The Guam Republican Party is giving a thumbs-down to two bills that would grant Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero broader powers to handle the Covid-19 crisis, such as expanding the curfew law and imposing jail time for violators of public health emergency directives.
“Will we be seeing a legislative body listening to the voices of the community on actions that not only question civil liberties, but also create many obstacles in the everyday lives of our residents?” the Republican Party asked. “Or will we witness the 35th Guam Legislature take orders from Adelup? It’s hurtful enough that no local relief is being addressed and federal relief is still many weeks away.”
Democratic senators have filed two emergency power bills in response to the governor’s request. Under Bill 334-35, any individual who violates the governor’s executive order may face a misdemeanor charge that corresponds to a fine of up to $5,000 and one year behind bars.
“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,” Republican Sen. James Moylan said in a press statement issued earlier.
Bill 335-35 seeks to impose a curfew for all residents of Guam, a proposal which Republican Sen. Wil Castro said “would authorize a quasi-military state of affairs.”
“I am afraid that, much like the road closures, there will be even greater negative impacts throughout our community should an across-the-board curfew and a quasi-military state be implemented,” Castro said.
“Our people are already dealing with the loss of loved ones, the loss of jobs, the loss of spiritual health, and the loss of a normal way of life. We need to be working for everyone’s recovery as quickly and as stress-free as possible — not deepening anyone’s fears and worries,” he added.
Democratic Sen. Amanda Shelton, on the other hand, is seeking the bills’ passage, saying they would help stem the Covid-19 transmission on Guam.
“This is not about individual rights, this is about the right of our community to get through this together,” she said in her opening statement at the Guam Legislature. “We need to stop responding incrementally to an exponentially growing threat of Covid-19. Let us move from two steps behind, ahead to the forefront. We must do everything within our power to ensure we don't leave more people behind in this pandemic.”
Shelton said the pandemic poses an unprecedented emergency, in which “individual freedom has the ability to infringe on the rights of others to remain healthy and have access to healthcare if infected. It is with tremendous respect and consideration that this bill was authored to provide critical temporary allowances to ensure that we do not see increases in infections and run out of capacity in our hospitals.”
As the senators get ready to vote, the Republican Party said the decision will reflect the actions of the government and its treatment with our people.
"No one envies the position any of our senators are in, particularly with these recent measures and circumstances, and we can certainly respect the decisions that they make, as long as it is one of a conviction that they are willing to stand by when all of this is said and done. We are all in this crisis together and as a community known for our resiliency, we will rebound from this pandemic in due time," the GOP said.
"We have come a come a long way in the last month in terms of social responsibilities, and while additional measures may still need to be taken for precautionary purposes against the Covid-19, it shouldn’t come at a cost of creating a police state or incarcerating individuals for violating executive orders that change almost daily."
Taking precautions, the party added, must come from promoting the responsibility of every individual and business, and removing any actions that instill fear and paranoia within the community.
"We encourage our senators to listen to the people of Guam and vote no on Bills 334 and 335, and let’s focus on issues that support island residents and not pursue measures that encourage a dictatorship," GOP said.
Meanwhile, Joe Guthrie, former assistant attorney general of Guam, said the governor does not need a new bill to enforce her road closure directive, saying an existing law addresses this issue.
He cited 16 GCA 13102, which provides:
§ 13102. Enforcement. (a) It shall be unlawful for any person driving or operating any vehicle to willfully fail or refuse: (1) to comply with any lawful order or direction of any peace officer or any individual authorized under § 13101, to direct, control or regulate traffic; …
(b) A peace officer may arrest the driver of a motor vehicle if the peace officer has probable cause to believe that the driver has operated the vehicle in violation of this Chapter within the past four hours.
(c) In addition to any other citation for penalties or fines that may be levied, every person violating this Section shall be issued a citation and shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction, punished by a fine not less than $50 nor more than $200for each violation.