By Troy Torres
(Tumon, Guam) Republican Senators Telo Taitague, Jim Moylan, Louise Muna, and Wil Castro already have expressed their opposition to Bill No. 334-35, the Dictator Act, which would grant the governor the authority to enact criminal statutes on her own and jail people for violating them.
They along with the chairman of the Republican Party of Guam - former Sen. Tony Ada - have issued statements in strong opposition.
The bill, which may be taken up by senators Monday, was dealt a major blow Friday night, when one of its authors - Sen. Joe San Agustin - pulled his support for the measure.
"Senator San Agustin is withdrawing his support for Bill 334-35 (COR) and Bill 335-35 (COR) being that some of language in these bills infringes on our freedom. Yes there needs to regulations in place to keep us all healthy and safe but no in the intent of these bills in it's written form." - statement from the office of Sen. Joe San Agustin
Mr. San Agustin's move follows a full day of session interrupted once by a news conference, where Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero told island media that all she wants to do is to "monitor the movements of drivers" and that does not "intend to search people yet."
Mr. Moylan released a lengthy reaction to the Dictator Act:
"As the 35th Guam Legislature prepares to go into an emergency session on Thursday, April 9, 2020, one of the measures that may be introduced will be Bill 334-35, which proposes that any individual who violates the Governor’s Executive Order (E.O.), if convicted shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and will be fined up to $5,000 and/or jailed for up to one year. While I absolutely agree that we need to establish penalties for such consequences during this emergency health pandemic, absurd monetary fines and/or jail time should not add to the hysteria already circulating within our community.
"This is why if this measure is introduced during session, I will be proposing an amendment as follows: "If one violates the Governor’s E.O. they shall be issued a citation with a fine of $500. If they commit a second offense, they shall be charged with a 4th degree misdemeanor with a fine of $1,000. Any subsequent violations shall result in a charge of a 3rd degree misdemeanor, with a fine of $2,500. Jail time should not be an option. "Almost 13,000 island residents have had their employment impacted by this pandemic as of yesterday, and with E.O.’s changing daily, it is easy for an individual to realize that they have not been updated on the latest prohibitions. Which is why the initial fines should not be absurd. Likewise, we don’t need to be adding to our already full prison system or exposing our law enforcement officers to additional risks.
"I agree that we need to starve this virus, and it begins with increasing the enforcement of existing E.O. provisions. This includes assuring more village patrolling by both the Guam Police Department and the National Guard, as well as increasing regulatory enforcement of businesses whose actions may be in violation. Even the speed traps and DWI checkpoints have a great potential of deterrence. "What I don’t agree with is a police state, or curfews, which will unfortunately add to our already limited and drained resources. History has proven that during a period of a depressing economy, criminal activity increases, hence we need our law enforcement officials ensuring the community is safe. There are people who still need to work or provide for their families, that enhancing additional stress during this tumultuous period is unnecessary. Likewise, if current enforcement efforts are not effective, there are no guarantees that additional layers will be beneficial. So, our recommendation to the administration is simple, focus on what you currently have and let’s make it work. "Lastly, for the people of Guam...stay home and let’s save lives. If you need to leave your premises, it should be for essential purposes, and if they aren’t, I agree with many in the community that there needs to be some consequences for your actions. We can do this, and God Bless Guam." - statement from Mr. Moylan ----
Ken Leon Guerrero, chairman of Guam Citizens for Public Accountability, issued a statement to the media as well in opposition to the Dictator Act:
"If it quacks like a duck,…it’s a duck. Today Governor Lou Leon Guerrero is setting up a series of “roadblocks” by Executive Order to control the movement of people around our island.
"In her press conference she made sure that everyone understands that she thinks she is complying with the letter of the law calling them road blocks: “It’s a road closure. It’s very important that we don’t say ‘checkpoint’ because my legal authority is only roadblocks.” There is a difference between following the “letter of the law” and the “intent of the law.”
"The reality is that the Governor is using a very small “fig leaf” of legal semantics to create a series of illegal checkpoints limiting the ability of a free people to exercise their freedom to travel. When you set up barriers to force people to drive through a conga line of uniformed personnel to be questioned on the purposes of their travel, and requested to present travel justification and/or documentation/placards, it’s a checkpoint, and it’s illegal.
"By not holding public hearings on these bills which have the potential to dramatically affect the lives of residents, Speaker Tina Muna Barnes has confirmed the assumption feared by many people that this is a government of politicians, by politicians, for politicians. There’s an old political axiom: “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely!” When the proposed laws were announced, many people saw them as politicians following another old political axiom: “Never let a good crisis go to waste!”
"These proposed laws; absent public hearings and logical sunset clauses limiting power, fit both the old political axioms to a tee.
"Without the proposed laws; the Governor has already under her existing authority closed down non-essential businesses, dictated what products open businesses are allowed to sell, directed the people to shelter at home and practice social distancing. Businesses and the people have complied; so there is no reason to give a government that has yet to earn back the trust broken by politicians, more power and more control over our lives.
"Even without the proposed laws most people on Guam are obeying the shelter at home recommendations. A lot of people on the roads are (1) shopping for food or supplies, (larger numbers lately as a result of the SNAP Card benefits schedule based on last digit of SSN) and (2) critical essential personnel on their way to or from work, or (3) people going to some open place to exercise or get outside of the four walls for a little while for their “peace of mind.” All things the people are permitted to do within the current guidelines contained in the Governor’s own current Executive Orders.
"Where the government has crossed the line is that, without passage of the laws granting temporary authority based on the current public health emergency, setting up checkpoints manned by the National Guard personnel, restricting travel, and issuing travel documents/placards. All actions that border on the first steps of establishing martial law, in direct opposition of the “consent of the governed” as enshrined in the “Declaration of Independence.”
"Whether that is the intention of this body or not; without public hearings or the inclusion of sunset provisions in the laws, you will be in effect granting extraordinary powers to the Governor that will not end with the conclusion of the public health emergency. And those are the types of laws that absolutely needed a public hearing considering the long range potential adverse effects on disrupting the check and balance between the governor and the governed.
"We the people will be very carefully watching the votes on these measures." - statement from Ken Leon Guerrero