By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Terlaje vows to restore public trust in legislature
Newly elected speaker leads a slim Democratic majority
Newly elected Speaker Therese Terlaje, who will lead a slim Democratic majority in the 36th Guam Legislature, vowed to promote transparency in government and restore the public’s lost confidence in the law-making body.
“It is time to ensure faith in government, to lead by example by promoting openness and accountability which fosters trust,” Terlaje said in her inaugural speech Monday, acknowledging the odds being faced by the legislature.
“We will be greatly challenged. We will need bi- partisanship and cooperation. It will take the best of our individual and collective ideas, and the critical scrutiny to create the type of strong policy to restore prosperity and stability to the lives of those we serve.”
Senators were sworn into office on Monday and sealed the chamber’s leadership.
Leaders of the 36th Guam Legislature
Speaker Therese Terlaje
Vice-Speaker Tina Muna Barnes
Legislative Secretary Amanda Shelton
Committee on Rules Tina Muna Barnes
Majority Leader Telena Nelson
Assistant Majority Leader Amanda Shelton
Majority Whip Sabina Perez
Assistant Majority Whip Joe San Agustin
Minority Leader: Sen. James C. Moylan
Minority Whip: Sen. Frank F. Blas Jr.
Democrats lost grounds when Republicans picked up more seats in the last election. The 36th Guam Legislature comprises eight Democrats and seven Republicans, making it a bit more challenging for Democratic Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero to retain her clout in the new chamber.
The 36th Guam Legislature sees the return of reelected incumbents and former Republican senators including Joanne Brown, Chris Duenas, Frank Blas and Tony Ada.
In the 35th Guam Legislature led by then Speaker Tina Muna Barnes, Republicans had been vocal against the administration’s perceived lack of transparency with its handling of the Covid-19 relief funds from the federal government.
“We can and we will rebuild our island together, more fortified and united as we bring the people of Guam along in this process,” said Terlaje, who was the top vote-getter in the November elections.
“Many people had lost faith that the legislature could make change. And I wanted to change their perception of the Legislature. I have tremendous respect for this institution because of the ability of early Guam Legislatures to point out inequities, to demand justice, to realize that loss of land was an irreparable injury to generations of Chamorros, and I continue to believe that the people of Guam deserve a thoughtful, a deliberative, and a responsive legislature.”
Terlaje urged residents to engage with their elected representatives.
“With the support of my colleagues in the 36th Guam Legislature, we will work to raise the standard to which we will hold ourselves and the government accountable, to continue to advocate for the preservation of legislative authority as representatives of the people of Guam, and most importantly, continue to earn the respect and trust of those who have placed us here,” she said.
In a statement, the governor said she is excited to work with Terlaje and the members of the 36th Guam Legislature.
“As the New Year begins, we know that we have a great deal of work to do creating jobs, kickstarting our economy, and improving the lives of our people,” the governor said.
She also welcomed the new and returning mayors and vice mayors.
“Though none of us can do it alone, together we can solve problems and make the government a powerful force for good,” the governor said.
At the legislature, Terlaje said senators will prioritize oversight of Guam’s recovery and will work with the administration to ensure the health and safety agencies are given resources needed to get the island back on its feet.
“I am hopeful that this legislative body will engage in healthy debate based on truth and facts that will support and challenge each other to find long-term solutions to many of the issues that have plagued our island all these years,” Terlaje said. “The path forward will require true collaboration, openness, fairness and all the important things we strive for as a branch of government.”
The Republican Caucus said it "looks forward to working collectively and in a bi-partisan manner to address the many issues plaguing our Island, with economic recovery being the most paramount."
In a statement prior to the inauguration, Vice-Speaker Tina Muna Barnes said, “Now more than ever our people need leaders that are relentlessly focused on bringing Guam back. I join my colleagues in congratulating Speaker Therese and I look forward to working with her for the good of Guam. Together we can demonstrate that everything that is wrong with Guam can be fixed by all that is right with Guam. I thank our people for the opportunity to continue serving them with heart and commitment.”
Democratic Party of Guam Chairperson Sarah Thomas-Nededog said “It’s been an honor working with our democratic senators to determine the leadership for the 36th Guam Legislature. Each of these passionate individuals exhibited incredible commitment to the best welfare of our people. There truly was intense discussion, sometimes debates, but always a clear focus on working together. I am pleased of the outcome of these sessions which resulted in our people winning.”