Lawmaker says probe into Torres’ expenditures within her purview as JGO chair
Rep. Celina R. Babauta (D-Saipan), who chairs the House Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations that has opened an investigation into the travel expenses of Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres and his wife, said over the weekend that neither she nor the Democratic Party owns any media companies in Guam.
This was in response to press secretary Kevin Bautista’s comments, who described the probe as “another blatant political attempt by the Democrats and their Guam news outlet to smear Torres and this administration.”
Babauta also stressed that it is within her purview as the chairperson of the JGO Committee to conduct an oversight hearing and recommend reforms if necessary.
Bautista said Thursday the administration welcomes all legitimate inquiries but the timeline of this latest inquiry is “questionable.” He said a bipartisan special committee was already formed last year and transferred oversight to the Office of the Public Auditor, which is the appropriate agency to review and investigate these matters. Bautista said the findings of the Special Committee’s draft report showed no findings of consequence.
Babauta pointed out over the weekend that the CNMI Constitution allows no member of the Legislature to transfer his or her inherent oversight authority to OPA and that OPA has its own investigative powers.
“Bautista’s comments are insulting to OPA and their staff by saying their investigative authority is hollow at best,” she said.
The lawmaker said she supposes that Bautista, Torres’ senior policy adviser, Robert Hunter, and Torres will find that U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona was being wasteful, nonsensical and politically motivated when she signed the search and seizure warrant for Torres’ home and his tax records and that the timeliness of the Federal Bureau of Investigation raids in 2019 were questionable too.
“Perhaps they should all educate themselves and read the CNMI Constitution when they’re not busy misrepresenting the truth based on drunken logic,” she said.
Babauta has asked the Marianas Visitors Authority for copies of documents relating to travels of Torres and first lady Diann Torres that were funded—either in part or in whole—by MVA from January 2015 until now.
The lawmaker also asked the Office of Personnel Management to provide “unredacted” documents relating to new hires, promotions, and amendments to contracts of department heads.