GOP issues statements on Senate impeachment hearing

Posted on May 17 2022

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‘There was no theft, special treatment, cover-up, nor double-billing’ 
“Based on the sworn testimony of Commonwealth Utilities Corp. chief Gary Camacho, there was no theft. Theft is when you receive services and you do not pay for such services or when there is a clear attempt to avoid any record of consumption. In the case of Gov. Torres, there was no divert away from a meter nor evidence of meter tampering on or around his property.

“According to Camacho, Gov. Torres legitimately received a utility benefit at Koblerville and then at As Teo. There is no double billing. Further, it was clarified through questioning by the president of the Senate that the document furnished by the JGO showing a double-billing was not an official document of the CUC.

“The Senate hearing revealed that former governor Babauta had two accounts, yet the former governor was not prosecuted. It should be noted that JGO chair Celina Babauta was former governor Babauta’s executive assistant when he had two accounts being paid concurrently.

Gov. Torres never had utility benefits for two accounts at the same time. Gov. Torres’ attorney proved that Gov. Torres received utility benefits for one residence at a time. It was further established that the JGO’s allegations of theft was not initiated by the Office of the Attorney General. 

“The CUC chief states emphatically that everything was paid but at erroneously billed. The consumed volume of water was identified, billed and paid at the correct rate.

“The bottom line is that Gov. Torres was wrongfully accused by the JGO. Gov. Torres did not commit theft of utility services. Gov. Torres did not receive utility benefits for two residences at the same time. 

“Today’s testimony and the supporting evidence reveals that the JGO led by Rep. Celina Babauta misled the public. 

“Attorney Tony Aguon stated that the payment of utilities for governors and lieutenant governors is allowable by law. Gov. Torres never had any intent to defraud the government. Rather, Gov. Torres himself initiated a corrective action by calling CUC to assess the water usage and billing. Thereafter the correct amount was charged to the correct account and payments made to those accounts.” (PR)

‘AG asked for same travel privileges as that of governor 
“Based on the sworn testimony of the first witness, Mr. Epi Cabrera, who served the Torres Administration since 2015, provided sworn testimony that he was assigned to serve on the committee whose charge was to review the travel regulations on or around 2017.

“He states that there were several complaints by government officials concerning travel per diem and car rental. Premium travel was not of any concern by the committee or the attorney general. 

“He further states that the attorney general himself has received a copy of the travel regulations, met with Mr. Cabrera, and provided input on changes to be made. 

“Mr. Cabrera testified that the travel regulations committee recommended that both the governor and lieutenant governor should travel premium class especially over long distances  because of the need for rest before the meetings. 

“Mr. Cabrera stated that the AG himself reviewed the proposed travel regs and did not advise to change the premium class travel language.

“Attorney Tony Aguon stated that there was consensus by the travel committee and the attorney general had no concerns relative to the governor traveling premium class.

“The bottom line is that Attorney General Ed Manibusan knew of the travel regulations, the issues at hand, and had expressed no concerns verbally or in writing about the governor or lieutenant governor traveling premium class.” (PR)

‘No law was broken in Deer Meat for Dinner campaign’
“Based on the sworn testimony of Marianas Visitors Authority managing director Priscilla M. Iakopo, the Deer Meat for Dinner promotion delivered a return on investment that exceeded all expectations. She stated that the promotion served a public purpose. Integrating Mr. Rob Arrington who is a world-recognized online influencer would benefit the Commonwealth and is consistent with the authority’s strategy of maintaining a strong online presence. 

“The MVA managing director stated that inbound flights were suspended as a result of COVID so MVA decided to invest in and maintain a strong online presence. The MVA board of directors approved the Deer Meat for Dinner budget of $59,000.  Total actual expenses did not exceed $50,000.

“Deer Meet for Dinner produced 20 videos. Total views for the videos exceeded 35 million views. Exposure value is approximately $35 per view. Given this, the reported ad exposure value is in excess of $1 billion. MVA managing director Iakopo compared how successful this promotional program was in comparison to other sponsored activities. 

“Attorney Anthony H. Aguon summarized by stating that no laws were broken for the Deer Meat for Dinner promotional videos. He states that no specific law was cited in the impeachment article and that the promotional videos served a valid public purpose. Promoting the CNMI is a legitimate promotional segment. 

“The bottom line is that no laws were broken in pursuing a social media promotional strategy using the Deer Meat for Dinner video series. Ironically, the CNMI Legislature approved and presented social media influencer Mr. Robert Arrington with a legislative resolution for the work he did to promote Saipan, Rota, Tinian and the Northern Islands. 

‘On one hand, to award a social media influencer for promoting the CNMI and then on the other hand turning around and impeaching a governor for the same promotional video series is hypocrisy and betrayal of public trust at its worst.  It is clear that the Democrats and allied Independents have put their political power grab agenda before the people and common sense. Their legal argument fails on its face again.” (PR)

‘Torres made every attempt to meet; JGO rejected invitation’
“Attorney Ross Garber, a member of Gov. Torres’ legal team, provided expert testimony that a legislative committee does not have the legal authority to command the head of state to attend a committee investigative hearing. 

“Attorney Garber cited rulings from federal courts across the country that supported his assertion that the JGO’s subpoena violated the CNMI Constitution. More so, that the U.S. Department of Justice has stated on numerous occasions that a legislative body may not subpoena, or command, a chief executive or any of his senior advisers to appear before said body.

“Further, it was noted for the record and widely publicized that Gov. Torres has made every reasonable attempt to meet with the members of the CNMI House of Representative at a mutually acceptable time and location.   

“Again, Gov. Torres stated that he was more than willing to discuss the issues and respond to questions outside of the unlawful issuance of a legislative command. The JGO has yet to accept an invitation by Gov. Torres to meet on any of the impeachment issues.

“Notwithstanding Gov. Torres’ principled position to preserve the separation of powers, he went ahead and produced as well as published a question-and-answer video on the same issues.

“The bottom line is this: Gov. Torres’ desire to preserve the doctrine of separation of powers is not an impeachable offense. His good faith invitation to meet outside of the committee’s published demand was either rejected or unanswered on more than one occasion by the Democrat leadership.” (PR)

‘Torres’ purchases of items for CNMI Medical Referral Office are still being used today’
“Attorney Anthony H. Aguon gave succinct testimony supported by facts that defeats the House of Representatives allegations of any wrongdoing when the governor purchased certain items and issued them to the CNMI Medical Referral Office for its employees’ use. 

“The allegations put forth by the House of Representatives were refuted by an official currently working with the Medical Referral Office in Hawaii.

“Further, the House of Representatives failed to identify which laws, if any, were broken in these allegations.  

“Last, the House failed to provide clear and convincing evidence or public testimony that supports their claim of any wrongdoing.

“To the contrary, the laptops and Bluetooth headsets have been issued to the CNMI Medical Referral Office for its benefit. It was established that these items are still being used by the drivers of the CNMI Medical Referral Office in Hawaii. 

“Given these findings, a ‘no’ vote is the only logical action by the CNMI Senate.” (PR)

Press Release
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