Senate Committee on Executive Appointments and Government Investigations chair Sen. Frank Cruz (R-Tinian) said yesterday they will be asking acting Department of Public Safety commissioner Aniceto Ogumoro and Commonwealth Ports Authority executive director Edward Deleon Guerrero to “justify” the need for armed DPS and CPA officers to escort Attorney General Edward Buckingham and his wife to the airport on Saturday amid growing concerns about abuse of power, misuse of government resources, and obstruction of justice.
Cruz said he will also be asking whether the acting DPS commissioner and CPA executive director authorized or had prior knowledge of the use of their uniformed men and service vehicles to escort the Buckinghams and carry their luggage.
“The Senate EAGI Committee would like to assure the public that we will get to the bottom of this,” Cruz told Saipan Tribune.
He said “based on information so far available,” it “seemed” that the presence of armed officers including DPS deputy commissioner Ambrosio Ogumoro, the governor's personal security/driver Police Capt. Jermaine W. Nekaifes, and CPA Ports Police Chief Jordan Kosam at the airport was to prevent the AG from being served penal summons in connection with criminal charges filed against him.
“There was tight security, as we saw on the video [by KSPN2],” Cruz said.
He said a reported assault on a KSPN 2 reporter should also be investigated.
The EAGI Committee chairman is currently preparing such letter to be sent to the heads of DPS and CPA.
As of last night, the administration has yet to comment on Senate President Paul Manglona's (Ind-Rota) request to Gov. Benigno R. Fitial to suspend Buckingham without pay for the duration of the criminal case.
Rep. Frank Dela Cruz (R-Saipan) said last night he's “not surprised that the governor has kept mum on the issue.”
“The governor knows everything about the incident. I believe that OPA [Office of the Public Auditor] will be investigating escorting and obstruction in the delivery of the penal summons. I won't be surprised if federal authorities get in on the picture as some federally funded vehicles were used on this heinous operation,” Dela Cruz said.
He also said, “I hope that now people of the CNMI will vote for an elected AG which I introduced and will be on ballot this coming November election. To begin the process of good governance, we must elect the attorney general.”
The Senate president also asked the governor to investigate the use of public resources to escort the Buckinghams.
Manglona also asked the Senate EAGI Committee to conduct an investigation independent of the one he asked the governor.
House Judiciary and Governmental Operations chair Rep. Ralph Demapan (Cov-Saipan), meanwhile, said last night that while he supports looking into the alleged misuse of government resources, he said the Legislature should be “cautious” so as not to “jeopardize” the Office of the Public Auditor's ongoing investigation.
Demapan, in a phone interview, said if the Senate EAGI Committee is also looking into the matter, he suggests a “joint” effort between the two committees.
“I suggest the Senate EAGI and House JGO work together on this,” he added.
JGO Committee members Rep. Joe Palacios (R-Saipan) and Rep. Ray Yumul (R-Saipan) separately said they will be the chairman to take the lead on the matter, specifically the alleged use of public resources like DPS and CPA personnel, time, and vehicles to help the AG evade the serving of a penal summons to appear in court related to criminal charges.
“I will ask the chair of JGO to have the committee look into this serious matter, especially the actions the AG took to leave the CNMI in light of a properly served summons,” Yumul said.
Superior Court Associate Judge David A. Wiseman issued on Monday a bench warrant for Buckingham's arrest for not appearing in court despite penal summons served on him by an FBI special agent.
Wiseman imposed a $50,000 cash bail for Buckingham. He determined that the AG flagrantly disregarded the court's lawful penal summons.
The criminal charges against Buckingham included alleged hosting of a delegate candidate party at the governor's house in August 2010 and approving a $400,000 sole-source contract award to a Cabinet member within days of resigning from government.
OPA filed amended information adding two more charges against Buckingham. The new charges-obstructing justice: interference with service of process, and misconduct in public office-were related to Buckingham's alleged use of police officers to escort him at the airport to avoid being served with penal summons between Friday and Saturday.