Atalig asks to travel for heart surgery

Rota Mayor Efraim M. Atalig asked the federal court yesterday to allow him to travel to Manila, Philippines for medical treatment on his heart.

Atalig, through counsel David G. Banes, informed the U.S. District Court for the NMI that he will have heart surgery or a stent placed in his heart at the Asian Hospital in the Philippines.

If allowed, the mayor plans to travel to Guam on April 18 to catch a flight to the Philippines, and then travel to the Philippines the following day, April 19.

Banes said Atalig’s return date is still unknown depending on the status of his treatment and surgery.

Banes said the U.S. government’s lawyer has indicated that he would not oppose the request.

Last January, U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona granted Atalig’s request to travel to Guam to attend the funeral of his sister. Earlier that month, Manglona also granted the mayor’s request to travel to Guam to attend a general assembly of the Association of Mariana Islands Mayors, Vice Mayors, and Municipal Council members. Atalig is a member of AMIM.

The U.S. government did not oppose the mayor’s requests.

Atalig and his girlfriend, Evelyn Atalig, have been charged with wire fraud, theft concerning programs receiving federal funds, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and federal funds theft. Each faces a separate charge of false statement.

The Ataligs allegedly arranged CNMI government-funded trips to California, Palau, Guam, and Saipan under fraudulent pretenses.

The U.S. government alleged that the primary purpose of these trips was not official business but personal travel or partisan political activity, for which the Ataligs fraudulently claimed per diem and travel reimbursement.

The defendants pleaded not guilty. The trial will be on June 4.

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 ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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