what the exactly the PSS is allowed to have.
“The goal is sue the government to force them to certified question, so Supreme Court can decide.”