Former CNMI Labor Secretary Did Not Follow Governor's Order To Immediately Deport Chinese Workers

Deleon Guerrero defied Torres as investigation into workers allegations was ongoing

By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, June 6, 2017) – Former Department of Labor Secretary Edith Deleon Guerrero on Monday said she was removed from her position because she didn’t do what Gov. Ralph Torres asked her to do which was to put 92 construction workers on a 1:30 a.m. flight back to China.

Deleon Guerrero, in a phone interview, said she had now managed to connect all the dots and identified the real reason why the governor accepted her courtesy resignation on May 11, days after she received a call from him, asking her why she was delaying the workers’ departure.

She said it was on May 8 when she received a call from the governor’s office instructing her to “drag all the workers” to the airport and put them on a 1:30 a.m. plane headed to China.

“Why would I do that? I was in the middle of conducting an investigation of these workers’ allegations, so why would I drag them to the airport at 1:30 a.m. when we were not done with the investigation?”

She accuses the governor of obstruction for trying to prevent an ongoing investigation.

“He knew that we were conducting an investigation and that I was closely working with the U.S. DOL to shed some light on the situation and yet here he was, ordering me to drag these workers to the airport so they could be flown back home. Why? What was his intention in doing that? Did he want to silence the workers, keep them from telling the truth so that the workers’ situation would not be revealed? He was trying to cover up something,” Deleon Guerrero said.

“In the first place, who made the arrangements for the workers to depart the CNMI on May 9? Why was I not informed? I didn’t even know that there was a 1:30 a.m. plane waiting for the workers. And who made that call to the governor to tell lies that I was delaying the workers’ departure?”

Deleon Guerrero said the governor tried to silence her by offering her another position when he met her on May 10, 2017.

She quoted the governor as saying, “This is going to be less stress for you and me.”

She said she responded that she was handling her stress very well.

“The problem with this administration is that there is so much dishonesty. For me, that is already a form of corruption when you are dishonest to the people. Since day one, what I’ve been doing is in the interests of the commonwealth. When I found out that there were Gold Mantis workers who resigned, I suspected that something was wrong. For me that was already a red flag. So immediately on March 21, I ordered a thorough investigation. Then on April 14, the workers staged their first protest so we continued with the investigation until the succeeding protests. I was trying to calm the workers and to do everything we could so they could get paid, but what was the governor doing all this time? Sitting in his office and watching the chaos.”

She said while they were investigating the workers’ situation on April 25, they went to an apartment in Koblerville where the workers were staying, but were told that a van had arrived to pick up all the workers and take them to the airport.

She said all they saw were discarded things and some leftover meals, an indication that the place had been used as barracks.

“So who picked up these workers and dragged them to the airport and sent them home immediately so they could not talk or disclose anything? Don’t put all the blame on these workers. Someone’s responsible for bringing them here. These companies knew that these workers came here as tourists,” Deleon Guerrero said.

On May 16, the 92 workers were finally paid by Gold Mantis and sent back to China.

“I thought we were done with this problem, but we weren’t,” Deleon Guerrero said. “I’m already out of DOL, but there are still workers claiming they have been mistreated and not paid by the contractors. . . There is really something wrong and that’s what the administration is trying to hide by giving the instruction to send these workers back home even though an investigation was still ongoing.”

Asked for comment, the administration said:

“The allegations by the former secretary of Labor are factually and blatantly inaccurate. Gold Mantis and the U.S. Department of Labor had reached a settlement on the payment of the workers, and at that time the CNMI Department of Labor was the last component before allowing these workers to return home with payment. The governor’s primary interest throughout this situation has been and will continue to be for the contractors to pay these workers and for them to return to their home country. Furthermore, the governor intends to continue the collaboration between U.S. DOL and CNMI DOL, to work within the law and find solutions to this ongoing issue.”

Marianas Variety
Copyright © 2017 Marianas Variety. All Rights Reserved

Rate this article: 
Average: 2.9 (11 votes)

Add new comment