Torres stresses AG, FBI have not found illegal acts on his part; says Democrat-led House wasting time, taxpayers’ money instead of working together to help people during global crisis
Rep. Celina R. Babauta (D-Saipan), who chairs the House of Representatives Judiciary and Governmental Operations Committee that is looking into Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ expenditures of public funds and travels, pre-filed Friday a House resolution impeaching Torres for alleged commission of felonies, corruption, and neglect of duty.
Torres described Friday as “a dark day” for the islands, saying that Babauta and the Democrat-led House of Representatives are posturing and choosing to use their time to pursue “even more false and baseless charges after months of wasteful spending of time and resources,” instead of working together to help people during this unprecedented global crisis.
Torres pointed out in a statement that neither Attorney General Edward Manibusan nor the Federal Bureau of Investigation have issued any findings of fact of corruption or illegal acts on his part as governor.
As of yesterday afternoon, Babauta’s House Resolution 22-14 is supported by seven other Democrat representatives, two Republicans, and two independent lawmakers. The seven Democrats who signed the resolution are Reps. Christina E. Sablan, Edwin K. Propst, Vicente C. Camacho, Richard T. Lizama, Denita K. Yangetmai, Corina Magofna, and Leila C. Staffler. The two Republicans who signed the resolution are vice speaker Blas Jonathan T. Attao and Rep. Ralph N. Yumul. Reps. Joel C. Camacho and Donald M. Manglona, both independents, also signed the resolution.
As of Friday afternoon, House Speaker Edmund S. Villagomez and Joseph A. Flores, both independents, have not signed the resolution, along with Rep. Sheila J. Babauta (D-Saipan). The five others who have not signed the resolution are Republicans Roy A. Ada, Patrick H. San Nicolas, Angel A. Demapan, Joseph Lee Pan T. Guerrero, and John Paul P. Sablan.
The impeachment consists of six articles:
*Article 1: Commission of felony, theft of utility services.
*Article II: Commission of felony, theft.
*Article III: Corruption, unlawful first-class and business-class travel.
*Article IV: Corruption, misuse of government resources.
*Article V: Neglect of duty, negligence during crisis.
*Article VI: Neglect of duty, contempt of the Legislature.
In a statement issued after pre-filing her resolution, Babauta said it is their constitutional right as bona fide, indigenous registered voters of the NMI to partake in a democratic review of actions that the government and its officials, exercise in the course of their duties.
Babauta said it is their purpose to determine whether Torres’ actions warrant impeachment by the House and removal by the Senate. She said those judgments are constitutionally entrusted to the legislative branch.
Under the CNMI Constitution, the House may initiate impeachment proceedings by the affirmative vote of two-thirds of its members and the Senate may convict by the affirmative vote of two-thirds of its members.
In his statement Friday, Torres said Babauta would rather continue to waste millions of dollars in taxpayer money trying to rehash legal opinions despite knowing full well that there is no wrongdoing.
Torres also pointed out that Democrat Reps. Babauta, Sablan, and Propst have been constantly making personal attacks and efforts to assassinate his character “when they know there have been no crimes committed.” The governor said Babauta, Propst, and Sablan are not interested in the truth or the process because they are maneuvering to fulfill their own political ambitions.
Sablan is the Democrat Party’s candidate for governor in the 2022 general elections.
“Clearly, my political enemies will create chaos and division in our small community if it means they can advance their own political agenda and career,” he said.
Torres said instead of coming up with solutions to differences and present their own ideas of how to move the islands forward together, they huddle in their selective JGO Committee to fish for any slight mistake or oversight.
“I refused to play into their political circus before and I will continue to fight this ridiculous and reprehensible encroachment on the executive branch,” the governor said, referring to his refusal to appear before the JGO Committee hearing and his subsequent lawsuit against the committee for finding him in contempt.
Torres said he leaves the people with this simple fact, after two super typhoons and the CNMI’s successful ongoing recoveries, and fighting back a global pandemic with hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds, the federal government has found no crime and no malfeasance.
“Rather, my administration has been received (sic) commendations for the many successful stories of our people working to help to get the CNMI back on its feet,” he said.
In her statement Friday, Babauta said they have conducted an examination of the documents related to their duties as representatives of the people of the Commonwealth.
She said in carrying out their inspection of the documents, they feel obliged to fully disclose information that constitute grounds for impeachment that was based on the sworn testimony of numerous witnesses summoned before the JGO committee.
Babauta said the evidence has demonstrated that people’s trust has been betrayed and that Torres has shown himself unwilling and incapable of enforcing its laws for he has corrupted the rule of law.
The chair said the articles of impeachment that they filed are the result of the investigation of Torres’ expenditures.
“We all have seen and heard the testimony and seen the documents that support the impeachment based on excessive spending, waste, and the governor’s abuse of his office,” Babauta said.
She said the evidence provided by police officers, Torres’ special assistant for administration, and his Department of Public Safety commissioner is irrefutable.
“They had nothing to hide,” the chair said, adding that the volume of the evidence provided by the Department of Finance, DPS, and the administration is undisputable.
Babauta said the numbers don’t lie.
She said Torres was given the opportunity pursuant to the committee’s subpoena and he declined to do so even after the committee offered to take the subpoena off the table and allow him to testify under oath voluntarily.
The chair said the governor misspent hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money for his personal benefit and even sought reimbursement for expenses that were not his own.
“This is money we could have used to support typhoon recovery, to fund local programs, to reduce furloughs, and to avoid austerity,” she said.