Seven of the Commonwealth’s nine senators participated in the votes Wednesday that failed to yield the six votes necessary to remove Gov. Ralph Torres from office for crimes against the people. Two senators – Vinnie Sablan and Justo Quitugua – recused themselves from voting. That is the constitutional equivalent of voting to not remove the governor from office, as only affirmative votes actually count toward the tally of two-thirds of the Senate necessary for conviction.
Both those senators are from Saipan, and represent two-thirds of Saipan’s delegation to the Senate. Four senators – three from Tinian and one from Rota – formed the coalition that kept Mr. Torres in office for the remainder of his term: Jude Hofschneider, Karl King-Nabors, Francisco Cruz, and Victor Hocog.
In the end, one senator from Saipan, and two from Rota were the leaders, who held the line on the opposition. These were the words they left to the annals of history in the minutes preceding the historic votes on the six articles of impeachment against Mr. Torres:
Sen. Edith Deleon Guerrero:
Mr. President, this Senate body is caught in a deep mess but we are here now. The concerns on Government Ethics Code violations, lack of prosecutors, lack of impeachment documents in relation to the Articles of Impeachment, and clear violation of the Open Government Act were all ignored and disrespected to include disrespect of our CNMI Constitution on the subpoena powers of the legislature. Judge Bellas’ ruling on Civil Case No. 21-0333 with Prejudice is Justice to the CNMI People and our CNMI Constitution.
This Senate body chose to proceed with the so called Impeachment Trial when in actuality it was not an impeachment trial. Making it more concerning is the submission of exhibits from the impeached officials counsels where character assassination were lodged against AG Manibusan, former AG JP San Nicolas, and former Governor Juan N. Babauta. And to further advance in my opinion the modus operandi, witnesses were called in with questionable testimonies, poor investigations, remove witness cross examinations, and not all truths were told. This is not justice but corruption.
The truth on AG Manibusan’s travel submitted by the Defense as Exhibit H was paid or partially paid by NAAG as stated and made part of Exhibit H email dated Dec 16, 2015 from NAAG Mr. James McPherson. This truth was hidden from the public while the Defense counsel is allowed to carry on with his character assassination of both AG Manibusan and Former AG JP San Nicolas. This is not justice but corruption.
Mr. President and members, to further insult the intelligence of the people of the Commonwealth, the Defense’s so called confusion of the travel regulations whether 1 CMC § 7407 (f) remains in effect is not convincing at all, in fact, it is so laughable that the word “confusion” was repeated many times over. Well, for the record, I am not confused and that the law remains in effect restricting purchase of airline ticket in first class, business class, or any other premium class designation.
Lastly, I would like to read a quote from Robert F. Kennedy.
Today I prayed that this body gives the People of the Commonwealth freedom, decency, and justice.
Sen. Teresita Santos:
I am deeply troubled with the manner in which the Senate Impeachment Trial has been conducted and concluded. To my understanding, in a fair trial, and as trier of facts, I would expect to see all parties involved: the judge, prosecutor, defense and jurors. Proceeding without a prosecutor to try the case, enter or present evidence, question and examine witness credibility etc. is ludicrous and disturbing. And it was not the lack of a prosecutor but the absence of one because the senate rejected the team of prosecutors appointed by the Speaker of the House. And it was not the lack of evidence, audio and video recordings and etc. but the absence of those because the Senate rejected them. Thus, what we have had instead was a lopsided impeachment trial where the defense was given the free latitude to put on his case unopposed, to the extent that he even answered questions posed to the witnesses and on several occasions lead the witnesses.
Our general public perceives this proceeding as seriously flawed, tainted and that it was just a charade because the final outcome of the trial had already been predetermined. Some call it a kangaroo court, a mockery of justice and as Rep. Tina Sablan puts it, “A travesty of Justice”. Consequently, I can’t blame those who hold these views.
History will permanently record our actions today. Our children and future generations will look upon history and judge as by our individual actions.
Nevertheless, having said the above I am ready to render each verdict based on my personal observation and participation in questioning witnesses presented at trial as to Articles I, II, III, and V. More importantly, my resolve has been substantiated by the clear and convincing evidence presented by the House’s informal meeting with respect to the articles of impeachment.
