Torres, Palacios, Sablan face each other in debate


Audience and supporters of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, and Rep. Christina E. Sablan (D-Saipan) attentively watch as the three gubernatorial candidates face each other during the 2022 Gubernatorial Candidate Debate hosted by the Saipan Chamber of Commerce at the World Resort Saipan’s Taga Hall Thursday night. (FERDIE DE LA TORRE)

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, and Rep. Christina E. Sablan (D-Saipan) faced each other in the 2022 Gubernatorial Candidate Debate hosted by the Saipan Chamber of Commerce at the World Resort Saipan’s Taga Hall Thursday night.

Torres, who was the last to deliver a closing statement, ended the long last part of his remarks in Chamorro. He received loud applause and cheers from his jubilant supporters and family members.

Some supporters of Palacios and Sablan also then cheered for their candidates.

People in the Taga Hall were silent during the debate  itself as applauding or making noise was prohibited.

Torres, Palacios, and Sablan debated 12 questions from a variety of topics that include the environment, workforce, zoning regulations, healthcare, workforce/immigration, gaming, infrastructure, agriculture, tourism, and the economy.

Each candidate was allowed an opening statement of not more than two minutes long and a closing statement of not more than three minutes long.

The Taga Hall was packed mostly with supporters of the candidates. There were a few students who watched the debate.

Guam journalist Patti Arroyo served as the moderator.

Torres is seeking re-election under the Republican Party, with Sen. Vinnie F. Sablan (R-Saipan) as his running mate as lieutenant governor.

Palacios is running for governor, with Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang as his running mate as lieutenant governor under a unified independent team.

Sablan is gunning for the governor’s position under the Democratic Party, with Rep. Leila Staffler (D-Saipan) as her running mate as lieutenant governor.

Each candidate was given two minutes to answer a question, with the two other candidates given each one minute for rebuttal. The candidate that received the question was given 30 seconds for rebuttal.

In all, Torres, Palacios, and Sablan were each given four questions that were randomly picked up by the moderator.

The topics asked to Sablan were about environment, healthcare, infrastructure, and agriculture.

Palacios was asked about workforce, workforce/immigration, infrastructure, and tourist diversification.

Torres was asked about Zoning regulations, gaming, healthcare, and economy/budget constraints.

Eloise Lopez, 24, a Northern Marianas College student, said the debate was actually a really good experience because she learned  about the three sides from Torres, Palacios, and Sablan.

“It’s actually a really good way for students to know more about the educational part about what we can do as advocates, as students, and the community members to fulfill what articles and visions of these candidates are bringing to the table,” Lopez said.

Charlene Cabrera Osung, principal of Francisco M. Sablan Middle School in San Antonio, said the debate was well done.

Osung said she really liked the questions as those are the pressing issues that the CNMI has had over the years in the CNMI and even today.

“I really appreciate the Chamber and how they organized the debate. I’m glad to be here in person. It’s nice also, I don’t know if it’s live stream, but it’d be good for the people of the Commonwealth to see,” she said.

Saipan Chamber of Commerce board president Joseph Guerrero, in his opening remarks, thanked Torres, Palacios, and Sablan for the trust in the Chamber to conduct a fair and honest debate.

Guerrero said today many countries from all regions of the globe are increasingly trying to integrate  candidate debates into their electoral process.

“Debates are designed to help voters make informed choices, focusing candidates on policy issues, rather than personality, religion or ethnic loyalties,” he said.

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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