By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Senators today approved Sen. Telo Taitague's amendment to Bill 130, the local war claims legislation, for the development of an implementation plan, was approved by a majority of senators.
"The amendment ensures that the implementation plan required by Bill 130 incorporates the establishment of a committee to adjudicate through a formal application process, war claims compensation requests from individuals who were eligible to apply for compensation pursuant to federal law, but were unable to submit required documents to the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission of the U.S. on or before June 20, 2018," Taitague said.
All rules and regulations and decisions that are put together by the adjudication committee shall be consistent with program guidance and award limits that have already been established by federal law with respect to war claims.
Additionally, the director of Department Administration will be required to keep the legislature informed on the number of applications that are submitted, adjudicated, and settled – and regarding all payments made pursuant to Bill 130.
Consistent with language that was approved in the previous legislature to expedite war claims using local revenues, the amendment provides that information concerning the identity of war survivors and their application for war claims shall be protected and shall not be part of the public record.
“Because Bill 130 did not include any guidance for the administration to develop a local war claims program, the amendment I offered – which reflects the program that’s proposed in my Bill 129 – provides a framework to get things moving without political considerations. Notwithstanding the issues that I had with the bill as drafted including the facts behind its introduction, I put forward the amendment because I believe the legislature must do everything in its power to right a wrong, and to always put people before politics," Taitague said.
"As I’ve shared before, whether it was due to having little to no information available about the application process or the time needed to put together their application and other documents – or because they weren’t emotionally prepared to relive the painful days of World War II on Guam which turned into months and years of darkness for them and their families – it is my prayer that the improved Bill 130 will help bring peace and closure to our greatest generation," she added.
Senators, however, thumbed down Speaker Therese Terlaje's amendment to Bill 130-36 that would expand the eligibility for War Claims to include those who survived war atrocities, but were excluded from receiving compensation by the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act because they passed away prior to Dec. 23, 2016.
The arbitrary eligibility date of the federal law created a gap that excludes many Guam war survivors who suffered under Japanese occupation from Dec. 8, 1941 to Aug. 10, 1944.
“My amendment would have included many of our parents and grandparents who suffered forced march, forced labor, and personal injury but did not qualify for the federal program. Our manamko’ fought for these war claims and testified in Congress but did not survive to see federal recognition of their suffering,” said Terlaje.
The effort to expand the program was inspired by Jose Garrido who, at Bill 130’s public hearing, testified in support of the inclusion of all war survivors, regardless of their date of death.
“I join Mr. Garrido and the others who testified on this bill in believing that excluding those who survived the war and all its atrocities is not true justice," Terlaje said. "They survived and showed us their resilience, courage, and fortitude when they testified before Congress and the Guam Legislature."
Terlaje said excluding those who died before the arbitrary date is not logical.
"War claims are not about the money, they are about justice and recognition. We the people of Guam should always have it on record that we include them, even if Congress excludes them," she said.
After some discussion on the amendment, Appropriations Chairman Joe San Agustin ruled it out of order, believing it was materially different from the bill’s intent.
Terlaje made a motion to overrule the chair’s decision, but the attempt failed with only four votes from the Speaker, Senator Sabina Perez, Senator Telo Taitague, and Senator Jose “Pedo” Terlaje.
Another amendment passed by the Speaker would require that any related transfers made by the governor be reported to the Guam Legislature no later than five days prior to the transfer. The reporting should indicate where the funds were transferred from.