DFEMS chief to testify in Rota mayor’s case


The federal court has summoned Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services Commissioner Dennis James C. Mendiola to appear and testify in court today, Monday, in connection with the case against Rota Mayor Efraim M. Atalig and his girlfriend, Evelyn Atalig.

U.S. District Court for the NMI Magistrate Judge and Clerk of Court Heather L. Kennedy issued the summons for Mendiola last Friday.

According to court documents, the U.S. Marshal Service served the subpoena on Mendiola’s court-appointed counsel Bruce Berline on Friday.

An in-camera hearing in the Ataligs’ case will be held today in District Court. That means the proceeding will be carried out in private or in the absence of the public or media for the purposes of sensitivity.

Efraim Atalig, through counsel, requested the federal court to determine prior to the trial whether Mendiola has a valid basis for asserting the Fifth Amendment privilege if he is called to testify at trial. The U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment protects individuals from being forced to incriminate themselves.

The U.S. government did not oppose Efraim Atalig’s request.

Mendiola used to serve as Rota DFEMS deputy commissioner. He was among the eight Rota officials, including Efraim Atalig, that the Office of the Attorney General had charged with misconduct in public office before the Superior Court.

The OAG, however, later dropped the case against Mendiola. The OAG can no longer re-file the charge against him.

The Superior Court case was filed over an alleged Republican rally in Guam in June 2018 that Efraim Atalig attended allegedly in the guise of a legitimate government trip.

Mendiola is not charged in Atalig’s case in federal court. He is running as a Republican for a Rota senator’s seat in the upcoming Nov. 3 election.

The jury trial of Efraim and Evelyn Atalig, will finally commence at the new U.S. Courthouse building in Gualo Rai on Aug. 11 at 10am.

The charges in District Court against Efraim and Evelyn Atalig involve at least eight trips taken by the couple at different times in 2018 to Guam, Palau, the U.S. mainland, South Korea, and Saipan.

The Ataligs are being charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and theft from program receiving federal funds, wire fraud, and theft from program receiving federal funds. Both are also charged separately with false statement.

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 ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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