(Editor's note: This is the fourth in an expose of the members of the Commonwealth Legislature, who have taken monthly allowances on top of their salaries)
CHAPTER 4: Antonio Borja
By Johnnie Rosario
(Yigo, Guam) The monthly legislative allowances for members of the Commonwealth Legislature were established years ago for the members of the Tinian and Rota legislative delegations, who incurred additional operational expenses in functioning both in their home islands and in Saipan. The Twenty-first Commonwealth Legislature, which took office January 2019, changed its rules and began allowing Saipan congressmen and senators to take this monthly allowance as well.
Kandit in January sent an Open Government Act request to the Legislature for the receipts of spending from these allowances that the Legislature's rules require its members to keep. Most of the Republican members in both houses refused to disclose their receipts, so Kandit sent an OGA request to the Department of Finance and has received the documents pertaining to the disbursal of checks to these members.
Among those who refused to disclose receipts is Congressman Antonio Borja of Tinian, who according to the DOF documents took $57,903.22 in allowances in 2019, or almost the maximum annual amount of $60,000. This is on top of his $32,000 salary. There is no way of verifying what he spent that money on without access to the receipts of his spending.
Mr. Borja's 12 requests to both former secretary of finance Larissa Larson and current secretary David Atalig, Jr. for the release of his monthly allowances all refer to the allowance as a subsistence/housing allowance.
All 12 of his requests were for the maximum $5,000 per month, beginning with his January 14, 2019 request for the January allowance. The documents indicate Mr. Borja was paid only $2,903.22 for January, despite his request for the maximum amount.
Rent in Saipan for a home typically ranges between $600 - $1,000, which begs the question: Where did the rest of that monthly allowance go?
Aside from the allowances that total nearly 200 percent of Mr. Borja's annual $32,000 salary, Mr. Borja requested something illegal: advance payments of his allowances. He did this six times:
On January 29, 2019 he requested advance payment for February allowance
On April 16, 2019 he requested advance payment for May allowance
On May 6, 2019 he requested advance payment for June allowance
On May 29, 2019 he requested advance payment for July allowance
On July 1, 2019 he requested advance payment for August allowance
On July 30, 2019 he requested advance payment for September allowance
Mr. Borja's total allowances for 2019 can pay the salaries of three government employees, and could have kept 15 government employees from being furloughed every Friday and losing 20 percent of their gross income to this second round of Gov. Ralph Torres's austerity program.
Mr. Borja's Republican Party has refused to move forward on any investigation into corruption and misuse of spending on Mr. Torres's part.
As his Republican colleague, Congresswoman Janet Maratita would say, "Ekua dai sa ti kurupted yu."