Govt paid at least $157,239 in attorneys’ fees


Celina R. Babauta

The CNMI government incurred a total of $123,613 in attorneys’ fees to four local law firms and $33,626 to a Washington, D.C.-based law firm as a result of the House of Representatives Judiciary and Governmental Operations Committee investigation into Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ expenditures of public funds and travels.

According to documents provided by the Department of Finance recently to the House Ways and Means Committee, Attorney General Edward E. Manibusan approved all the contracts in hiring the private lawyers/law firms.

Ways and Means Committee chair Rep. Donald M. Manglona (Ind-Rota) issued a subpoena to compel Finance to provide numerous reports or documents that the committee members have sought.

Documents show that the law office of Banes, Horey, Berman & Miller was paid a total of $67,891 for representing the Office of the Governor.

The law office of Anthony Aguon was paid a total of $30,550 for representing Department of Public Safety Commissioner Robert A. Guerrero, Bureau of Motor Vehicle director Juana Leon Guerrero, Boating Safety commander Kevin Aldan, and police major Bernard Santos.

Aguon also paid for representing police officers Jomalyn S. Gelacio, Flora Aguon, and Jhaneeka Atalig, Police Sgt. Adrian Mendiola, and Police Lt. Emery Kaipat.

Attorney Viola Alepuyo was paid $10,234 for representing Mathilda Rosario, who was then the special assistant for Administration to the governor, and $9,940 for representing Frances Dela Cruz, who was then the executive assistant to Torres.

The law office of Matthew T. Gregory was paid $4,737 for representing Bernadita Palacios who is the chief of finance and accounting, and $260 for representing Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig.

Finance records show that Washington, D.C.-based Garber Group LLC was paid $20,248 for legal services about “status and strategy” rendered to the Office of the Governor on Sept. 6, 11, 15, 16, and 17, 2021, and $13,377 for legal services rendered to the Office of the Governor from Oct. 10 to 27, 2021 relating to the JGO subpoena issues.

Finance documents obtained by Saipan Tribune in February 2022 shows that Garber Group received a total of $58,626 for representing Torres.

The JGO chaired by Rep. Celina R. Babauta (D-Saipan) pretty much concluded the hearings after the House impeached Torres on Jan. 12, 2022. As of yesterday, the JGO Committee has yet to issue a committee report about the investigation.

No House member appeared as a prosecutor in the impeachment trial before the Senate.

On May 18, 2022, the Senate acquitted Torres of the six Articles of Impeachment brought by the House, finding him not guilty of corruption and neglect of duty.

In April 2022, the Office of the Attorney General charged Torres with 12 counts of misconduct in public office and one count of theft relating to the issuance of airline tickets for business class, first class, or other premium class travel for himself and/or Diann T. Torres.

The case also alleges one count of contempt for failure to appear in compliance with the JGO subpoena. The court, however, dismissed this charge without prejudice last Aug. 23. Without prejudice means the prosecution may re-open the charge in the future.

The governor pleaded not guilty and stated that OAG is selectively and vindictively prosecuting him. The case is pending before the Superior Court.

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
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