By Jacob Nakamura
(Tumon,Guam) John Paul Sablan is one of the most powerful members of the 21st Commonwealth Legislature; he's the Floor Leader in the House of Representatives. He's the man who controls the House's agenda.
Mr. Sablan's position on the independent minority's request for an investigation into Gov. Ralph Torres for public corruption is worth watching because, eventually, he may determine whether any articles of impeachment or results of investigation make it to the House floor for a vote.
Yes, it is true that Mr. Sablan was a pioneer in the effort to end corruption seven years ago, when he co-sponsored and voted for House Resolution 18-2, the articles of impeachment, which impeached former Gov. Benigno Fitial. Kandit has pointed out in a previous article that Mr. Sablan's recent position that the Legislature should leave the investigation into Mr. Torres's corruption up to the feds flies in the face of the position he took seven years ago against Mr. Fitial. The first two articles of the impeachment dealt squarely with probable cause that Mr. Fitial had broken federal laws.
The conflict of action in Mr. Sablan's record riled public sentiment and curiosity about his motives, enough that the floor leader spent five minutes on the House floor Friday speaking on the issue.
Mr. Sablan said the article and statements from Minority Leader Ed Propst were divisive; that they raised questions of race that some in the Commonwealth are answering with their own conclusions. He spent much of his speech explaining his close relationship with Mr. Fitial on the campaign trails they blazed together and that his reasons for supporting the impeachment was based on what was right and just. But he never went into those reasons. He never explained why it was ok for the 18th Commonwealth Legislature to discuss the probable cause HR 18-2 presented regarding the felony violation of federal laws, but it's not ok for the 21st Commonwealth Legislature to discuss federal crimes now.
He never explained why it was ok to impeach Mr. Fitial and why it's not ok to even simply question the governor about allegations of public corruption, even though the probable cause against Mr. Torres is far greater and stronger than anything there was against Mr. Fitial.
What is the reason for Mr. Sablan's different tune? Is there a conflict of reason to back his conflict of action?
Politically, one may speculate that Mr. Sablan is buying his party's titular head, Mr. Torres, some time. But we believe Mr. Sablan, when he says he is not a racist. We do not believe that the reason he supported the impeachment against Mr. Fitial and not against Mr. Torres has anything to do with Mr. Fitial's Carolinian descent. And that's because a far more compelling reason exists.
Kandit reader Mark Estrada said it best. The difference between the impeachment of Mr. Fitial and the impending impeachment of Mr. Torres is simple: it's the casino.
And Mr. Sablan has a significant conflict of interest with it.
Within the same Legislature that Mr. Fitial resigned from office following his impeachment, Mr. Sablan co-authored Public Law 18-56, which legalized the casino. His wife, Juanette Sablan was hired to become the Commonwealth Casino Commission's human resources officer. His brother, Patrick Sablan, is an enforcement officer at the commission. His first cousin, Ruth Ann Sakisat earns more than $50,000 annually as the executive assistant to the commissioners.
The governor's uncle (his mother's brother) Ed Deleon Guerrero, is the executive director of the commission - Mr. Sablan's relatives's boss with the power to fire them.
Mr. Sablan, powerful as he is in the Commonwealth, may simply be yet another victim of the overreaching power of the casino and its proxy, the governor. The climate of fear felt throughout the land may just as well have made its way to the doorstep of the floor leader.
Any investigation into the governor conducted officially by the House certainly would bring these conflicts of interest and others yet to be uncovered to light. Any negative light shone on the casino as a result of the impeachment inquiry could shake the symbiotic relationship between the casino and the commission. The casino needs the commission to exist in order to maintain its license; and the commission needs the casino to exist in order to maintain its annual $3 million funding from the casino that pays the salaries of the employees there.
The reason Mr. Sablan may not want a full House investigation into Mr. Torres is because Mr. Torres's public corruption is intertwined with the casino. In the impeachment proceedings against Mr. Fitial, Mr. Sablan was not connected to Mr. Fitial's crimes or any of the probable cause against Mr. Fitial. This time around, Mr. Sablan is connected to the casino: the bastion of Mr. Torres's downfall. Mr. Sablan is right; for him at least, this has nothing to do with racism.
And if any other members of the House majority are similarly connected either to the governor or to the casino, it is their own conflicts of interest or possible misconduct that an impeachment inquiry would uncover that may keep them reticent from starting one.
How many others in the House have similar conflicts? How far reaching is the casino's influence over the affairs of the people of the Commonwealth? How much of the public's trust has been written off to the benefit of the casino and those it pays and employs, who are directly connected to people in positions of the public's trust?