Lawmakers steer clear of trip to Singapore

Members of the Legislature will not be attending a “familiarization” trip to an integrated resort in Singapore.

Senate President Victor C. Hocog (Ind-Rota) said nobody from the Senate will attend. He did advise those who are interested to shoulder their own expenses, should they choose to attend the trip.

“Most of their schedules will not permit them to attend,” Hocog said.

Hocog said he does see the advantage of attending a trip to an integrated resort because there never has been one on the CNMI.

But to remove questions on ethics, Hocog said lawmakers must make sure the expenses will come out of their own accounts.

Hocog confirmed that the invitation was extended to CNMI lawmakers for the trip, which is scheduled today until Wednesday next week.

He said Best Sunshine International, Ltd. did not directly extend the invitation. “But I wish Best Sunshine will involve more of our community members, so they can see what an integrated resort looks like.”

House Speaker Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan) also said there was an invitation, but nobody from the House of Representatives will be attending.

The House of Representatives yesterday held a session on Tinian, which will be followed by a public hearing on the budget of the Tinian Mayor’s Office today.

Rep. Blas Jonathan “BJ” Attao (Ind-Saipan) said he did not get the invitation directly but was informed about it by another colleague.

Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan) posted a status on his social media page saying that a colleague also invited him to attend the trip. He dismissed the invitation and stated that he hopes “it is a joke.”

Familiarization trip

John Gonzales, talk show host and event organizer for the Singapore trip, confirmed that he did extend the invitation to CNMI leaders on Capital Hill.

In an interview, he said he has not gotten any response yet from CNMI officials.

“This is a purely educational and familiarization trip. Nothing more, nothing less,” Gonzales said.

He said he discussed the trip with Best Sunshine, in which the latter agreed to pitch in.

Gonzales said his company and BSI agreed to conduct the familiarization and educational trip and extend it to the CNMI community by having a select group of residents join the tour.

He said parts of the tour are trips to Marina Bay Sands and Resort World Sentosa, an integrated resort in Singapore with casino facilities.

The two resorts are arguably the “world’s premier integrated resorts,” he said.

OPA warning

The Office of the Public Auditor, meanwhile, released an advisory opinion answering a query on the CNMI Government Ethics Code Act of 1992.

The OPA said on June 2, it received a request for the advisory opinion.

“The fact pattern as presented to OPA involves an invitation by a person either ‘contracted by or funded by’ a large corporate entity that does business in the CNMI in an emerging field that is heavily regulated by both statute and administrative regulation,” the OPA said.

According to the inquiry, “this invitation was extended to the member of the CNMI Legislature, both House and Senate.”

This invitation was to “join [the inviting person] and his group to go to Singapore to explore integrated resorts, their makeup, operation, and benefit.”

The OPA said “the facts presented would constitute clear and unambiguous violation of the Ethics Act by any member of the Legislature that accepted the invitation as proffered.”

The OPA cited CNMI law stating that “a public official shall not solicit or accept anything of value, or the promise of anything of value, from a person regulated by the government entity that the public official serves.”

“In conclusion, it is the opinion of OPA that acceptance of the invitation as described would constitute a violation of the Ethics Act and expose any persons so accepting to potential criminal and civil liability,” the OPA advisory said.

George Hasselback, director of investigations, investigations division of the OPA signed the advisory opinion.

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Joel D. Pinaroc | Reporter
Joel Pinaroc worked for a number of newspapers in the Philippines before joining the editorial team of Saipan Tribune. His published articles include stories on information technology, travel and lifestyle, and motoring, among others. Contact him at joel_pinaroc@saipantribune.com.

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  • John

    Send a civilian rep with perdieum.

  • Captain

    So Gonzales see nothing wrong with an invitations for lawmakers to take a free “fact finding” trip to Singapore? And this guy was a Govt employee? Also ran for an elected office? Is he still employed by the Govt. in any capacity. Another Fitial/Inos crony whom himself does not know (or care) about ethics. One who only take care of himself at the expense of others.

Hello;
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