AS someone who has an insatiable appetite for politics and history, I followed Gov. Ralph Torres entrance into politics back in the election of 2007. He was running for a House seat in election precinct I of which he won decisively. His youthful appeal and millennial voters' hunger for generational change in government gave him the edge. But once he assumed the responsibility of leadership in January 2008 and serving as the Chairperson for the committee on Education, he began to plot his malicious intent to defraud (illegally obtain money by deception) the people of the Commonwealth of its meager financial resources through off-island travels and other sordid self-serving financial transactions.
Governor Torres’ compulsion for traveling extravagantly using public funds, his financial shenanigans and greed was a conscious and calculated decision. It all begun in the first year of his two-year term in the House of Representatives. He accumulated more off-island travels and reimbursement claims than any other members including the Speaker. Records revealed that his penchant for using public funds to travel off-island continues onto his Senate term and to the Governor’s office. When one looks at his expenditures of public funds for off-island travels throughout his congressional and gubernatorial stints, a clear pattern of CORRUPT INTENT exists.
The pattern of fraud, malice and intent are now coming to public view as shown on financial documents through the JGO committee hearings. The people of the Commonwealth have increasingly seen irrefutable financial documents, showing how the Governor abuses and misuses his authority and maliciously defrauding the government. It appears that Governor Torres was on a mission to illegally satisfy his teenage hunger for fame and fortune at the expense of struggling citizens. In public appearances, Governor Torres displayed deep and caring affection for his people and said all the right words people want to hear but behind this fake public persona, is a crook and deceitful man.
Defrauding the government with malice intent is not only a serious criminal offense but an impeachable act as well. If former disgraced Gov. Benigno Fitial could be impeached for dereliction of duty, which is a misdemeanor, Governor Torres deserve and should be treated no less. Unless of course, the predominant Chamorro Republicans in the Legislature uses the race card as a basis for their decision which is more likely to be the case based on their allegiance to a deceitful master.
When Governor Torres ran for election in 2007, one of his campaign's pledges was to safeguard the resources of our government and bring youthful leadership into our system of governance. Hs made a deeply passionate case of his youth which he considered an asset to the government. He was pleading to voters in precinct 1 that he should be trusted because he will bring in a brand new and vibrant leadership. Proudly highlighting his life story of climb to success from a humble beginning. His story captured people’s sense of appreciation and empathy for the arduous work that he did, and thus achieving the honor of being elected as the youngest candidate ever to receive the highest votes.
Conduct of our leaders in carrying out their public service duty to our citizens, is fundamentally crucial in building public trust. Unfortunately, in the 40-plus years that we have exercised self-government our school children still cannot identify a single leader who they considered a role model. School children, as a body of non-voting citizens, were never part of our leader's serious daily conversation only when it is time for budget hearing. So, I was hopeful in the election of 2007 that candidate Ralph Torres might be just the one who our school children can consider a role model to emulate.
Disappointingly, it did not happen and once again our children were denied the opportunity to be inspired. Flaring up children’s imagination, inventiveness and enthusiasm to explore greatness and possibilities was just not a priority for Governor Torres. How could it be when he is too busy and too consumed with malice to defraud the people of the Commonwealth. One of Americas most influential founding fathers Benjamin Franklin once said, “There is no kind of dishonesty into which otherwise good people more easily and frequently fall than that of defrauding the government.”
When the announcement was made for a series of public hearings by the House JGO committee to review the Governor’s public funds expenditures, not surprisingly, the Governor’s loyalists came out swinging with all their might. They claimed that the Democrat members of the House are plainly and simply conducting hearings for political theatrics and dramatical effects. What these loyalists did not fully realize was that Governor Torres was solely responsible in forcing the Democrat members of the House to conduct these hearings because the people lost confidence in his leadership, and they were demanding accountability. Moreover, majority of Republican members on both houses cannot be trusted to convene these hearings because they were just as equally complicit to the egregious behavior the Governor has committed.
