Court denies motion to disqualify Torres’ lawyers


Judge Pro Tem Alberto Tolentino has denied the prosecution’s motion to disqualify two of four of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ lawyers in the lawsuit filed by the Office of the Attorney General against Torres over his alleged misconduct in office.

Last Tuesday, Tolentino issued an order denying the disqualification of attorneys Viola Alepuyo and Anthony Aguon, two of Torres’ four lawyers representing him in the criminal case filed by the OAG.

According to the judge, he simply found that disqualification of attorneys Alepuyo and Aguon is not warranted.

“The court acknowledges the Commonwealth’s notice of potential conflict as to Alepuyo and Aguon. The court has conducted an inquiry into said conflicts of interests and finds that disqualification of attorneys Alepuyo and Aguon is not warranted, as the informed consent and written waivers of conflict of interests between attorneys Alepuyo and Aguon, defendant, and witnesses Frances M. Dela Cruz and Jomalyn Gelacio were obtained and accepted by the court,” the judge ordered.

In his order, Tolentino mentions that waivers of conflict of interest between attorneys Alepuyo and Aguon, Torres, and witnesses Dela Cruz and Gelacio were executed on May 24, 2022, after the initial hearing of this case. Based on the record, the court finds that Dela Cruz and Gelacio are former clients of attorneys Alepuyo and Aguon, who were represented during the prior JGO hearings, which involved matters substantially similar to this case.

“The court finds that there is a potential conflict of interests because defendant’s interests may be materially adverse to those of witnesses Dela Cruz and Gelacio. However, the waivers of conflict of interest executed by Dela Cruz and Gelacio comply with the Model Rules, as written informed consent by the affected former clients. As defendant voluntarily waived his right to conflict-free counsel, and conflict of interest waivers have been executed by the potentially conflicted witnesses, the Court finds that the defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights are adequately protected,” he said.

Furthermore, the court found that it is unnecessary to reject the waivers to ensure a fair trial and adequate representation for defendant, under the circumstances of this case.

“The court finds that defense counsel is permitted to representd in the instant case, despite defense counsel’s former representation of Dela Cruz and Gelacio. In consideration of the sufficient waivers of conflict of interest, the court need not discuss the issue of whether disqualification would otherwise be proper,” Tolentino said.

In closing his order, Tolentino also reminded the defense’s counsel of their duty to make reasonable efforts to expedite litigation consistent with the interests of the defendant and instructed both parties to expeditiously address any actual or potential conflict of interest that may arise later.

“Notwithstanding, the court remains concerned by defense counsel’s actions in this matter regarding the potential conflict of interests. When the potential conflict of interests became apparent, defense counsel was obligated to inform the court and should have proactively sought to obtain any necessary waivers for Defendant. The Court has an inherent interest in ensuring the efficient and concise use of judicial time and effort in the administration of justice by preventing needless litigation. By delaying the execution of the waivers until after the hearing was held on this matter, defense counsel potentially squandered not only judicial resources and time, but also the resources and time of defendant,” Tolentino explained.

Kimberly Bautista Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Bautista Esmores has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at
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