14 Oct 2012
- By Emmanuel T. Erediano - Reporter
INVOKING the Fifth Amendment in the impeachment proceedings is almost answering yes to the questions, according to the impeachment panel chairman.Over the last several days of public hearings, at least seven individuals involved in some of the allegations against Gov. Benigno R. Fitial took the Fifth.
They were Fitial’s security aide, Capt. Jermaine Nekaifes, Department of Public Safety Deputy Commissioner, Ambrosio T. Ogumoro, police patrol officers Stanley Patris and Myron Laniyo, former adult corrections director Arnold K. Seman, Corrections Capt. Georgia Cabrera and Office of the Attorney General executive secretary Frieda Demapan.
Nekaifes and Ogumoro declined to answer questions regarding their role in escorting former Attorney General Edward T. Buckingham to the Francisco Ada/Saipan International Airport on Aug. 4.
Seman and Cabrera were asked about the release of a federal detainee who was brought to the governor’s house to give him a massage, while Demapan was asked about the political “meet and greet” gathering hosted by the then-AG at the governor’s residence in 2010.
In an interview last week, impeachment panel chairman Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero, R-Saipan, said usually persons plead the Fifth in criminal proceedings.
In a civil proceeding, he added, a person pleading the Fifth “is almost admitting to the question that was being asked.”
This comment apparently displeased Vice Speaker Felicidad T. Ogumoro, R-Saipan, who asked House legal counsel Joe Taijeron for his opinion. Taijeron supported Deleon Guerrero’s statement, saying it was correct.
He said truthful answers to the questions would prove guilt, hence in pleading the Fifth, the witness doesn’t want to answer such questions.
Deleon Guerrero said DPS Deputy Commissioner Ogumoro will testify again at 10 a.m. today.
He said the DPS official may again invoke his Fifth Amendment rights, but he will also be with his counsel so “we will continue our questioning until the [panel] members are satisfied.”
Deleon Guerrero noted the impeachment hearings have gone smoothly at least for the most part.
He could not explain however why some of the members, like Rep. Joseph M. Palacios, R-Saipan, “never came back” after excusing themselves.
Vice Speaker Ogumoro, Rep. Fredrick P. Deleon Guerrero, R-Saipan, and Rep. Stanley T. Torres, Ind.-Saipan, also excused themselves many times and missed hearing much important testimony from witnesses.
These members are with the pro-Fitial House bloc.
Deleon Guerrero said Vice Speaker Ogumoro would sometimes ask him to invite again the witnesses who had already testified.
Deleon Guerrero said he reminded the governor’s allies not to delay the process.
Deleon Guerrero said he has yet to hear from Palacios about why he hasn’t been showing up lately.
Deleon Guerrero believes he has been presiding over the hearings in a fair manner.
The last impeachment hearing, he added, will be held on Friday, Oct. 19.
He said the panel did not get everything it asked for but what it has obtained should allow House members to make a reasonable decision when the impeachment resolution reaches the floor.
“Before we deliberate on it, I will be making a statement reminding everyone that it’s important that we weigh the evidence before us and that we keep an open mind as we do so,” Deleon Guerrero.
The impeachment proceedings are carried live on MCV’s Channel 60 and are also available on Glen Hunter’s Facebook page.