Republicans effectively take over CNMI senate, attack Babauta and defend Deleon Guerrero

The writing has been on the wall, but today in the CNMI Senate’s session a verbal attack on democrat Celina Roberto Babauta confirmed what has been rumored for months. Republicans are back in de facto control of the senate… with the support of its senate president, who was elected as a democrat but has since switched her allegiance.

Republicans finally lost control of the current senate, which began its work in January 2023, when Ms. Babauta, Corina Magofna of Saipan, and Donald Manglona of Rota joined then-democrat Edith Deleon Guerrero and independent Paul Manglona in a coalition forming a new majority. The five majority members voted to elect Ms. Deleon Guerrero the senate president, while Ms. Babauta was elected to head two of the committees. The republicans include Dennis Mendiola of Rota, and all three Tinian senators, Jude Hofschneider, Francisco Cruz, and Karl King-Nabors.

The rearing of the political treachery began last week, when Ms. Deleon Guerrero used her power as senate president to remove Ms. Babauta from her chairmanship of the Judiciary, Government, and Law committee and replace her with Karl King-Nabors, a republican from Tinian. The change in leadership, which was not discussed in a leadership meeting, occurred after Ms. Babauta announced she would be holding a hearing on Marissa Flores’ contentious House bill clarifying the attorney general’s subpoena powers.

The government’s corruption prosecutor, who has been prosecuting and investigating former republican governor Ralph Torres, has been advocating for the passage of that bill. Mr. King-Nabors appointed all three of the other republicans to his committee and Ms. Magofna the same day he was appointed to lead it. King-Nabors, Hofschneider, and Cruz were instrumental in the senate in 2022 in blocking the removal of Mr. Torres from office following his impeachment from the House on corruption articles.

Ms. Babauta led the impeachment effort. It was her investigation while she was the chairwoman of the JGL’s sister committee in the House, the Judiciary and Governmental Operations Committee, that produced the evidence that nearly led to Mr. Torres’ ouster from office in 2022, and that formed the basis for his current prosecution in the Superior Court.

Today’s senate session was the first public meeting of the body since Ms. Deleon Guerrero officially turned on her colleague, Ms. Babauta (who did not attend the session, but is expected to issue a formal statement Tuesday about the events that have unfolded). Toward the end of the session, during the agenda item for miscellaneous remarks by the senators, Mr. Cruz, Mr. Hofschneider, and Mr. Mendiola each took turns to attack Ms. Babauta and criticism coming from House members.

The three republican senators each lambasted Ms. Babauta while she was not present, alleging that Babauta did not welcome the Tinian senators onto her committee while she had control of it. They blamed her leadership for the JGL’s inability to establish a quorum after Mr. Mendiola resigned last July from its membership.

Documents issued from July through February, however, tell a different story.

A July 19 memorandum from Ms. Babauta shows she requested Mr. Cruz to be a member of the committee. In a November 9 memo to Mr. King-Nabors, who is the chairman of the Tinian and Aguigan Legislative Delegation, Ms. Babauta described how, in a meeting with Mr. Cruz on September 20, Cruz said he was “unwilling to be a member of the JGL Committee.”

That memo proceeded to appoint Mr. King-Nabors. On November 28, Ms. Babauta issued another memo to the Tinian chairman, this time appointing Mr. Hofschneider after memorializing Mr. King-Nabors’ declination of appointment.

“On September 22, 2023, I appointed you to be a member of the JGL Committee,” Ms. Babauta wrote to Mr. King-Nabors. “I sought your response no later than September 29 as there are important bills for disposition in the JGL Committee. I followed up on November 1, 2023, regarding your appointment. On November 7, 2023, my office received a phone call from your staff, that you have declined to be a member of the JGL Committee and be a part of the deliberation process of proposed legislation that may have an impact on the CNMI including, the Municipality of Tinian and Aguiguan. This is unfortunate. Nonetheless, I thank you for your consideration.”

Finally on Valentine’s Day, Ms. Babauta wrote to Mr. Hofschneider:

“I am writing to you today to clarify a potential confusion regarding your membership on the Senate Standing Committee on Judiciary, Government, and Law (JGL).

“In a November 28, 2023, memo, I appointed you to the JGL Committee pursuant to Rule 7, Section 7(a) of the Senate Rules, and this appointment was acknowledged by Senator Karl King-Nabors, Chairman of the Tinian & Aguiguan Legislative delegation.

“In your email of January 11, 2024, and in response to Ms. Jolyn Tagabuel’s email providing you a copy of the senate substitute version of H.B.23-22, HS1 or the AG Subpoena bill, you replied, “Thank you for courtesy copy. Pls (sic) note I am not a member of JGO (sic) committee.”

“To ensure clarity, I would like to confirm your membership on the JGL Committee. Your input is appreciated, and I believe you will make significant contributions to the committee’s work.

“I am committed to open communication and ensuring that all senators are fully apprised of their role in the committee.

“Your participation on the JGL Committee would be paramount to the Municipality of the Second Senatorial District, and I encourage you to consider actively engaging in its important work. I will be scheduling a committee meeting in the very near future.

“Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.”

All of the letters were provided to Ms. Deleon Guerrero.

In the senate session today, Mr. Cruz accused Ms. Babauta of not valuing the contributions the Tinian senators can make toward the JGL. However, nearly every one of the letters Ms. Babauta wrote to the three Tinian senators states “The input from the 2nd Senatorial District is of vital importance to the JGL committee and most especially, the CNMI.”

Kandit has asked Ms. Deleon Guerrero’s democrat opponent for her senate seat – Manny Castro – for his comments about the matter. Mr. Castro has read but has not responded to our inquiry as of the publication of this story.

Ms. Magofna expressed her sadness at the situation, writing to Kandit:

“It would be irresponsible of me to provide you with a statement of where I stand with regards to the Senate President’s decision to remove Chair Babauta. I honestly have no knowledge or details on the situation. I was surprised when Sen. Karl asked if I would like to be a member of the JGL Committee. In fact, I thought he was referring to a Special Committee that I was unaware of. It wasn’t clear to me until he sent me a copy of the Memo. Then, I realized what had transpired. I truly wish it didn’t have to go down this way. I’m not even sure if Sen. Celina was aware of the SP’s decision, or if there was any communication between the two of them before the Memo went out. [I don’t know] what to say.”


  • Politics at its worst and Edith is a player just like her [redacted]. The [redacted], I think, never worked in his life but managed to raise two families. He’s a slick gambler and knows how to switch cards at the right moment. I confronted him once and asked if he doesn’t feel for those he cheated and his response was, it’s skilled. This is no different than what Edith is doing….lying in our face! Not knowing the difference between lying and cheating can be found in gambling and politics. GOD help the CNMI!

  • Re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

    That is because most of our legislators are fear-based, and therefore are not very Conscious. The greatly prefer to Take rather than to Give.

    To give something for nothing isn’t even a blip on their radar.

    There are some exceptions, notably Kilili Sablan. Wonderful man, sadly irreplaceable.

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