By Johnnie Rosario
Jomalyn Gelacio, former security officer for first lady Diann Torres, today provided testimony incriminating both Gov. Ralph Torres and his wife before the CNMI House committee investigating the Torreses for corruption.
Under intense questioning by the House Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations, Ms. Gelacio provided testimony that Ms. Torres's Valentine 2019 visit to Manila was a personal shopping trip, and that several days in a two week excursion to Washington D.C., Narita, and Guam were not related to the official business of the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth's taxpayers paid tens of thousands of dollars funding those trips, which included airfare, per diem, and lodging for the Torres entourage. According to documents Kandit News first reported in November 2019 and presented today during the inquiry, the Torreses flew first and business class on public funds, which is against the law.
"I eyeballed her" in the first class section
Ms. Gelacio refused to answer whether her former boss, Ms. Torres, or her husband had flown first class, when Gelacio accompanied the couple from Saipan to Narita to Washington, D.C., then back to Saipan through Narita and Guam.
"I don't have knowledge of that," Ms. Gelacio responded, when asked whether the Torreses flew first or business class on any leg of the trip. Under further examination, she said she believed she rode in the economy section of the plane, that she didn't see where Mr. Torres sat, but she could see Ms. Torres in front of her in her line of sight throughout the entire plane ride.
"How were you able to see her," committee chairwoman Celina Roberto Babauta (D-Saipan) asked Ms. Gelacio.
"I eyeballed her," she responded.
Babauta then showed Gelacio the first lady's boarding passes for two legs of the trip (from Narita to Washington, D.C., and back), that showed Ms. Torres sat in seat 10J on the way to Washington, and seat 1C on the way back to Narita. Both seats are in the business class section of the planes.
She then asked Gelacio to read the seats she sat in during those flights: 35D and 30D, respectively.
"You were able to eyeball the first lady from 25 rows back?" Ms. Babauta asked the police officer, who was under oath.
That's when her original testimony changed. "I was able to eyeball her when we got on the plane so that I know where she's at in case anything," Ms. Gelacio said, forsaking her earlier testimony of sitting only "few" rows behind Ms. Torres and having a line of sight to her throughout the entire plane ride.
4 personal security details in one trip
After establishing that four police officers accompanied the Torreses on the Washington trip, CNMI Congressman Ed Propst (D-Saipan) asked Ms. Gelacio what reasons of security there would be for four police officers to fly with the governor and first lady.
"We're there in case any threats come about to provide security for them," Ms. Gelacio responded.
"Are you allowed to bring your firearm onto the plane?" CNMI Congresswoman Tina Sablan (D-Saipan) asked Gelacio. She responded, "No."
"So what will you do if something happens to the first lady on the plane, how will you respond?" CNMI Congressman Richard Lizama (D-Saipan) inquired.
"I would go to my supervisor Joey Cruz and get our plan," Ms. Gelacio responded about her course of action resulting from a threat to Ms. Torres's life.
The four police officers on that trip, according to Gelacio, were Joey Cruz, Jesse Sablan, Jheneka Atalig, and herself. All were funded by the Commonwealth's taxpayers.
Can't recall where
According to the travel documents for the Washington trip, Mr. and Ms. Torres were in Washington, D.C. from February 19, 2019 through February 28, 2019, or nine days. According to those same documents, the only official business named was a meeting of the Western Governors Association, which was scheduled from February 22 through 25 only.
"What did the governor do from February 19 to February 21, and from February 26 to February 28?" Ms. Sablan asked Ms. Gelacio.
"I don't recall that," she responded.
On the trip back to Saipan, the travel authorization shows a layover in Narita lasting two days.
"What did you do in Narita for two days?" Ms. Babauta asked. "I don't recall ma'am," Ms. Gelacio responded.
"Was it a personal trip?" Babauta followed. Gelacio replied, "No." The congresswoman honed in, asking "Did the governor meet with anyone?" Ms. Gelacio responded, "Not that I recall."
The travel authorization, which was approved by Lt. Gov. Arnold Palacios, also states as part of the justification for the use of local and federal funds, that Mr. Torres would be in Guam to deliver a keynote address for the U.S. Seabees. Ms. Gelacio testified she and the other three police officers were with the governor and the first lady for every leg of the trip. Ms. Babauta then produced Ms. Gelacio's boarding passes, which showed she arrived in Guam at 1:30 a.m. March 2, and departed hours later at 7:50 a.m. to Saipan.
"To your knowledge, did Gov. Torres give a keynote address during the early morning hours of March 2?" Babauta asked. "Not that I recall," Gelacio responded.
There is no document anywhere, nor is there any public coverage of a U.S. Seabees event on Guam on March 2, 2019.
The committee members also noted a discrepancy between Gelacio's testimony that she and the other officers were with the Torreses throughout the entire trip, and the boarding passes themselves.
According to Gelacio's boarding pass and her testimony, she and the other three officers left Guam to return to Saipan the morning of March 2, 2019.
"However, the governor's boarding pass shows he left Guam March 3, the following day," Ms. Sablan stated. "What official business occurred on Guam from March 2 to March 3?"
"I don't recall," Ms. Gelacio responded.