Torres ordered to appear in court

Judge: Delay or failure to pay 25 pct pension payments isn’t Tang’s responsibility

U.S. District Court for the NMI designated Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood yesterday ordered Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to appear in this Friday’s hearing on the issue whether the 25 percent pension payments are currently being properly funded.

Tydingco-Gatewood likewise ordered House Speaker Ralph Demapan (R-Saipan) and Senate President Francisco Borja (Ind-Tinian) to appear at the hearing set at 8:30am.

It is not clear if Torres can make it at the hearing as he is currently in the U.S. mainland.

In her written order issued yesterday, the judge pointed out that any delay or failure to pay the 25 percent pension payments is not the responsibility of Settlement Fund Trustee.

At an emergency hearing last Friday, Tydingco-Gatewood stated that the court will not allow inciting words from Torres pertaining to payments of 25 percent pension payments to retirees.

The judge read a news article quoting the governor in a statement when he urged “all retirees and settlement fund members to contact Ms. Joyce C.H. Tang and ask her to stop playing games with your pensions.”

Tydingco-Gatwood said Torres’ statement was “not acceptable, not appropriate, not right, and not fair.”

Tang is a Guam-based lawyer that the court appointed as representative for the Settlement Fund Trustee.

At the emergency hearing, acting governor Victor Hocog appeared with counsel, assistant attorney general Teresita Sablan.

Tydingco-Gatewood yesterday also ordered the CNMI’s Executive Branch to make the 75 percent pension payments a priority, as that is its obligation under the Settlement Fund agreement.

Tydingco-Gatewood said pursuant to the settlement agreement in Betty Johnson’s class action, the trustee is responsible for disbursing 75 percent of the pension payments.

The remaining 25 percent, the judge pointed out, is not the trustee’s responsibility.

However, Tydingco-Gatewood said, in an effort to accommodate the government, the trustee has also been disbursing the remaining 25 percent on behalf of the government.

She ordered the Executive Branch to work closely with Tang—and with the Legislature—if necessary, to address the trustee’s concerns over the lack of proper appropriation for the 25 percent pension payments.

The judge encouraged the Executive Branch and Tang to work cooperatively and collaboratively, as they had done in the past.

The emergency hearing was held upon Tang’s request because she and the government are not able to agree on whether the 25 percent pension payments are currently being properly funded.

Last week, Tang informed Torres in a letter that the Settlement Fund cannot continue to accommodate the government in disbursing the 25 percent pension payments unless the government identifies a source income that can be used for this purpose or obtains a court order.

Last Friday, Tang returned to the Department of Finance, the $632,052.71 that was intended to pay the 25 percent pension payment due Feb. 12, 2016.

Finance has been paying approximately $630,000 to $640,000 every 15 days or $1.2 to $1.3 million a month just for the 25 percent pension payments.

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 ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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