Grace “Pitu” Sablan Vaiagae, Edwin K. Propst, sexual allegations, ethics complaint
Grace “Pitu” Sablan Vaiagae, who is a counselor for abused women, filed yesterday an ethics complaint against Rep. Edwin K. Propst (D-Saipan) over allegations that he had sex with several underaged women approximately 20 years ago when he was still a teacher at Marianas High School and an employee at the Northern Marianas College.
“This is a serious issue and the recognition that abuse of any form should not be accepted, especially by those in positions of power, is critical to ensure that no individual can corrupt an institution tasked with serving our people,” said Vaiagae in her complaint letter to House of Representatives Speaker Edmund S. Villagomez (Ind-Saipan).
Vaiagae attached to her letter a copy of an Office of the Attorney General’s memorandum detailing its investigation and the reported instances of abuse and attempted rape by Propst.
Villagomez confirmed that he did receive the letter, but stated that he did not get a chance to review it yet.
“I need to go over the letter again. This is something that I would also like to discuss with our legal counsel,” he said.
Propst said the complaint “is obviously a distraction” from the NMI Republican Party and Gov. Ralph DLG Torres on the House Judiciary and Governmental Organization’s investigation into the governor’s expenditures of public funds and travels.
Propst said that Torres’ “cronies prefer to distract and destroy and are desperate to change the focus from his horrible record as an inept, incompetent, corrupt governor.”
He said the governor claims he wants to see a clean campaign, but that is clearly not the case.
“Deplorable, disgusting, but not surprising,” he said.
On Sept. 28, 2020, Propst resigned as House Precinct 1 representative, 20 days after a private citizen asked then-House Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao that Propst be investigated for alleged sexual misconduct when he was still an MHS teacher.
Propst became a Precinct 1 representative again after being overwhelmingly voted into office during the November 2020 election. Right now, he chairs the House Gaming Committee.
According to Vaiagae in the complaint, a copy of which was obtained by Saipan Tribune, when victims of sexual assault are unable to speak for themselves, “we as a community must advocate for them.”
She requested Villagomez to establish an Ethics Committee to investigate the allegations against Propst to determine “whether an individual with numerous allegations of coercion, sexual assault, and attempted rape should serve in the same manner as other House members.”
Vaiagae said if the House does not permit such an investigation, Villagomez would be conceding that a member of the body is above the law and beyond reproach.
Vaiagae, who was the NMI Republican Party’s candidate in the special election for a House Precinct 3 seat last Oct. 16, said that during the course of her campaign, one matter that was always being brought up that resonated deeply with her was the issue of abuse.
Vaiagae said she has spent much of her life counseling and aiding women who have been victims of abuse throughout the island. “Abuse comes in many forms and its impacts and mental health implications are widespread among our families,” she said.
She pointed out that, time and time again, the allegations and findings of sexual assault and abuse by Propst have come up in conversations she had had with members of the community.
She cited a memorandum that Attorney General Edward Manibusan had issued on the allegation that Propst had engaged in sexual contact/intercourse with several underaged females 20 years ago when he was a teacher. She said the AG investigation identified eight potential victims, with seven choosing to provide details of the allegations.
To summarize the report, she said, one victim stated that she was only 16 years old and student at MHS when she had a sexual relationship with Propst. Vaiagae said this victim further provided information of two other minors at the school that similarly had a sexual relationship with Propst.
Vaiagae said a separate victim reported that Propst indecently exposed his private parts to her in a car while she was a student at NMC and he was an NMC employee. Vaiagae said the victim reported this violation to NMC, but later investigations noted that no report was provided to the Department of Public Safety.
She said another NMC student reported having a sexual relationship with Propst while he was an employee of the college.
Most disturbingly, Vaiagae said, one victim reported that when she was only 14 years old, Propst was intoxicated and attempted to “touch” her but she screamed and resisted his assault.
Vaiagae said the AG’s memorandum noted that the CNMI’s laws regarding sexual offenses 20 years ago were quite different from today.
Ultimately, she said, the OAG declined prosecution, not because the information did not warrant it but because “those incidents that potentially establish probable cause to believe sexual crimes occurred, the passage of substantial time, expiration of the statute of limitations, and the desire of the victims for confidentiality weighs against prosecution.”
Vaiagae said that, while the legal standard for prosecuting these offenses may have its limitations, “there certainly should not be limitations in the system of governance to weigh the ethics and morality of an individual who has consistently, repeatedly, and dangerously demonstrated his propensity to be a sexual predator of young women in the community.”
“Predators such as Edwin Propst are the epitome of what advocates against sexual assault fight against,” she said.
Vaiagae said that through his position of power as a high school teacher, college employee, and now as a member of the CNMI House of Representatives, Propst has abused his authority and exercised his authority to coerce and silence his victims.
“We as a community must stand up to individuals such as Propst and hold them accountable for their crimes against the morals and ethical standards of our Commonwealth,” she said.
Vaiagae said that, upon hearing from community members of their concerns and frustrations regarding Propst’s actions and abuses, she promised that she would do something about it. “While I was not given the opportunity to serve the Precinct 3 community in this last election, I intend to keep this promise,” she said.
The special election was later won by Corina L. Magofna of the Democratic Party.