House Judiciary and Governmental Operations Committee chair Rep. Celina R. Babauta (D-Saipan) disclosed yesterday that they will be calling in at least 15 witnesses, including Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Lt. Gov. Arnold Palacios, in the committee’s investigation into Torres’ expenditures.
Babauta in an interview said they are also looking at a witness based in California and a couple who are living in Hawaii.
She said she issued what is technically referred to as “1309 letters” to a lot of people yesterday and that the committee expects the recipients to turn in no later than this Monday the documents that her committee is asking for. Letter 1309 in the Commonwealth Code refers to the acquisition of information by other lawful means.
The lawmaker said they will begin calling in witnesses by next week.
She said the original plan was to start calling in witnesses this Friday, but there was some delay because she couldn’t issue the 1309 letters last Friday when committee members gave her the authority to do so.
“I didn’t have time yesterday to finish the letters to all these people. So definitely today, we are issuing a lot of letters. And we’re giving them more than five days actually because we would like to have it by Monday,” Babauta said.
She said right now there are at least 15 on the witness list, but that list is growing.
Babauta said to anticipate other delays, they expect to call in three witnesses per day.
As for the off-island witnesses, the lawmaker said the problem with that is if they do not comply, the committee will have to send the House sergeant-at-arms to fetch these witnesses, which means more expenses. “So I still need to sit down with the committee members and get their feedback on that,” she said.
The committee’s investigation pertains to Torres’ expenditures related to COVID-19 procurement, Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC matters, and travel and reimbursements.
Press secretary Kevin Bautista on Sunday characterized the investigation as a political tactic that Babauta and the Democrats will “constantly use to fulfill a blatant political agenda, bringing up an old report.”