By Jacob Nakamura
(Tumon, Guam) Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, in an odd moment before the Guam Medical Association last week, told the doctors assembled that she could take anybody's property, money or resources if she declares a state of public health emergency.
"I have authority to take money, I have authority to take property, I have authority to move personnel wherever I feel they are needed," she said. "So yes we would have to, basically, you have no say." - Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero
Indeed, according to the Emergency Health Powers Act under Guam law, if Ms. Leon Guerrero declares a state of public health emergency, she very well can confiscate or otherwise move private resources around in order to stop the spread of infection of the Coronavirus. She would have near-dictatorial powers, short only of a declaration of martial law, which she can declare under the authority of the Organic Act, consolidating police powers with the Guam National Guard under her command.
Behind-the-scenes discussions between the military and Department of Public Health and Social Services officials validate concerns that the Leon Guerrero administration is moving in this direction.
Kandit discovered a series of emails between Joint Region Marianas Region Emergency Medical Services Chief Thomas Manglona and DPHSS administrator of the Bureau of Communicable Disease Control Annette Aguon between February 5 and February 12, 2020. The communications began with Mr. Manglona asking what the local government's capacity is for quarantine and isolation at the Guam international airport. Ms. Aguon exposes in the final email of that train that the airport does not have quarantine or isolation capability.
In a second series of emails between the two officials, Mr. Manglona asks Ms. Aguon for information on isolation and quarantine areas throughout Guam.
At 6:32 p.m. on Friday, February 21, Ms. Aguon tells Mr. Manglona,
"For individuals not requiring hospitalization, there are several Isolation/Quarantine options that DPHSS is working on, such as * Public and Private Healthcare Facilities... * Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association- determining which hotels willing to serve as Isolation/Quarantine facility. * Home care and Isolation/Quarantine."
On Monday, February 24, Ms. Aguon tells Mr. Manglona, "The locations have not been formally identified."
As of today, there has been no measure placed before the Legislature for the purchase or lease of any clinics or hotels or other facilities for use as isolation or quarantine quarters. Neither has the government announced any requests of information or proposal, or any memoranda of agreement for the use of private facilities for these purposes.
All that stands in the way of the taking of property or other resources for these facilities or other measures to suppress the spread of disease is a gubernatorial declaration of a state of public health emergency.
The power to take such action has freshman Sen. Jim Moylan alarmed, and contemplating an update to the Emergency Health Powers Act, which was passed 20 years ago in the Twenty-fifth Guam Legislature:
“For the record, just going through Chapter 19 of Title 10, GCA , it surprises me that a previous legislature would provide such enormous power to any governor and the actions they may pursue in the event of an emergency. While I have no problems with providing some emergency procurement and funding transfers to the chief executive, I think this archaic law needs to be updated so that any governor doesn’t just go in and seize private assets without an effective checks and balance system in place. This is where we should be concerned that potential abuse may exist and I will certainly review this once more to make recommendations for amendments.” - Sen. Jim Moylan