And although I was not physically present in the senate chamber when the last two final articles were addressed, I was able to observe the trial remotely on television. Hence, I am ready to render each verdict based on my personal observation of the trial as to Article IV. With respect to Article VI, based on the recent ruling of civil case no. 21-0333, “Order Granting Motion to Dismiss with Prejudice” … so ordered on May 17, 2022 concluding that “because there are no additional facts which could defeat the legislative immunity involved, the dismissal is granted with prejudice.” has solidified my verdict.
Sen. Paul Manglona:
Thank you, Mr. President, distinguished members of the Senate.
I speak to you today on behalf of those who entrusted me to be their voice and for those who trusted me to carry out my official duties in strict adherence to the rule of law.
Each and every one of us here have been given the same responsibilities to carry out our duties for our people with integrity and to follow the rule of law. It’s a privilege, not a right, to sit in this very seat of honor and respect.
The very people who put us here are the very ones to whom our loyalty truly lies. They placed their votes of confidence that we, as Senators, will follow the Constitution and laws of our Commonwealth, and serve only in their best interest.
The impeachment case before us is supposedly based on hard facts from the House of Representatives. It’s all about the facts. The extensive House record contains approximately 8,000 pages upon which Gov. Torres’ impeachment was substantially predicated.
During the last few weeks, Governor Torres sent his lawyers to this chamber and staged his political supporters here to try and stop the Senate from hearing the facts of this case. They want to end the trial before any evidence is even introduced. It looks like they have succeeded.
No matter how popular any Governor is, he along with everyone else is not above the law. Whether he won by a slim margin or a landslide, a Governor who commits an impeachable offense is subject to the rule of law.
The fact of the matter is that our Governor has been charged by our Attorney General for theft, corruption, and neglect of duty with the same evidence revealed during the investigation conducted by the House of Representatives.
From the start, our impeachment rules have been plagued with serious questions, issues, and concerns. They have been tainted by ex parte communications by persons outside the of the Senate who were empowered to make their own rules.
We have shown undeniable evidence of communications between Gov. Torres’ legal counsel Viola Alepuyo, and Special Impeachment Counsel Joey McDoulett that suggests that Alepuyo was directing, instructing, and/or acting in concert with McDoulett, in the drafting and preparation of the Senate’s impeachment rules; rules in which Alepuyo would represent Torres, and McDoulett would represent the CNMI Senate.
These communications, including email correspondence, are inappropriate, impermissibly ex parte, and unethical in nature. I pointed out this matter on multiple occasions and it was always swept under the rug, left unaddressed.
We are here today to act on the impeachment resolution pursuant to the impeachment rules prepared in collaboration by Viola Alepuyo/Joey McDoulett. Senate Impeachment Presiding Officer, Senate President Hofschneider cited these rules as warranting his decisions to
- Prevent and bar any and all portions of the House Record from being accepted or used in any of the Senate’s impeachment proceedings- thus the proceedings were held without impeachment record, and
- Urge and approve the commencement of the impeachment proceedings without the necessary two-party system—the defense and the prosecution—by precluding the appearance or participation by House members to serve as an Impeachment Manager or Impeachment Prosecutor in the Senate impeachment trial.
Furthermore, I strongly believe that the Senate Impeachment Rules are unconstitutional, particularly to the extent that they attempt to dictate to the House of Representatives what to do and aim to decide who from the House can present its case to the Senate.
It is a matter of fundamental fairness in a proceeding before a neutral and impartial magistrate or tribunal that each party is entitled to have their case presented by a qualified person or persons of their own choosing. However, this was only granted to one party, the Governor.
The Governor was allowed to pick whoever he wanted and as many attorneys as he wanted without limitations.
Even our Senate President was permitted to hire outside counsel for his office to assist with the Impeachment proceedings, yet we deny the House this same fundamental right.
My colleagues, any layperson can clearly see that this is unfair. I’m not here trying to defend the House. All I’m saying is that the unconstitutionality of the Impeachment rules has not been fully and fairly addressed by the Senate.
The Constitutional mandate before us to is conduct a fair and impartial impeachment hearing. All of our actions leading up to this point have been tainted by immoral and unethical decisions devoid of impartiality or fairness.
In fact, these are the reasons for all the jarring accusations against this Senate body of being the Governor’s tentågo’, to use the word of Governor’s Counsel.
So, my question today is how do we correct our actions so that we can be fair and impartial?
All the people are asking for is justice. And in this very seat that I am occupying, I am asking for justice for the people of the Commonwealth.
Mr. President and colleagues, I know we can do better.