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4 million reasons you should march on Capitol Hill

By Troy Torres

(Tumon, Guam) There is a strong interwoven relationship among the casino, Attorney General Edward Manibusan, Gov. Ralph Torres, and Congressman Joel Camacho that has bred a dangerous conspiracy to plunder the Commonwealth, commit crimes, cover up the crimes, sidestep any investigation, and act like no one has been bought by the casino; no one has been stealing from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands; no one is threatening people who speak up against corruption; no one has received kickbacks and gratuities for their part in any conspiracy; no one has committed wire fraud, theft by deception, perjury, or laundered money; no one murdered anyone.

The CNMI government, by and large, either through denial, obedience, or silence, has argued and posited that these crimes are figments of the overactive imagination; or the dramatic tales of vanquished politicians with sour grapes regarding the 2018 elections.

After all, a reasonable person may ponder how it is possible that these crimes could happen and no credible complaint rises to the full measure of an investigation; findings have been explored and reported by the duly formed Commonwealth Casino Commission, the Lottery Commission, or the Department of Finance; legislative inquiry or oversight has revealed impropriety; police work has led to any arrests; prosecution of criminals has occurred from an investigation;

...and despite one piece of evidence after another of black-and-white corruption and theft, not one motion from the guy in the CNMI Legislature with oversight of judicial matters and government operations has been made to impeach the governor.

It seems beyond the realm of reality that so many people in positions of authority to investigate, arrest, regulate, prosecute, and impeach could all neglect to do their duty.

Unless... all the officials involved were paid by the criminals, or share irrevocable bonds of family allegiance with each other.

In 2016, Gov. Ralph Torres appointed his godson, Joel Camacho, to the Saipan zoning board. This was a critical time for Imperial Pacific International (CNMI), LLC, as important land transactions needed to be approved by the board.

On February 15, 2018, Bloomberg exposed a series of money and land transactions between the Chinese-based casino company and Serafin Camacho, Joel Camacho's father. One of the casino shell companies (a whole issue on its own) gave Serafin Camacho $4 million to purchase land in fee simple under Serafin's name. The casino, in return, leased the land; but the lease doesn't start until 2042.

Defending himself, Serafin told the Saipan Tribune that all he got out of the deal was $500 from the shell company. First of all, that is a $500 gratuity while Serafin's cunniao is the governor and his son was a member of the zoning board; that is not something to gloss over in the realm of legality and ethics. Secondly, that certainly is not all Serafin received. He now is the owner in perpetuity of $4 million worth of land; and for the next 24 years, he can do whatever he wants with it before the casino leasehold begins.

He can mortgage the land, take out loans, pay his debts, leverage the property, etc. It was hardly an innocent deal, not to mention the money laundering implications or tap dancing around the CNMI Constitution that virtually is selling a chunk of the Commonwealth to the Chinese.

What reasonable person will believe that this deal, occurring on the heels of the governor's appointment of Serafin's son and the governor's godson to the zoning board that would approve critical decisions in favor of the casino was not orchestrated to the mutual benefit of IPI, the governor, and the Camachos?

The rendezvous arranged by Mr. Torres between the casino and the Camachos didn't end there. Mr. Torres decided that Joel Camacho should run for a seat in the Legislature. The casino and the Torres's bankrolled the campaign; and now Joel Camacho is the chairman of the powerful House Judiciary and Government Operations committee.

From his perch, Mr. Camacho has been able to usher through legislation favorable to the operation and expansion of the casino throughout Saipan. Earlier this year he reported out a bill to ease the regulations on poker machines throughout the gambling district without a hitch in the legislative process.

Pay for play, indeed; and to use the long-held Bordallo 'I'm not a crook' adage that bastardizes the Chamorro culture and cheapens the virtue of chenchule: how could the young congressman say 'no' to his nino?

With damning black-and-white evidence (nevermind for a minute that there was an entire Federal Bureau of Investigation raid of the governor's office and his residence linked to the casino and foreign interference in United States elections) of theft and corruption committed by the governor, any reasonable member of the House of Representatives would acknowledge the folly and call for impeachment proceedings to start. The call for these proceedings would most naturally and especially begin with the House Chairman on Judiciary and Government Operations!

But Congressman Camacho has not done this. Why? Maybe he won't do that to his godfather. Maybe his mother's close familial relationship with Gov. Torres has something to do with it. Perhaps the young congressman is beholden to the man and the casino that got him to the position of power he's in right now. Most certainly, money talks in this case.

And the congressman would think he has solid footing to ignore mounting calls for the removal of the governor from office and for his criminal prosecution: there's been no local investigation by Attorney General Edward Manibusan. Mr. Manibusan is not prosecuting Mr. Torres at all.

Why not?

For the same reason Mr. Manibusan is not prosecuting Joel Camacho: the attorney general's daughter Monica is Mr. Camacho's common-law wife. Mr. Manibusan's son is married to Mr. Torres's finance secretary, David Atalig's, daughter. Mr. Atalig is one of two finance secretaries who authorized the illegal reimbursements of thousands of dollars in personal expenditures to Mr. Torres.

And it's not like Mr. Camacho, the chairman of the committee with oversight of the attorney general, is going to call his father-in-law before a legislative tribunal to question Mr. Manibusan about his indifference and inaction in solving the murder of Allan Boyer Dela Cruz and the seven homicides that occurred since he's been the attorney general of the Commonwealth.

Mr. Camacho has not and will not bring detectives, investigators, and Department of Public Safety officials before his committee to question them on the ridiculous dereliction of their duty to investigate these murders for the same reason he will not perform his duty to hold an oversight of the governor's crimes: he is protecting his nino and shielding his father-in-law; the same people keeping Mr. Camacho's father, Serafin, out of jail for his own corruption.

All of this over a Chinese casino. Kalakas.

It is nearly treasonous how Mr. Torres and Mr. Camacho, and by his silence - Mr. Manibusan, have sold the Commonwealth and the rule of law to Chinese billions while the citizens of the CNMI struggle, mourn, and lose hope. Some of them have lost their lives, and their families have cried out for justice against the cold and deafening silence of the murderers and the captors of democracy in the Northern Mariana Islands.

The people of the CNMI have been suffocating under the grips of a heavy tyrant who has fleeced them and plundered their Commonwealth for personal gain and power.

They have carried his corruption as a burden on their shoulders. But no matter his stronghold or his title or money, at some point he'll soon learn that all they have to do is stand up from the dirt floor he has pushed them into, and he will fall to their knees.

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Lillian Bennett
Lillian Bennett
Dec 07, 2019

Thank you for this eye opener..I'm sharing and posting it. Keep up your good works in reporting ALL corruption in our peninsula. God bless.

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