By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
A wedding ceremony at the Hamamoto Gardens in Yona on Monday was about to begin when some uninvited guests showed up.
The event was disrupted by the arrival of public health inspectors with the Division of Environmental Health escorted by a fully armed SWAT team from Guam Police Department, prompting some of the guests to leave before the event started.
"Not sure why all the firepower with GPD SWAT," Mark Mendiola posted on his Facebook page.
Janela, Carrera, communications director for the Department of Public Health and Social Services, said inspectors usually go in pairs and more often visit business establishments covered by the governor's directive.
"When doing an inspection for a congregation, large gathering or social event, we typically seek the assistance of GPD to prepare for any scenario," Carrera said.
"Additionally, because it is a social gathering, potential citations could be issued to multiple individuals as opposed to an establishment with one responsible party," she added.
Mendiola said the wedding event was planned more than three months prior to the governor's issuance of a new executive order that reinstated restrictions on social gatherings amid a new surge of coronavirus infections on Guam.
Under the new directive, social gatherings are limited to vaccinated guests.
The prolonged Covid restrictions and the involvement of GPD have been causing anxiety among the coronavirus-fatigued residents, who are divided over the governor's Covid policies that were greeted by a pocket of resistance.
The return to normalcy was aborted by the third wave of infections that swept Guam back to square one. Health authorities said Covid clusters are mostly identified from large gatherings such as weddings and funerals.
"All my guests are fully vaccinated, they are all wearing masks, we are set up for social distancing at 6ft, we have handwashing stations and sanitizers, we have log of all attendees, we take their temperature, and we are outdoors in a facility that could hold 400 people and we only invited 75 guests," Mendiola wrote.
"So why did three Public Health inspectors show up with four SWAT officers? It was for them to verify that I had only 25 guests at the event at one given moment. They observed for one hour that we were in compliance."
Mendiola said only 25 people were in the reception area.
"As people left we had other people come. Most guests came saw what was going on and complied some left after they greeted the wedding party," Mendiola wrote on his social media page.
Mendiola declined to give an interview.
One of the guests who asked not to be identified said the wedding party for Mendiola's niece ended with less than 50 people.
"Some people waited out in their cars while the police cars were around but many decided to leave," the guest told the Pacific Island Times. "I heard there was a complaint from a neighbor."
Carrera said the inspection team "stayed and observed for a little bit and worked with the organizers of the event to ensure Covid-19 measures were being followed."
She said no violations were observed and no citations were issued.
"We understand his frustrations and concern," GPD spokesman Sgt Paul Tappao said, referring to Mendiola's social media post. "But we didn't mean to intimidate anybody."
He noted that the police department has been providing assistance to DPHSS since the very first Covid-related executive order was issued last year.
"We have a 24-hour operation to ensure the measures such as social distancing and wearing of masks are complied with. The people have been responsive," Tappao said
Besides issuing citations to violators, Tappao said GPD's main task is to educate the community about the coronavirus safety measures.
"Our job is to ensure that there is an understanding of the executive order," he said.
Tappao said GPD has not issued any citations since the governor issued the latest directive last month.