Babauta says proposal is unreasonable

Written testimony is proposed for Torres’ executive assistant


Instead of making Frances Dela Cruz appear before the House of Representatives Judiciary and Governmental Operations Committee to be questioned as part of its ongoing probe into Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ expenditures of public funds and travels, she should be allowed to provide, in writing and under oath, responses to written questions asked by committee members.

This was the proposal of Torres’ Washington D.C.-based lawyer, Ross Garber, even as the committee insisted on summoning Dela Cruz, the governor’s executive assistant, to personally appear before the committee. JGO Committee chair Rep. Celina R. Babauta (D-Saipan) rejected Garber’s proposal as “unreasonable.”

Babauta told Garber in a letter last Friday that the proposal is, in effect, a proposal for the subpoena to Dela Cruz to be set aside.

“Live testimony is substantively different from written interrogatories and is not an adequate substitute,” she said, adding that providing any witness with the questions ahead of time provides no assurances that the answers that would be submitted would be Dela Cruz’s and hers alone.

Babauta said they see no reason to doubt that Dela Cruz is lawfully subject to subpoena and may be held in contempt if she fails to appear.

“Again, please be advised that the JGO Committee is mandated to investigate and, to this end, we are prepared to fulfill this mandate through remedies to enforce the subpoena, if necessary,” she told Garber.

Torres hired Garber to represent him and the Governor’s Office in the JGO’s investigation into the governor’s expenditures of public funds and travels.

Garber earlier objected to the JGO Committee’s subpoena for Dela Cruz to testify, asserting that the executive assistant has testimonial immunity.

In his proposal to Babauta last Thursday, Garber said that Dela Cruz’s written responses would be delivered within seven days of receipt of the committee’s questions.

“Any assertion of privilege would be accompanied by a written explanation from counsel to the Office of the Governor,” Garber said.

He said should the committee determine that Dela Cruz’s responses are not satisfactory, she and the Office of the Governor will work in good faith with the committee to provide additional responses and, if necessary, revisit the topic of in-person testimony. “This proposal would certainly accommodate a desire by the committee to expeditiously and efficiently obtain accurate information from Ms. Dela Cruz,” he said.

Babauta earlier had stated that Garber’s objection has no legal basis and that Dela Cruz remains subject to subpoena for the hearing.

Garber, who is known for his expertise in impeachment proceedings, wrote to Babauta last Oct. 11, stating his objection to the subpoena for Dela Cruz to testify. Garber said the CNMI Constitution mirrors the separation and balance of powers embodied in the U.S. Constitution and thus grants testimonial immunity to certain Executive Branch officials.

Babauta postponed the JGO hearing set for last Thursday, and reset it tomorrow, Tuesday, at 10:30am.

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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