• By Pacific Island Times Ns Staff

Proposed 'Pandemic Bill of Rights' to limit governor's emergency powers


Sen. Louise Muna

Sen. Louise Muña has introduced a bill that would limit the scope of the governor's public health emergency directives so as not to infringe on the citizens' civil rights.

Bill 382-35, titled "The Pandemic Bill of Rights," seeks to "protect Guam residents’ constitutional and organic rights of freedom of religion, Second Amendment rights, and due process and seizure of property," Muna said.

The bill also proposes the decriminalization of quarantine violation. Under the current law, failure to obey the quarantine policy is listed as a misdemeanor. Bill 383-35 would reduce the offense to "civil violation" and eliminate all criminal penalties during a state of public health emergency.

The bill noted that the recent state of public health emergency declaration during the Covid-19 pandemic "has shed light on numerous suspensions, restrictions and limitation of constitutional and civil rights on Guam and throughout the United States."

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While lifting certain restrictions, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero has extended her public health emergency declaration until Aug. 29. The initial declaration entailed the closure of public facilities, government offices and private businesses. The executive order mandated residents to stay home and prohibited large gatherings, including religious congregations.

At the height of Covid-19 pandemic, the government took over some private facilities that were used as quarantine sites.

Citing a memorandum issued by U.S. Attorney General William Bar, Bill 382-35 said the "Constitution isn't suspended in times of crisis."

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"Protecting the population during a pandemic should not first be limitations on civil rights, including freedom to practice religion, the Second amendment, unreasonable searches and seizures and due process," the bill states.

"Churches and businesses can effectively and safely operate during a pandemic if government assists and guide these organizations, rather than restrict, limit or suspend the rights of the people."

Under the proposed measure, no executive order related to state of public health emergency shall: a) prohibit the free exercise of religion; b) diminish or suspend a person's Second Amendment rights; c) deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; and permit the confiscation or seizure of any lawfully owned property without just compensation.

The bill also bans public officials from, creating new criminal law or exorbitant fines.

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