Subpoenas issued

By Troy Torres

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Starting Thursday, seven Torres administration and police officials believed to be witnesses to Gov. Ralph Torres's corruption will be expected to testify before the CNMI House of Representatives.

The House Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations issued subpoenas commanding director of financials services Bernadita Palacios, special assistant for administration Mathilda Rosario, and police officer Jomalyn Gelacio to appear in the House at 10 a.m. Thursday, July 1. Ms. Palacios signed scores of reimbursements to and travel authorizations for Mr. Torres that are part of the corruption investigation. Ms. Gelacio was a personal security detail to first lady Diann Torres.

Despite efforts to dodge the House's sergeant at arms, commissioner of public safety Robert Guerrero finally was served Monday with his subpoena duces tecum. He, along with Department of Public Safety Sgt. Daniel Joab, internal affairs chief Alex Sakisat, and Jose Saures have been subpoenaed to produce documents before the committee Friday, July 2, at 10 a.m.

The DPS subpoenas command the officials to bring with them the now-infamous non disclosure agreement committee chairwoman Celina Roberto Babauta (D-Saipan) publicly chastised last week, and Mr. Guerrero has acknowledged and claimed originated without his consent. The commissioner has said no police officers were made to sign the agreement.

The agreement, which House members have called illegal, sought to silence police officers assigned to Mr. and Mrs. Torres's personal security detail from ever disclosing any and all information related to their knowledge of what they witnessed, heard, were told, instructed by, or inquired from the Torreses. The governor's office has since denied knowledge of the NDA.

The JGO committee members were not convinced. Following the discovery of the NDA, the committee voted unanimously to issue the subpoenas and to include in the corruption investigation an inquiry into the NDA itself.

The corruption investigation is a continuation of the inquiry the previous House leadership allowed to languish in the last legislature. Hundreds of pages of official documents entered into the record by CNMI Congresswoman Tina Sablan (D-Saipan) in December 2019 show the Torreses several times traveled first class using public funds, a clear violation of the law. Pages and pages of receipts attached to approved reimbursement memoranda show public funds were paid to Mr. Torres for his purchase of personal electronics, hunting gear, fine dining, and even Cheetos.

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