CHCC pays $411,000; Wiseman extends TRO vs CUC

Superior Court Associate Judge David A. Wiseman has extended the temporary restraining order that prohibits the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. from disconnecting electric, water, and sewer utility services to the Commonwealth Health Center.

After a hearing on Thursday pertaining to CUC’s request for preliminary injunction, Wiseman, however, ordered the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., which runs CHC, to keep current their monthly payment of utility billings to CUC.

Wiseman placed CUC’s motion for preliminary injunction under advisement. The TRO will be in effect until the judge issues a written order on the preliminary injunction matter.

CHCC informed the court at the hearing that it paid CUC $411,000 that same day.

Wiseman also handled CUC’s lawsuit against government agencies, including CUC, over non-payment of billings several years ago.

At the hearing on Thursday, CHCC chief executive officer Esther Muña and CUC board chair David J. Sablan took the witness stand as the legal battle between the two agencies plays out in Superior Court.

Assistant attorney general David Lochabay, counsel for CHCC, presented Muña as a witness to support CHCC’s motion for preliminary injunction that seeks to prohibit CUC from disconnecting utility services to the public hospital.

James Sirok, legal counsel for CUC, called Sablan to the witness stand to support CUC’s opposition to the motion for preliminary injunction.

Wiseman recently granted CHCC’s request to issue a TRO against CUC.

In granting the TRO, the judge said CHCC would suffer immediate and irreparable harm should CUC disconnect any of its utility services as CHCC would become immediately unable to provide critical healthcare and public health services to the public.

CUC has threatened to disconnect unspecified utility services to CHCC due to outstanding arrears. In December 2013, CUC filed a lawsuit against CHCC to collect utility services in the amount of $9,690,875, together with pre-judgment interest. It was last reported that the hospital owes CUC $11 million in past due accounts.

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Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at

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