‘House violations render impeachment null, void’
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ lawyer claims the House of Representatives committed several violation of such nature that even just one of them should already be enough to render the Articles of Impeachment null and void.
Torres’ lawyer, Anthony Aguon, made the argument during Tuesday’s hearing on Torres’ motion to dismiss the Article of Impeachment against him, adding that these violations by the House should prompt the Senate to grant the motion to dismiss.
Aguon said the House committed the violations in an effort to speedily pass the Articles of Impeachment. “Members of the Senate, any one of these violations render the Articles of Impeachment null and void, and justify their dismissal in their entirety. All the Articles of Impeachment lodged against Gov. Torres repeatedly break the law and any one of these violations—and to be clear, they are not technicalities, they are direct violations of the law—any one of them justifies dismissal of the articles in their entirety,” he said.
In addition, Aguon said the House did not properly oppose any of the violations argued by Torres’ counsels.
“They have failed to make any proper arguments against this motion to dismiss. All my arguments are unopposed, and it is obvious why. Because the House knows that they failed to follow their own rules then, and that they are failing to follow the Senate rules now,” Aguon said.
One of the biggest violations allegedly made was the House Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations’s investigation essentially serving as a grand jury in the impeachment process, which violates the constitution’s separation of powers clause.
“The JGO investigations illegally encroached on a number of subject matters that were assigned to other standing committees. For example, the JGO illegally spent an enormous amount of time investigating the governor’s use of public utilities, which are subject within the jurisdiction of the Public Utilities, Transportation, and Communications Committee. The JGO also spent a significant amount of time investigating the governor’s reimbursements for expenditures. These are subjects within the jurisdiction of Ways and Means. I must also mention here that the JGO’s investigation essentially had the same function as the grand jury, which is not only illegal, but in direct violation of the separation of powers of our Constitution,” he said.
Another notable violation was the House’s failure to properly submit their impeachment records.
“Not only has the House failed to make a proper appearance, they also failed to properly submit their impeachment record or any evidence at all in support of the Articles of Impeachment,” he said.
The most controversial violation allegedly made by the House was Rep. Tina Sablan’s (D-Saipan) failure to disclose her conflict of interest, and recuse herself from the impeachment process, as she is a gubernatorial candidate in the upcoming November 2022 elections against Torres.
“The articles directly violate the Constitution, the Government Ethics Act, and the House rules, all because of Sablan’s participation throughout the impeachment process,” he said.
Aguon explained that the Constitution prohibits a legislator from participating and voting on any legislation matter when she has a financial or personal interest and also requires disclosure of that interest.
“The Government Ethics Code prohibits a legislator from using her public position to obtain a personal or private advantage. The House rules prohibit a legislator from voting and/or participating in the debate of any manner in which she has a financial or personal interest. The rules also require disclosure of any conflict of interest. It is undisputed here that Sablan’s participation and influence in the impeachment process directly violates the law because she has a personal interest in the impeachment of Gov. Torres as a gubernatorial candidate in 2022,” Aguon said.