Closing arguments completed

Senators to decide Wednesday whether Torres stays or goes

Sens. Paul A. Manglona (Ind-Rota), Edith E. DeLeon Guerrero (D-Saipan), and Teresita A. Santos (Ind-Rota) explain their action and situation to Reps. Christina Sablan (D-Saipan), Leila Staffler (D-Saipan), and Corina L. Magofna (D-Saipan) at the House of Representatives chamber. (Ferdie De La Torre)

The lawyers of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres completed the presentation of their defense and closing arguments in the continuation of the impeachment trial of Torres before the Senate yesterday, which also saw three minority bloc senators recuse themselves “temporarily” from participating in the proceedings.

Senate President Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian), who is presiding the impeachment hearings, announced after the public comments portion that he will be notifying the Senate members and the public of the session to entertain the votes on the House of Representatives’ Articles of Impeachment.

Hofschneider issued yesterday afternoon a memo calling for a special session for tomorrow, Wednesday, at 1:30pm, in which senators are expected to vote whether or not to convict Torres of the Articles of Impeachment.

Sens. Paul A. Manglona (Ind-Rota), Edith E. DeLeon Guerrero (D-Saipan), and Teresita A. Santos (Ind-Rota) informed Hofschneider yesterday that they are temporarily recusing themselves from the impeachment proceedings until such time the Superior Court hears and rules on a pending motions in a lawsuit requesting the court to issue a temporary restraining order to stop the Senate impeachment trial.

Manglona, Bruce Lee Jorgensen, and Carmen Patricia Deleon Guerrero are suing the Senate in Superior Court in a last-ditch attempt to temporarily halt the impeachment trial.


Manglona, DeLeon Guerrero, and Santos later proceeded to the House chamber where they explained their action and situation to Reps. Christina Sablan (D-Saipan), Leila Staffler (D-Saipan), and Corina L. Magofna (D-Saipan).

With the three’s recusal, plus the previous recusals of Sen. Vinnie Vinson Sablan (R-Saipan) and Sen. Justo Quitugua (R-Saipan), that effectively left just four senators proceeding with the trial: Hofschneider, Victor Hocog (R-Rota), Francisco Cruz (R-Tinian), and Karl King-Nabors (R-Tinian). Hofschneider ordered the continuation of the proceedings.

On count 6 of the Articles of Impeachment, Ross Garber, a Washington D.C.-based impeachment trial expert who is a member of Torres’ legal team, appeared virtually and provided expert testimony that the House of Representatives Judiciary and Governmental Operations Committee does not have the legal authority to command, through a subpoena, the governor or the head of state to attend a committee investigative hearing.

Garber said that non-compliance with subpoena is not an impeachable offense.

He said impeachment is only for “treason, commission of a felony, corruption, or neglect of duty.”

The lawyer said there is no gubernatorial “duty” in the constitution, statute, or regulation that mandates compliance with subpoena.

Garber said that Torres’ counsel wrote a detailed letter to the House Judiciary and Governmental Operations Committee explaining the law on subpoena. He said the governor’s counsel offered to negotiate and accommodate, and even asked the court to resolve the matter.

Garber said the subpoena violated the constitution (separation and balance of powers) and the statutes.

He said Torres responded reasonably to the subpoena.

On count 4 of the Articles of Impeachment, Joseph Lifoifoi, an administrative officer for the CNMI Honolulu Medical Referral Office, testified that he was with Torres in Hawaii when the governor purchased a laptop and Bluetooth headsets for the use of Medical Referral Office’s employees.

Lifoifoi said the laptop was essential to their office for urgent matters during the pandemic. “We’re able to access from home,” he added.

Lifoifoi said it was he who asked for the laptop and electronic items for their office. He said they are still using those items until now.

In his closing argument, Anthony Aguon, who is the lead counsel for Torres’ legal team, said that being convicted of a crime is a life-altering experience and beyond redemption for anyone. “So it is in the best interest of our islands and our people that the Senate ensures that any person accused of a crime is not wrongfully convicted,” Aguon added.

Because a person is innocent until proven guilty, the burden of proof for this impeachment hearing lies solely on the House as prosecutor, he said, and the House has the heavy burden to prove with clear and convincing evidence what they alleged in the Articles of Impeachment.

“…This is something the House has not done and cannot do,” Aguon said. He said the House failed to properly make an appearance before the Senate and it failed to submit any evidence to support any of the Articles of Impeachment. “In fact, the only evidence that is properly before you all go against the Articles,” he said.

Aguon said the House failed to comply with the House rules when it investigated and impeached Torres.

He said the House failed to comply with the Ethics laws, because Rep. Christina Sablan (D-Saipan) was allowed to participate and vote on the impeachment of Torres, her biggest opponent in the November election, despite her personal and financial conflicts of interest.

Torres is seeking re-election under the Republican Party, while Sablan is Democratic Party’s candidate for governor.

Aguon said the House failed to comply with the CNMI Constitution because the Articles of Impeachment contains six unconstitutional penalties.

He said the House failed to comply with the Senate rules simply because it did not agree with them.

“The House failed to meet its burden of proving each Article of Impeachment by clear and convincing evidence, because it did not enter an appearance or file any supporting evidence,” the lawyer said.

As lawmakers, Aguon said, they must all agree that everyone should have an utmost respect for the law and the legislative process, regardless of political party. As the gate keepers of the impeachment process, a vote against the Articles of Impeachment sends the proper message to the entire Commonwealth that if the House is ever going to try and undo the will of 62% of the people, then it must do so in strict compliance with the law, he said.

“Does clear and convincing evidence exist to sustain each Article of Impeachment against Gov. Torres to remove him from office? Honorable members, I respectfully submit that the only fair and just answer you could give today is no,” Aguon said.

He pointed out that Article 4 alleges that Torres unlawfully and fraudulently requested and obtained reimbursements for multiple electronics—headphones and computers, which they claim were not properly inventoried and not used for public purpose.

“But as you have just heard today, that is simply not true,” he said.

Citing the testimony of Lifoifoi, Aguon said that had the House taken the time to properly investigate their allegations, they would have soon found out that the electronics they claimed Torres offered himself from Best Buy in Hawaii were actually purchased for the benefit of the Medical Referral Officer.

Aguon said that, as Lifoifoi testified, the laptops were purchased so that the Medical Referral Office’s staff could work remotely and better coordinate with offices on Saipan and across the West Coast.

The lawyer said Lifoifoi also testified that the Bluetooth headsets were purchased for the Medical Referral drivers who transport CNMI patients for medical care to and from their appointments.

Aguon said the electronics that the House alleges were purchased by Torres for himself are actually purchases that were made for a public purpose and permitted by law.

“Specifically, they were for the benefit of the Honolulu Medical Referral Office and their staff so that the staff could do its job more effectively and better serve our community members,” he said.

Many years later, that Medical Referral Office is still using that equipment today, he said.

After the trial’s adjournment, Aguon and his co-counsel, Gilbert Birnbrich, went to a tent near the Legislature’s parking lot, where first lady Diann Torres, Torres’ family members, and supporters had gathered to watch the proceedings on a big TV screen.

Aguon, Birnbrich, along with Viola Alepuyo, who is also counsel for Torres in a separate case, received cheers and a standing ovation from the governor’s family members and supporters.

“Shut that down! Shut that down! Shut that down!” chanted Torres’ supporters.

In addressing their supporters, first lady Diann Torres said they have the best attorneys, but most of all “it’s the truth that will prevail.”

“As we continue to more forward, continue to ask God to guide us, let us continue to have strength, because we have a long way and we have a lot to do for the Marianas,” she said.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at
Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.