Commonwealth Constitution : Article XII


RESTRICTIONS ON ALIENATION OF LAND

 
Case Annotations: Wabol v. Villacrusis, 1 N.M.I. 34--36, 37; Sablan v. Iginoef, 1 N.M.I. 190--196; Aldan-Pierce v. Mafnas, 2 N.M.I. 122--129, 131, 132, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139, 144, 145, 151, 152, 153, 154, 156, 160, 161, 162, 163, 164 (1991), rev'd, 31 F.3d 756 (9th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 513 U.S. ___, 115 S. Ct. 913, 130 L. Ed. 2d 794 (1995); Ferreira v. Borja, 2 N.M.I. 514--518, 520, 521, 522, 523, 524, 525, 527, 531, 532, 533 , vacated, 1 F.3d 960 (9th Cir. 1993); Cepeda v. Hefner, 3 N.M.I. 121--123, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132; Manglona v. Kaipat, 3 N.M.I. 322--326, 327, 328, 330, 331, 333, 334, 335, 337, 342; Sablan v. Inos, 3 N.M.I. 418--432; In re Estate of Tudela, 4 N.M.I. 1--2, 3, 4, 5, 6; Deleon Guerrero v. Nabors, 4 N.M.I. 31--33; Bolalin v. Guam Publications, Inc., 4 N.M.I. 176--180; Ferreira v. Borja, 4 N.M.I. 211--212; Diamond Hotel Co., Ltd. v. Matsunaga, 4 N.M.I. 213--215, 216, 217, 218, 219, 220, 221, 223, 224, 225, 227; Hofschneider v. Hofschneider, 4 N.M.I. 277--278; Wabol v. Villacrusis, 4 N.M.I. 314--315, 316, 321.
 
Section 1: Alienation of LandThe acquisition of permanent and long-term interests in real property within the Commonwealth shall be restricted to persons of Northern Marianas descent.

 

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).


Case Annotations: Aldan-Pierce v. Mafnas, 2 N.M.I. 122--136, 143, 161, 162 (1991), rev'd, 31 F.3d 756 (9th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 513 U.S. ___, 115 S. Ct. 913, 130 L. Ed. 2d 794 (1995); Ferreira v. Borja, 2 N.M.I. 514--521, 524; Manglona v. Kaipat, 3 N.M.I. 322--328, 334, 335; In re Estate of Tudela, 4 N.M.I. 1--5; Diamond Hotel Co., Ltd. v. Matsunaga, 4 N.M.I. 213--216, 217, 218, 219, 221, 227.

 
Section 2: AcquisitionThe term acquisition used in Section 1 includes acquisition by sale, lease, gift, inheritance or other means. A transfer to a spouse by inheritance is not an acquisition under this section if the owner dies without issue or with issue not eligible to own land in the Northern Mariana Islands. A transfer to a mortgagee by means of a foreclosure on a mortgage is not an acquisition under this section if the mortgagee is a full service bank, Federal Agency or Governmental entity of the Commonwealth and does not hold the permanent or long-term interest in real property for more than ten years beyond the term of the mortgage.

 

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 34 (1985).


Case Annotations: Aldan-Pierce v. Mafnas, 2 N.M.I. 122--138, 143, 160, 161 (1991), rev'd, 31 F.3d 756 (9th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 513 U.S. ___, 115 S. Ct. 913, 130 L. Ed. 2d 794 (1995); Ferreira v. Borja, 2 N.M.I. 514--521; In re Estate of Tudela, 4 N.M.I. 1--5; Diamond Hotel Co., Ltd. v. Matsunaga, 4 N.M.I. 213--222.

 
Section 3: Permanent and Long-Term Interests in Real PropertyThe term permanent and long-term interests in real property used in Section 1 includes freehold interests and leasehold interests of more than fifty-five years including renewal rights, except an interest acquired above the first floor of a condominium building. Any interests acquired above the first floor of a condominium building is restricted to private lands. Any land transaction in violation of this provision shall be void. This amendment does not apply to existing leasehold agreements.

 

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 35 (1985).


Case Annotations: Aldan-Pierce v. Mafnas, 2 N.M.I. 122--143, 161 (1991), rev'd, 31 F.3d 756 (9th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 513 U.S. ___, 115 S. Ct. 913, 130 L. Ed. 2d 794 (1995); Ferreira v. Borja, 2 N.M.I. 514--521, 522; In re Estate of Tudela, 4 N.M.I. 1--5; Diamond Hotel Co., Ltd. v. Matsunaga, 4 N.M.I. 213--216, 217, 218, 222.

 
Section 4: Persons of Northern Marianas DescentA person of Northern Marianas descent is a person who is a citizen or national of the United States and who has at least some degree of Northern Marianas Chamorro or Northern Marianas Carolinian blood or a combination thereof. For purposes of determining Northern Marianas descent by adoption, a child without any degree of Northern Marianas descent when adopted while under the age of eighteen by a person of Northern Marianas descent shall not acquire any degree of Northern Marianas descent. For purposes of determining Northern Marianas descent, a person shall be considered to be a full-blooded Northern Marianas Chamorro or Northern Marianas Carolinian if that person was born or domiciled in the Northern Mariana Islands by 1950 and was a citizen of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands before the termination of the Trusteeship with respect to the Commonwealth.

