Despite the defeat of an impeachment resolution against Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, the chairmen of House and Senate committees said yesterday that they will continue their review of the sole-source $190.8-million power purchase agreement and the use of law enforcement officials and government resources to allegedly shield former attorney general Edward Buckingham from being served a penal summons, among other things.
Rep. Ralph Demapan (Cov-Saipan), chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations, said his panel is still investigating the 25-year power purchase agreement that the governor and Buckingham signed on Aug. 3 and would call in officials from agencies that could further shed light on the $190.8 million deal.
“Nothing stops us from continuing to investigate this,” Demapan told Saipan Tribune.
Demapan said the evidence and records that the Special Committee on Impeachment have already acquired related to the PPA would not be requested again.
“If anything, we will do follow up inquiry and don't need to duplicate the work that's already done by the impeachment committee,” he said.
In August, House Speaker Eli Cabrera (R-Saipan) asked Demapan's JGO Committee and the Committee on Public Utilities, Transportation and Communications to jointly probe the PPA.
Cabrera wanted the joint probe to determine, among other things, whether the PPA constitutes public indebtedness and requires the Legislature's approval.
The JGO and PUTC Committees held off their oversight hearings on the PPA to give way to the fiscal year 2013 budget process toward the end of September and the hearings conducted by the impeachment panel.
The power deal with Saipan Development LLC, which involves the development of a 50-megawatt diesel power engine, was among the issues covered by the 16 articles of impeachment against the governor.
Rep. Stanley Torres (Ind-Saipan), chairman of the PUTC Committee, said last night he won't comment on the joint investigation until he talks to the JGO Committee chair.
Sen. Frank Cruz (R-Tinian), chairman of the Senate Committee on Executive Appointments and Government Investigations, separately said yesterday that his panel continues to gather information about the use of law enforcement personnel to allegedly prevent a former attorney general from being served a penal summons.
He said the Department of Public Safety and the Commonwealth Ports Authority have not submitted any written report to his committee detailing any formal investigation, if any, that their departments conducted regarding the so-called Buckingham escort.
Because of this, Cruz said he wrote to acting attorney general Viola Alepuyo, asking for an Office of the Attorney General investigation into the matter.
Among other things, the requested investigation would answer lingering questions whether government resources such as law enforcement personnel, vehicles, and time were used to prevent the serving of a penal summons on the former attorney general and whether law enforcement personnel violated the laws when they shielded the AG from being served the penal summons.
During the impeachment hearings the past few weeks, the House Special Committee on Impeachment received testimony from DPS and Office of the Public Auditor personnel pointing to DPS deputy commissioner Ambrosio Ogumoro as giving the order for police officers to stop assisting OPA investigators from serving the penal summons on Buckingham and threatening to arrest OPA investigators if they continue to serve the penal summons.
Deleon Guerrero said yesterday that the evidence that the Impeachment Committee gathered, except for those covered by non-disclosure laws, are now the property of the Legislative Bureau and could be made available to anyone requesting it under the Open Government Act.
Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan (Ind-MP) and Deleon Guerreo said that even federal agencies could review the evidence, including sworn testimony from different agencies, for use for their own investigation, for example.
The same evidence were not reviewed by the full House before voting on the impeachment resolution on Oct. 17, to the disappointment of the panel. The impeachment resolution got only nine “yes” votes, short of the 14 votes needed to impeach the governor. The House leadership that thumbed down the resolution is aligned with the governor.
Deleon Guerrero said the governor's hand in the “escape” of a federal inmate to give the governor a massage in the wee hours of the morning in his private residence violated the agreement between the CNMI government and the federal government on the use of the prison in Susupe.
But he said the matter that has the most adverse impact on the CNMI is the $190.8 million PPA that ratepayers have to bear for 25 years and at a rate higher than what they are paying now.
Deleon Guerrero said any future body could also use the evidence to introduce another impeachment resolution.
Glen Hunter, a concerned citizen, said he hopes that U.S. Attorney Alicia Limtiaco would look at the evidence that the impeachment panel gathered and take appropriate actions.
“I'm hoping that she [Limtiaco] seriously looks at the evidence that came out and she starts to take this seriously. Peoples' lives are at risk not only at CHC, not only with high cost of power, corruption and now future indebtedness to the Commonwealth but the division they are trying to create, and the hatred they're trying to create is putting peoples lives at risk because we can't count on law enforcement to be there for us, and we can't count on the people in authority to protect citizens anymore and that's a serious problem that needs to be resolved. Are we going to wait until someone dies, I don't know, I hope we don't,” Hunter said.