By Eric Rosario
(Tamuning, Guam) Congressman Michael San Nicolas (D-GU) and Dr. Thomas Shieh told members of Congress about Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero's refusal to be accountable and transparent with the use of federal funding, and asked Congress for oversight and to demand transparency.
A livecast of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee virtual meeting Thursday morning (ChST) was conducted by chairman Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and vice chairman Congressman Gregorio "Kilili" Sablan (I-CNMI). The committee invited health and political leaders from U.S. territories on a panel to discuss the territories's needs during the national public health emergency.
Mr. Grijalva and Mr. Sablan expressed the need to get federal cash and unemployment assistance into the hands of the citizens of the territories.
Mr. San Nicolas, who lamented the Leon Guerrero administration's failure to get immediate relief to qualified Guam residents, went straight to it:
"We have a problem, Mr. Chairman, with transparency on Guam. Our governor is telling our senators that she does not need to account for federal dollars. We have a problem back home where even our local media have to resort to using the Freedom of Information Act just to get information. Help us find a solution, with how we can ensure that these federal dollars are going to be administered the way they need to be." - Congressman San Nicolas
Puerto Rican political activist Federico de Jesus, who was on the panel, quickly agreed with Mr. San Nicolas, and likened the situation to the major problem of transparency and corruption affecting his territory:
"You're totally correct, Congressman. In Puerto Rico we had a revolt because our governor was not being transparent. We need radical transparency. We need Congress to provide oversight." - Federico de Jesus, the Power for Puerto Rico Coalition
Dr. Shieh echoed Mr. San Nicolas's point, and honed in on Guam doctors and nurses who are left in the dark about necessary medical supplies:
"Transparency is very important. For example, our doctors and nurses had to go out and ask for donations for face masks and PPE. Those should be provided by the government. The answer we got is those are above the pay grade or this is not information we share with the public. If FEMA is on Guam right now, make that public. We need to know. Don't hide this information from the public. The governor has openly told the senators that she does not have to inform the public how that money is spent. As the federal money comes in, every dollar should be accounted for and that should be made public." - Dr. Shieh
Mr. Grijalva agreed with the discussion, and said Congress should provide this oversight:
"The role of accountability in this House of Representatives is paramount. We need to hold people accountable in how this money is spent. This money is meant to take care of immediate relief needs. If it isn't used for relief, it it isn't used for capacity, if it isn't used to test as many people as possible, then it isn't being used right." - Congressman Grijalva
Mr. San Nicolas also proposed federal relief to assist the territories to pull down federal cash relief to its citizens quicker:
"IRS needs more support because they only have one team working in five different territories in four different time zones dealing with eight different languages and three different tax codes." - Congressman San Nicolas