(a) Any person who has less than one quarter Northern Marianas Chamorro or Northern Marianas Carolinian blood or a combination thereof, claiming to be a person of Northern Marianas descent shall provide evidence to support that he/she possess some degree of Northern Marianas Chamorro or Northern Marianas Carolinian blood or a combination thereof to the Superior Court. Based on the evidentiary standard of “preponderance of the evidence”, the Superior Court may grant or deny such claim, and the decision of the Superior Court on such claim shall be subject to a “de novo” judicial review. However, if the Superior Court finds and agrees that the person in fact possesses at least some degree of Northern Marianas Chamorro or Northern Marianas Carolinian blood or a combination thereof, the Superior Court shall certify that the person is a person of Northern Marianas descent.

 

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by House Legislative Initiative 18-1 (2014).

Commission Comment: House Legislative Initiative 18-1 (2014) contained the following Findings and Purpose section:


Section 1. Findings and Purpose. The Eighteenth Northern Marianas Commonwealth Legislature (Legislature) finds that Article VIII, Section 805(a) of the Covenant provides that “the Government of the Northern Mariana Islands, in view of the importance of the ownership of land for the culture and tradition of the people of the Northern Mariana Islands, and in order to protect them against exploitation and to promote their economic advancement and self-sufficiency: (a) will until twenty-five years after the termination of the Trusteeship Agreement, and may thereafter, regulate the alienation of permanent and long-term interests in real property so as to restrict the acquisition of such interests to persons of Northern Marianas descent.”


The Legislature further finds that for a person to be considered a person of Northern Marianas descent, Article XII, Section 4 of the Northern Mariana Islands Constitution provides that he or she must possess at least one-quarter Northern Marianas Chamorro or Northern Marianas Carolinian blood or a combination thereof. The Legislature believes that a person who is a citizen or a national of the United States, and who has at least some degree of Northern Marianas Chamorro or Northern Marianas Carolinian blood or a combination thereof shall be considered a person of Northern Marianas descent; therefore, the Legislature finds it necessary and proper to amend Section 4 of Article XII of the Northern Mariana Islands Constitution in order to legally provide that a person who has at least some degree of Northern Marianas Chamorro or Northern Marianas Carolinian blood and who is a citizen or national of the United States shall be deemed a bona fide person of Northern Marianas descent for all purposes under Article XII, upon providing evidence to the Superior Court. Furthermore, if the court, based on such evidence finds and agrees that the person in fact possess at least some degree of blood quantum of Northern Marianas Chamorro or Northern Marianas Carolinian blood or a combination thereof, that said person shall be qualified and considered a person of Northern Marianas descent.


Case Annotations: Manglona v. Kaipat, 3 N.M.I. 322—325; Ferreira v. Borja, 2 N.M.I. 514—522; Aldan-Pierce v. Mafnas, 2 N.M.I. 122--137 (1991), rev'd, 31 F.3d 756 (9th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 513 U.S. ___, 115 S. Ct. 913, 130 L. Ed. 2d 794 (1995); Ferreira v. Borja, 2 N.M.I. 514--522; Manglona v. Kaipat, 3 N.M.I. 322--325.

 
Section 5: CorporationA corporation shall be considered to be a person of Northern Marianas descent so long as it is incorporated in the Commonwealth, has its principal place of business in the Commonwealth, has directors one-hundred percent of whom are persons of Northern Marianas descent and has voting shares (i.e. common or preferred) one-hundred percent of which are actually owned by persons of Northern Marianas descent as defined in Section 4. Minors, as defined by applicable laws of the Commonwealth, may not be eligible to become directors of a corporation. No trusts or voting by proxy by persons not of Northern Marianas descent may be permitted. Beneficial title shall not be served from legal title.
 
Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 36 (1985).


Case Annotations: Aldan-Pierce v. Mafnas, 2 N.M.I. 122--137 (1991), rev'd, 31 F.3d 756 (9th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 513 U.S. ___, 115 S. Ct. 913, 130 L. Ed. 2d 794 (1995); Ferreira v. Borja, 2 N.M.I. 514--522.

 
Section 6: EnforcementAny transaction made in violation of Section 1 shall be void ab initio. Whenever a corporation ceases to be qualified under Section 5, a permanent or long-term interest in land in the Commonwealth acquired by the Corporation after the effective date of this amendment shall be immediately forfeited without right of redemption to the government of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The Registrar of Corporation shall issue regulations to ensure compliance and the legislature may enact enforcement laws and procedures.

 

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 36 (1985).


Case Annotations: Aldan-Pierce v. Mafnas, 2 N.M.I. 122--137, 143, 151, 153, 160, 163 (1991), rev'd, 31 F.3d 756 (9th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 513 U.S. ___, 115 S. Ct. 913, 130 L. Ed. 2d 794 (1995); Ferreira v. Borja, 2 N.M.I. 514--522, 523, 524, 532; Manglona v. Kaipat, 3 N.M.I. 322-- 334, 335; Diamond Hotel Co., Ltd. v. Matsunaga, 4 N.M.I. 213--219, 221; Wabol v. Villacrusis, 4 N.M.I. 314--315.


—Operation and Effect Intention of drafters of N.M.I. Const. art. XII, § 6 could not be clearer; any transaction which violates N.M.I. Const. art. XII, § 1 is completely without force and effect. The language of N.M.I. Const. art. XII, § 6 admits of no equitable exceptions. Diamond Hotel Co., Ltd. v. Matsunaga, 4 N.M.I. 213 (1995), aff'd, 99 F.3d 296 (9th Cir. 1996).


There can never be a situation where there is an automatic illegal purpose (in a conveyance) under N.M.I. Const. art. XII. There must first be an acquisition of an interest in land. Then a court may analyze the acquisition to determine if it violates N.M.I. Const. art. XII. If it makes such a determination, then the acquisition (i.e., transaction) becomes void ab initio. Manglona v. Kaipat, 3 N.M.I. 322 (1992).