House majority accusing  Torres of deceptive tactics

Insisting authority to appropriate ARPA money

The House of Representatives majority members accused Friday Gov. Ralph DLG Torres of employing deceptive tactics and misinforming the public by not telling the whole story about the House’s version of the budget for the government’s operations for Fiscal Year 2023, as they insisted that the Legislature has the authority to appropriate American Rescue Plan Act funds. 

At a press conference held in the House chamber, House Ways and Means Committee chairman Rep. Donald M. Manglona (Ind-Rota) said they set the press conference to go over actions taken by the committee and to clear up some of the misinformation that is being spread around by the Torres administration. 

“We would like to put up the facts and let the people decide who’s telling the truth,” said Manglona,  who is the author of the House budget bill. 

Torres said Saturday that if the House majority members insist they have the authority to appropriate American Rescue Plan money, then why it’s already a year now that they have not appropriated and spent ARPA money.

Standing by his and his legal counsel’s statement that appropriating ARPA money is unconstitutional and illegal, Torres dared the majority to go ahead and appropriate and spend ARPA money.

Manglona said some majority members would give a breakdown of the deceptive tactics the administration took to try and divide the House.

In discussing how the committee approached the budget, Manglona said they started off by looking at all unfilled vacancies throughout the Commonwealth. 

He said they noticed a significant  amount of these vacancies  in the governor’s April 1, 2022 budget submission and allowed the administration to revise the budget to include any vacancies that will be filled. 

The chairman said on July 1, 2022, or three months later, they still saw the same figures in the governor’s revised budget submission. 

He said they decided to remove these vacancies, these positions mainly because they were unfunded but also they felt that there may have not been a need for these positions. Secondly,  Manglona said, they wanted to ensure a clearly  identified source of funding that was allocated to cover the government retirees’ 25% pension and the Medicaid matching, which was done through the general fund  because these cannot be covered by ARPA funds. 

“After these two issues were addressed, we simply took what was left and allocated it to all remaining personnel  and divided up these funds going through each department  and agency that the committee  felt needed operational funds in order to provide services,” he said.

Manglona said during their budget hearing with Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig, the committee was assured that when they got the revised budget submission, the operations budget for the departments and agencies would be addressed. However, he said, they found that the operational budget was still zeroed out.

“I could not in good conscience pass a budget that provided nothing at all for operations,” he said.

The chairman said the committee was then  challenged to identify funding and provide funds to each agency so that they have something to work with. 

He said prior to the ARPA funds coming into the CNMI, he introduced legislation that would require appropriation to be done through the Legislature as this is what many states throughout the U.S. have done.

“We continue to maintain that the Legislature  has authority to appropriate  these funds especially if it has been identified in the budget submission,” Manglona said.

He said Volume 4 of ARPA funds will be used  for the upcoming fiscal year so the committee basically uses those funds and reallocates them to come up with a whole budget. 

The chairman said the reason they did not pass the budget earlier  on is because the committee took due diligence to ensure that the information that they received is accurate. 

He cited that it was the Legislature that alerted the administration of the overpayment that was set aside to the Settlement Fund, which in turn freed up $3 million that were able to be allocated toward the agencies that needed it the most.

In addition, Manglona said, it has always been a practice of the Legislature  to identify the areas in which Compact Impact funds are to be allocated, but it was not mentioned anywhere in the budget submission where to allocate these funds. 

He said the committee once again took the reasonable approach and allocated these funds to the agencies.

Manglona said the administration  accuses the House majority of taking several actions that are unconstitutional.

However, he said, this is just the Torres administration’s attempt  to discredit the work that was done and the research that they took  to ensure that their actions were within authority.

Rep. Corina L. Magofna (Ind-Saipan) said with Torres’ recent statements that the House majority’s actions were unconstitutional, inappropriate, and illegal, she was tempted to call him out on his behavior, which she described as “childish.”

However, Magofna said, she quickly realized, re-focused, and reminded herself that she is a congresswoman.

“Gov. Torres, our people deserve the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Therefore, I humbly ask that you please stop the lies and stop misinforming them about the budget because they deserve better,” she said.

Magofna said the governor’s accusation about the House passing an illegal budget bill is simply unfounded, baseless, and has no merit.

She said she personally would never engage in such illegal acts that would place her in a precarious situation, jeopardize her livelihood, and most importantly risk losing her freedom and being taken away from her children. 

In addition to the unfair accusation, Magofna said, Torres not only insulted the House majority, but also the House minority in the process because the budget bill was passed unanimously by all House members present. 

“You literally threw your fellow Republicans under the bus by inferring that they participated and committed an illegal act on the passage of the budget bill,” she said.

Magofna said based on their reading and understanding of the law, with the concurrence of the House legal counsel, the members of the committee interpreted and considered the ARPA funds to be “additional revenues.” 

“Thus, we proceeded to allocate and appropriate the funds accordingly,” she added.

Magofna said Torres asked “how did I lie?”

“Well governor, ask and you shall receive. And just remember, arrogance will get you in trouble every time,” she said. 

Rep. Vicente Camacho (D-Saipan) said his question to the governor is, if he is not lying, who is lying for him.

“Mr. governor, if you don’t know who in your Cabinet  received 

salary increases, then you’re being misinformed by your own  executive body,” Camacho said.

Camacho, however, did not answer Torres’ dare to  identify who in the cabinet received salary increases as he (Camacho) had stated in the House majority press release.

The representative said this back and forth isn’t doing any good.

“Mr. Governor, can you help us identify funding so we can get the budget bill done,” he said. 

Rep. Leila Staffler (D-Saipan) said they want the people to understand that the governor is misinforming the public by leaving information out by not telling the full story. 

As she explained how they made the appropriations, Staffler said by doing the switching, they were able to meet those obligations and also have operations allocated to each of the agencies, which was also not budgeted by the governor. 

Staffler said the money that they freed up is not indicated in the governor’s graphic that was published in the newspaper.

“What you’re seeing is the local money that we moved from that department to be able to pay for those two very important areas  in our budget. What is not being told to the public  is that what was replaced to make sure that those negatives go back to positive is that we use ARPA money,” she said.

Staffler said the administration is claiming that the Legislature has no authority to use ARPA money to do that kind of process. “But as stated by Rep. Magofna, it is actually an allowable process for the Legislature to do when there is additional  revenue the Legislature can appropriate,” she said.

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

Related Posts

Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.