Palacios collapses mid-testimony


Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios was rushed to the Commonwealth Health Center yesterday after he collapsed during a break while giving testimony in the criminal court proceedings versus Gov. Ralph DLG Torres at the Guma Hustisia in Susupe.

Palacios, who was the first witness to be called to the stand during an evidentiary hearing, had just asked the judge for a brief break when he fell to the ground on his back, which caused a frenzy in the courtroom as members of the audience rushed to Palacios’ aid.

Superior Court judge pro tem Alberto Tolentino immediately ordered everyone in the audience to vacate the courtroom as Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services EMTs were called to transport Palacios to CHC.

In a brief statement from Palacios’ lawyer, Michael Evangelista, he said Palacios suffered from what is believed to have been a back spasm due to a pre-existing back condition. Evangelista noted that Palacios was conscious and responsive after the collapse.

Torres’ counsel, Viola Alepuyo, had just called Palacios to the witness stand for the evidentiary hearing on Torres’ motion to disqualify the Office of the Attorney General from prosecuting the case. Mid-way through Alepuyo’s questioning, Palacios “looked uncomfortable,” according to members of the audience. Palacios, who was visibly struggling to stay upright, asked Tolentino if he could take a brief break from the questioning, which the judge immediately granted. However, just seconds after the judge called for a recess, Palacios fell to the ground .

In a written statement issued by Palacios’ office, it said that Palacios experienced numbness and significant discomfort in his lower back at the Guma Hustisia as he delivered his testimony.

“Lt. Gov. Palacios is in good spirits and is resting under continued observation of our highly qualified healthcare professionals and [the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.]. While he is still experiencing pain in his lower back, he remains in stable condition and wishes to thank judge tempore Alberto E. Tolentino, the CNMI Marshals, court staff, Emergency Medical Technicians for their quick response. The Lt. Governor and his wife, Wela, thank you for your continued prayers and will continue to provide updates as they become available,” the statement said.

Torres also released a statement: “It was an unfortunate situation today. First lady Diann and I ask for the CNMI to pray for Lt. Gov. Arnold Palacios. We extend our deepest thoughts and prayers for him for a full and speedy recovery.”

Palacios had been ordered to appear in court to testify whether he, during the times he served as acting governor, ever received legal advice from the OAG or AG Edward Manibusan himself, which would prove a conflict of interest exists and the OAG, headed by Manibusan, should be disqualified from prosecuting the case.

Although the entire courtroom was left shaken following the incident, Tolentino later proceeded with the evidentiary hearing, with Torres’ team calling on Manibusan to the stand to testify as to whether he had ever provided Torres with legal advice, which establishes a conflict of interest in the case.

However, after over five hours of questioning led by Vince Torres, Manibusan had yet to give a definitive answer as to whether he did or did not give Torres any official legal advice on the CNMI’s current travel policy, or any CNMI policy.

The evidentiary hearing is set to continue today.

Kimberly Bautista Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Bautista Esmores has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at
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