It is Torres-Palacios with a huge margin of victory

Sablan easily defeats Demapan

The Commonwealth Elections Commission meets for the last time before counting the votes after last Tuesday’s general elections at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center. (Jon Perez)

In an excruciatingly slow count that lasted more than 10 hours, Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres and his running-mate, Senate President Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan), emerged the winner of the 2018 general election, defeating by a huge margin the independent tandem of former governor Juan N. Babauta and former Education commissioner Dr. Rita A. Sablan, according to the Commonwealth Election Commission’s official tabulation of votes yesterday.

Using the political slogan of “True Progress. Real Action” the well-oiled political machinery of the NMI Republican Party’s Torres and Palacios demolished the Democratic Party backed-Babauta-Sablan team in all precincts on Saipan, Tinian, Rota, the Northern Islands, in early votes, and in the absentee ballots.

The Torres-Palacios team obtained 8,922 votes, while the Babauta-Sablan tandem managed to get 5,420 votes—for a lead of 3,502.

At the age of 38, Torres is still the nation’s youngest governor. With the overwhelming victory, he is going to lead in the next four years a Commonwealth that’s still reeling from a typhoon and a super typhoon’s massive destruction.

As then-lieutenant governor, Torres assumed the chief executive’s position when former governor Eloy S. Inos passed away in December 2015.

When CEC executive director Julita A. Villagomez announced the results for precincts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and the early voting early Wednesday morning, Torres-Palacios was already a sure winner, with 7,053 votes against Babauta-Sablan’s 4,293 or a margin of 2,760.

At that stage, it was statistically improbable for the Babauta-Sablan team to overtake the big lead of Torres-Palacios as there were about a little over 2,000 votes that remained to be counted—the Rota election votes, Rota early voting, and absentee ballots.

Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan (Imd-MP), who sought a sixth term, handily defeated Rep. Angel Demapan (R-Saipan) of the GOP by receiving 9,150 votes against Demapan’s 5,199—a margin of 3,951.

When the results from the tabulation of votes from precincts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and early voting, Sablan was already a sure winner by getting a high number of votes of 7,335 compared to Demapan’s 4,024—a wide margin of 3,311.

Demapan only prevailed on Tinian, but it was still a close fight, 497-467.

Attorney General Edward Manibusan, who ran unopposed for the same position, obtained 11,366 votes.

Voters overwhelmingly supported the retention on the bench of CNMI Supreme Court Chief Justice Alexandro C. Castro and Superior Court Associate Judge Teresa Kim-Tenorio.

Castro obtained 11,644 “yes” votes and only 1,788 “no” votes, while Kim-Tenorio got 11,188 “yes” votes and 2,044 “no” votes.

In the Saipan mayoral race, Saipan Mayor David Apatang (Republican) received 8,492 votes to easily beat Ramon “RB” Camacho (independent), who received 2,741 votes.

Apatang won in all precincts and in the early voting and absentee ballots.

In the Tinian mayoral race, Edwin Palacios Aldan (Republican) defeated independent Henry Hofschneider San Nicolas, 879-523.

In Rota’s crowded mayoral race, corruption charges were not enough for voters not to re-elect Mayor Efraim Manglona Atalig, who got 576 votes against second placer, independent Julie Marie Ogo Manglona, who obtained 487 votes. Third placer, Steve King Mesngon had only 345 votes.

Polls closed at 7pm. The tallies were announced at past 5am on Wednesday. That means it took more than 10 hours of waiting before the results were announced.

CEC, under the leadership of board chair pro tem Jesus I. Sablan and executive director Julita A. Sablan, did a different approach in the tabulation of votes by announcing the results of all precincts, except Rota’s votes, Rota’s early votes, and absentee ballots, all at the same time at 6am yesterday.

Many people monitoring the tabulation had been wondering as to why the results of per-precinct counting were being announced when it was already past 5am.

The traditional CEC’s policy had been tabulating each precinct, then announcing the results.

Under the previous policy, monitoring the results would be thrilling as it would keep mostly everyone guessing until the tabulation of votes from the last one or two precincts.

The ballots from Tinian was taken by a Department of Public Safety boat to Saipan. The ballots arrived at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center in Susupe for tabulation at 12:55pm Tuesday.

CEC executive director Villagomez announced Tuesday 10:20pm that they would now start tabulating the ballots from all precincts except Rota’s.

Guam Election Commission lent to Saipan Tuesday morning one tabulating machine at the request of CEC as CEC’s tabulating machines got wet during Super Typhoon Yutu’s fury, according to Villagomez.

CEC used three tabulation machines, all from Guam. The two other machines were given by Guam to CEC last year.

When asked about the long delay, Villagomez said the tabulating machines had something to do with the delays. She said one machine was not compatible with the two other machines.

“We borrowed this one but it does not match,” she said, pointing to one of three machines.

Villagomez said the turnout looks pretty good. After the executive completed reading the final total tally yesterday at 6:10pm, she received applause from people and CEC directors and staff.

The board then held a meeting where the directors certified the election results.

It capped the biggest yet one of the most difficult elections in CNMI history, considering many areas, including polling places, still have no power. The election was generally peaceful, but throughout the campaign period it was marred by mudslinging, particularly on social media.

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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