Judge orders NMI government to pay Mangabao heirs

JUDGE Pro Tempore Alberto Lamorena III of Guam on Friday ordered the CNMI government to pay the heirs of Maria Mangabao in 30 days.

According to a 2008 judgment, the government owes them $20 million in land compensation. In March 2017, the CNMI government made a payment of $3 million, but it still owes the heirs $17 million.

Mangabao’s property was located in and around the intersection of Middle Road and Chalan Monsignor Guerrero Road, and was taken by the government in 1993.

The heirs as intervenors have petitioned the Superior Court for a writ of mandamus ordering the secretary of Finance to pay the land compensation judgment.

Represented by attorney Michael Dotts, the intervenors contend that “since there is a final judgment and the post-judgment interest rate has been determined, the only remaining issue is to stop the commonwealth from continuing to violate their constitutional rights by ordering it to make payment in full or in part.”

Assistant Attorney General Charles E. Brasington, who represented the commonwealth, said the court should not issue an order to compel payment because the government does not have enough unobligated funds to pay the heirs of the Mangabao estate, and a stay would be more appropriate at this time.

Brasington said the intervenors’ motion is overly adversarial, adding that the commonwealth will “work with intervenors to make payment, but the intervenors need to be patient.”

Judge Lamorena said the government’s arguments are unpersuasive.

He said while it is certainly true that finding the necessary funds to make the payment is difficult, the commonwealth nonetheless is required to make payment on the judgment at a reasonable rate and within a reasonable time.

The court is concerned that the commonwealth has not taken sufficient steps to make payment in full to the estate, the judge added.

His order provides that “if a payment plan is offered by the commonwealth, it must cover the full interest rate for each installment plus an additional 25 percent of the installment toward the principal (If the interest for the proposed installment is $100,000 then the full amount due would be $125,000.)”

Attorney Dotts, in a statement, said: “The motion that resulted in this order was written and filed by the late Edward Arriola. If it were not for Ed this very important step forward in making the CNMI recognize and pay its legal obligations would not have happened.”

Source: Marianas Variety :

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