Babauta: Castro’s testimony merely scratches surface of corruption involved

By Celina Roberto Babauta

What we have seen and heard since last Friday and this morning from Mr. William Castro, Chief of Staff to Governor Torres is merely scratching the surface. 

Throughout his testimony today, he said, the Governor is the FINAL say.  Mr. Castro admitted that all day.  From Mr. William Castro’s testimony over two days, I quote, “At the end of the day, the buck stops with him and he is held liable in his capacity as the Chief Executive and the only sole authority to expend these funds on behalf of the people.”

There is no other program in the government where the sole authority to directly give federal money immediately prior to and during the election week, is the governor. The program to hand out butane stoves, fans, rice were all handled out of the Office of Grants Management.

No explanation for why they kept extending the deadline when they knew the original seed money of $11 and $6 million was gone with the first 241 applications they approved.  No transparency. No records of when the review panel members recuse themselves. No adverse remedy to appeal denials or why they asked for $30,000 and was only given $5,000.  Based on the emails, Mr. Castro, as a representative of Governor Torres, was giving directions and guidance.  

On at least one occasion, non-panel members, Ms. Salina Sapp, Mr. Shayne Villanueva were reviewing applications.  Ms. Salina Sapp and her partner, Mr. Robert Travilla set up a marketing company called OneStop Corporation and they were contracted to handle some of the marketing for the BOOST program.

When Mr. Castro granted access to the files from his Google drive to our attorneys, Mr. Joe Taijeron and Mr. John Bradley, he apparently did not grant access to all the members, not even the Chairpersons of both committees, but he did give access to certain people to include Ms. Salina Sapp, Mr. Shayne Villanueva and Mr. Jason Palacios.  

The government is supposed to guarantee fair process.  But there is neither fairness nor a process with the implementation of the BOOST Program.  We all agree that government should help support people in time of need. However, that help should be provided fairly and impartially. There should be an open process that is equally applied. Unfortunately, for the BOOST program, there was no written process, no record of meetings, no neutral decision-makers. And the only decider, according the Mr. William Castro, was Governor Torres, who appears to have used the program to please potential voters.

But the most important take away, from Mr. Castro’s testimony is that the Joint Committee should direct all their questions to Mr. John Arroyo, the President and CEO of the Bank of Saipan.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Ms. Babauta made the remarks above at the start of the Joint Investigative Committee’s Monday afternoon hearing. In the minutes following Ms. Babauta’s delivery of this speech on the House floor, Mr. Arroyo did begin his testimony, which took all of Monday afternoon, Tuesday morning, and continues at this hour in the afternoon. Mr. Arroyo contradicted several of Mr. Castro’s statements made under oath. Among the most damning were Mr. Arroyo’s assertions that Mr. Castro was the lone reviewer of applications the majority of the time, that hundreds of thousands of dollars had been paid to the companies owned by Ms. Sapp, Mr. Villanueva, and Mr. Travilla, and that the CNMI procurement laws had been violated on a number of occasions.)

Celina Roberto Babauta is a member of the CNMI House of Representatives, and will be sworn into the CNMI Senate in January. She is the chairwoman of the House Judiciary and Government Operations Committee, and is the co-chair of a joint investigative committee looking into allegations of misconduct and misuse of federal funds through the lame duck Torres administration’s Building Optimism and Opportunities for Stability Together (BOOST) program.


  • Mabel Doge Luhan

      12/20/2022 at 4:17 PM

    In what other community, save Pyongyang and Beijing, would newspapers remain silent on the massive theft happening a few hundred feet from their newsrooms?

  • William Castro probably the nephew of Fidel Castro of Cuba is now showing his true color as a dictator and probably the worst crooked person there is. They should raid his house for the money. Investigate ED DLG. too along with his assistant J. Taisague. These guys have to be loaded along with Raphie boy. Greed is good until you shit your pants!

  • If this is happening in Saipan,
    Who’s to say it isn’t happening on Guam🤷‍♀️🤷‍♀️ Just a thought!

    • Kim Chee Breath

        12/22/2022 at 3:53 PM

      Never happens on Guam! Except for the harbor and a few thousand other instances. And that story about the cops and Blue House was all fake news.


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