By Troy Torres
(Tumon, Guam) Steps toward the impending investigation of Gov. Ralph Torres may be progressing; and without the interference of the governor's godson, Congressman Joel Camacho.
Mr. Camacho made the stunning announcement that he will recuse himself from any investigation dealing with the governor.
"Should any proceedings be initiated, that I will recuse myself from any proceedings moving forward," Mr. Camacho told Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao during this afternoon's session of the House of Representatives.
His statement was addressed to the general public, according to Mr. Camacho: "I'd just like to address the general public, that this formal communication has come forward, and I have discussed this with my vice chairman."
The formal communication he refers to is House Communication 21-104, which is an inquiry to all members of the House by Kandit News Group with attachments of evidence of Mr. Torres's crimes against the Commonwealth. The evidence includes reimbursement memos and receipts showing personal purchases that taxpayers paid to Mr. Torres, and travel itineraries and boarding passes showing the governor and his wife traveled first and business class on every one of their trips off island.
The communication was entered into the official House record by Congresswoman Tina Sablan, and became the impetus for the independent minority bloc's request for Mr. Attao to convene a special investigative committee for the purposes of investigating Mr. Torres for public corruption and other crimes against the Commonwealth.
The minority believes that enough probable cause exists due to the presented evidence and to the federal raids into the Governor's Office and Mr. Torres's home to begin an investigation, or an official inquiry. Mr. Torres already has substantiated the validity of the documents presented to the House in a statement from the Governor's Office that was critical of the minority.
Despite the statement, the governor has not said whether he is innocent nor did he dispute the misuse of public money in his statement.
Mr. Attao referred House Communication 21-104 to the House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Congressman Ivan Blanco, and to the House Judiciary and Governmental Operations Committee, chaired by Mr. Camacho.
Mr. Camacho has a conflict of interest, which he addressed in a speech on the House floor Tuesday, defending himself from scrutiny regarding his ability to be objective and serve the best interests of the people in light of the allegations against his nino and his connections to the casino. Mr. Camacho's father, Serafin Camacho, was involved in a $4 million land transaction with one of the casino's shell companies at a time, when Joel Camacho was on the Saipan Zoning Board. Serafin Camacho is named in a list of 30 people and companies whose transactions with Imperial Pacific International were subpoenaed by a federal grand jury.
If the JGO committee decides to call an investigation to order, Mr. Camacho said today he informed his vice chairman he would recuse himself from the proceedings. The vice chairman is Congressman Lorenzo Deleon Guerrero, who was one of the original sponsors of House Resolution 18-2, the articles of impeachment against former Gov. Benigno Fitial.
Mr. Camacho's statement on the floor came about 20 minutes after an impassioned speech by justice advocate Patricia Guerrero, where she directly addressed Mr. Camacho and his conflict of interest. She said, in part,
"If in fact those reports, the travel documents and the reimbursement... I have great concerns, Mr. Speaker. Someone is living lavishly and spending extravagantly. And we need to know, the public deserves, I deserve to know. I expect you guys to do your job. You guys are given that constitutional authority, that power. And I request that you exercise that. To the chairman of the JGO. I know and I wholeheartedly understand and I commend you for saying that you might consider removing yourself from this investigation and that the speaker had sent the information to your committee. I understand the conflicts, and I think it is prudent on your part in the best interests of the CNMI government and in the best interest of the CNMI public that you remove yourself from uh, and give it to the vice chairman. In fairness to you, in fairness to the governor, and in fairness to the public, I respectfully request that you remove yourself from that.