In the JGO committee hearing, Director of Financial Services, Mrs. Bernie Palacios testified and validated the authenticity of documents filed by Governor Torres for travels and reimbursement claims. When people saw those documents, they were astoundingly shocked that the “Youth of the Century” leader will be that callus and disgraceful. Troves of travel and reimbursement claims, and other indictable documents presented for validation by Mrs. Palacios bearing the Governor’s signature, is so significant because it is irrefutably impeachable. It tells a true story of his audacity and malicious intent to defraud the government of the people for his own personal financial benefit. The seductive adrenaline for money, power and fame is too overbearing for the millennial leader to resist because “GREED” is temptingly addictive.
For the record, the Democrat members of the House cannot be accused of playing political trapping against Governor Torres or any other sinister political gamesmanship. Surely the Democrats have been persistently critical of the Governor’s leadership due to allegations of corruptions and malfeasances in office. The constant chatters in social media and within our community regarding the Governor’s inability to enforce the Casino License Agreement and deliberate lack of accounting for the Community Chest Fund, gives raise to corruption allegations. To suspect that something is wrong or to sense that someone has caused something wrong fits the idiom “I Smell a Rat.”
Could it be that “I Smell a Rat” validation is contained in the article “Chinese Casino Has Conquered a Piece of America published by Bloomberg Business Newsweek in February 2018. The article published a very incriminating report indicating that Governor Torres and his family got millions of dollars in payment from Imperial Pacific International in Hong Kong. The article was written by Mathew Campbell, a very creditable reporter from a reputable news organization owned by Michael Bloomberg.
When this article came out, citizen’s growing suspicion of Governor Torres’ closed connection with the casino financiers appeared to confirm that lingering doubt of his honesty. His instant ability to purchase expensive real estate properties indicated a purchasing power but when compared to his cumulative income from his term in office, the math does not jive so it appears deceitful. The explosive revelation by the article caught the Governor by surprise. In his defense, he vowed to sue the writer claiming that the article was politically motivated aimed to destroy his political career. To this very moment, no lawsuit has been filed. Conversely, the writer of the article stood firm on his investigative reporting.
Mercifully, let us give Governor Torres the benefit of the doubt, that the article was the work of his political detractors, the Democrats as he claimed. Still, it is extremely difficult for his claim about the Democrats to be taken seriously because the Democrats were never in power prior to January of this year. On the other hand, and quite certainty, we cannot dismiss the article’s story about the Governor and his family receiving millions of dollars from Imperial Pacific International because on November 7, 2019, the FBI executed a search and seizure warrant for his office, home, cars as well as his brother’s law office and numerous other companies around the island. To this very moment the FBI continues their investigation for evidence of wire fraud, scheme to defraud, conspiracy, money laundering and unlawful political donations. Federal Judge, the Honorable Mona V. Manglona would not have signed the Search Warrant without the FBI proving probable cause.
For the record no elected member of the Democratic Party serving in the House of Representatives or Senate for that matter, wish to spend their short time in the legislature talking about Governor Torres. Governor Torres does not need the Democrats to destroy his reputation, he has done it to himself long before they got into office. There are more pressing issues facing the Commonwealth that needed to be addressed.
However, citizens of the Commonwealth are demanding that Democrats must and should deal with the misuses and abuses of government funds and account its expenditures. Similarly, there is huge pressure from the community to address the alleged corruption in government and bring those responsible to account for their actions. This responsibility was placed on the Democrats not by choice but by the trust of the people and it would be a dereliction of their constitutional duty not to carry out that mandate. Those committee hearings being telecasted and link to various social media was their due diligence efforts to hold public officials accountable.
So, upon the conclusion of these public hearings and testimonies and verifiable documents are chronically organized by the JGO committee, detailing Governor Torres’ fraudulence and malicious intent, then justice will be well served by the legislature initiating immediate impeachment proceedings against the Governor.
Now no matter how robust economic recovery plan legislation the Democrats can implement, it will not survive here in the Commonwealth if it is managed by a rogue leader. Daniel Swain, Ph. D. Climate Scientist in his reaction to the fall of the Berlin Wall and rogue economics were spreading argued, “Rogue leader is not exceptional but endemic, a dark force encrypted in our social DNA, constantly lurking in the background of our own community in which we live. We cannot get rid of them because they mutate faster than our resistance, we must however forcefully expose them.” How closer to home this quote applies because the likes of disgraced former Gov. Benigno Fitial continues to mutate. Now the question is to whom his DNA shall be cloned to?
The writer is a resident of Kanat Tabla, Saipan.