Adelup defends quarantine actions; welcomes court case to finally get clarity on the issue

Buses transfer quarantined travelers to the Pacific Star hotel. (PNC file photo)

Governor Lou Leon Guerrero on Wednesday defended her administration’s establishment of quarantine facilities during the early part of the pandemic and welcomed the Attorney General’s decision to file suit in order to finally resolve the matter in court.

In July 2021, the Office of Public Accountability (OPA) issued an audit which concluded that that the governor did not have authority to procure quarantine facilities and that her Emergency Health Powers Act (EHPA) authority was limited by the Guam Procurement Law.

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This despite a May 2021 Supreme Court opinion holding that the governor has broad authority to establish, maintain and operate quarantine stations

Without acknowledging the opinion of the Supreme Court, several senators accepted the opinion of the auditor as final and called on the Attorney General for legal action, criticizing the AG along the way for taking time to analyze the issue.

But according to the governor, she had good legal advice from both her administration’s legal office and the Attorney General’s Office with regard to the establishment of the quarantine facilities.

“I decided to move forward and get these facilities, and to suspend rules, regulations and bureaucratic processes for me to be able to secure and utilize these facilities right away,” the governor said in an interview with NewsTalk K57’s Patti Arroyo.

“If you recall, and I recall this very vividly, when the virus started coming over to our region here, it was really very rampant in the Philippines. President Duterte closed off the Philippines and gave people just a few days to go back to their homes. So we were faced with three sets of 400 passengers a day, coming back from the Philippines, where we knew the virus was spreading. And so the advice was to quarantine those people and then test them, in order to have better control in preventing the virus from entering our island,” Leon Guerrero said.

In order to minimize as much as possible the spread of the virus on Guam, the governor said she had to quickly secure places that can serve as quarantine facilities. During the start, the governor said not many hotels were willing to serve as quarantine facilities and she had to work with Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association president Mary Rhodes in order to secure the quarantine facilities.

“We had a limited amount and I had to quickly sign and quickly agree to purchase hotel rooms. During that process, I was advised that I had the organic powers to do it and that I had the Emergency Health Powers Act also justifying my actions. You know, there were a lot of debates and the senators did a whole public hearing, trying to say that I abused my powers. But when we took it to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court came back with the decision saying, yes, those were within my organic powers,” Leon Guerrero said.

The governor also commented on Public Auditor Benjamin J.F. Cruz’s decision which concluded that the governor did not have the authority to procure quarantine facilities The governor said the matter is completely outside the public auditor’s scope of authority.

“I don’t know if that’s within his authority. He’s an auditor, he’s not a legal authority. I mean, he’s an attorney skilled and all that. But his authority, I don’t think, is the legal authority. I think his authority is more regulatory in nature and deals more with compliance. But he made the opinion that I abused my powers and that my actions were illegal. This is such a very significant accusation. So I think we need to just settle this in court to be a lot clearer of what exactly my actions were. And I still remain very confident that my actions were within my legal authority as the governor through the Organic Act,” Leon Guerrero said.

She also pointed out that there was no other option because her administration did not have the authority or the jurisdiction to shut down the airport, which was another thing that was not within Adelup’s purview.

“And my very urgent priority was to try and stop this virus from coming in. And even with all of that, you know, of course, because people integrate and interact and all that, the virus still penetrated our community, and we did everything to try and address that also. But this debate and discussion over, again, my organic powers and accusations of illegally using my powers …. we need to clear this up. People should know that my only agenda was to protect the lives of our people,” the governor concluded.