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In the stillness of the night

 

LAST week, I was invited to deliver the keynote address at the I Pinangon Suicide Prevention Forum held at the University of Guam.

He was the best and brightest among us. He was the one that we all followed. He was the one that teachers thought would go the furthest. And among that group there was a U.S. congressman, directors and myself. But as children and as young adults, he was the one that we always looked up to – we wondered, “What was he going to do? How was he going to resolve the situation? What were his thoughts?” We saw something that he did not see. We saw changes that occurred that he could not see. And, in the end, he was the first one to leave, and the only one to leave by his own hands. He was my cousin, he was my brother, my friend and like stillness in the night, I still mourn his loss. And I still ask myself, “Why? What did we miss?”

Some of you will remember in the 1980s a song called “Signs.” Signs, signs, signs. Everywhere there are signs. Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign? Come in, kneel and pray. The lyrics remind me that “signs” are important. Suicide doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Suicide, and people whose lives are touched by it, happens with all these signs out there. I believe we just need to focus ourselves, re-orientate our thinking about suicide and look for those signs. The responsibility must be built within us, so that we are better able to care for our brother, better able to care for our friend. We commit to not rush past them as they deal with life as we deal with life ourselves. We commit to look out for those signs.

The loss from suicide is experienced at the family level, but that loss also touches the community. When we take notice of the signs, we know to some extent what we are looking for – there are studies available and there are experiences we have heard about. Wanting to harm oneself, being trapped in unbearable pain, anxiousness, agitation, behaving recklessly, feeling isolated, disconnected, disjointed – any and all of these experiences can be internalized, and when a person cannot express or externalize them, then the likelihood of suicide is possible. If that person cannot make a connection to someone next to him or her, to some family member, to some friend to reach out and open up to, then we continue to have our work cut out for us. But the audience that night was proof to me that we are making strides in recognizing that suicide is a community problem, that it is not isolated, that it is not the act of one single person and it not only affects one person.

To me, the success of the forum is in its reach beyond academics, beyond theory and to see the work of these young leaders in our community. I believe we can say that there was more than hope communicated through the forum – that there is the realization and manifestation of that hope through each of our actions as we deal with this issue in our community. Our responsibility in addressing suicide as individuals is not separate from the self-responsibility we have as a community to look for the signs and provide resolve at all different levels, including individual, nuclear family, organizational and even the policy level. As I see it, the beauty of government is at work when you take a policy and you feed it through the system and, in turn, the system changes because of that policy. Such a policy has the potential to change the consciousness, change the awareness, and change people’s perceptions and their attitudes. The forum, in a true sense, was an awakening. It gave all of us there a chance to witness and make the connections needed to address preventative measures encompassing suicide, and to recognize that the academics, the theories, the policies and the people are all at work to provide balance within our community. Continue reading »

 

FOR IMMEDIATE NEWS RELEASE (April 16, 2014 – Hagåtña, GU) – Senator Vicente “ben” C. Pangelinan (D), Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, Public Debt, Retirement, Legal Affairs, Public Parks, Recreation, Historic Preservation, and Land has written a second letter to Governor Calvo imploring him to appoint two (2) positions to the Chamorro Land Trust Commission (CLTC), which has been vacant for years. The first letter was sent to the Governor on March 18, 2014. By law, the CLTC should have five (5) members and to date have been functioning with only three (3).

Senator Pangelinan stated, “I applaud the three Commissioners who have been working diligently to ensure that matters of the CLTC are addressed, but these are not ideal circumstances. The CLTC have important issues before them and it is crucial that they have a full complement of members. I have written two letters within the past few weeks to implore the Governor to appoint these members. I remain hopeful that he will place the appropriate effort and priority to filling these vacancies.

Senator Pangelinan will continue to follow up with the Governor until the  CLTC have all five (5) members appointed.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE NEWS RELEASE (April 15, 2014 – Hagåtña, GU) – Senator Vicente “ben” C. Pangelinan, Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, Public Debt, Retirement, Legal Affairs, Public Parks, Recreation, Historic Preservation, and Land (Committee), is pleased with the work of Attorney John Terlaje in the Supreme Court through his presentation of petitions, filings, and oral arguments regarding the Guam Legislature’s Request for Declaratory Judgment relative to the Income Tax Refund Efficient Payment Trust Fund.

Pangelinan (D-Barrigada) is confident that the outcome from the Supreme Court will favor and affirm the legislature’s authority to ensure that the existing mechanism for the payment of income tax refunds is upheld and that unlawful withdrawals are halted.

“We must ensure that not only is the authority of the Guam Legislature to ensure funds are set aside and available to pay tax refunds when they are due but also that the separation of powers doctrine is upheld toward preserving the foundation of our democracy,” stated Pangelinan. “I look forward to a positive outcome and am grateful for the work of Attorney John Terlaje for his efforts in taking up this case, as not many attorneys would have done so.”

For further information, please contact the Offices of Senator Pangelinan at 473-4236 or email at office@senbenp.com.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE NEWS RELEASE (April 15, 2014 – Hagåtña, GU) – Senator Vicente “ben” C. Pangelinan, Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, Public Debt, Retirement, Legal Affairs, Public Parks, Recreation, Historic Preservation, and Land (Committee), announces that on April 14, 2014, the Supreme Court of Guam issued an order denying the request the governor made to disqualify the Attorney General of Guam from participating in oral arguments. The Attorney General previously filed an Amicus Curiae Brief in favor of the 32nd Guam Legislature’s authority to which the governor attempted to block.

“The governor used every legal argument he could think of to block the Attorney General from participating and voicing its stance in favor of the Legislature’s authority to enact the Income Tax Refund Efficient Payment Trust Fund,” explained Pangelinan (D-Barrigada). “I’m glad the Supreme Court saw through these attempts and has allowed the Attorney General to represent the people.”

In addition, the governor has filed a response with the court that was outside of the scheduling order issued by the court. The Legislature properly filed a supplemental brief in response to the governor’s filing to which the Supreme Court granted and accepted.

“With all these legal stunts by the governor to deter the A.G.’s participation, the Legislature stands firm in its request for a Declaratory Judgment from the Supreme Court that the governor is not allowed to make unlawful withdrawals from the Refund Trust Fund as he did back in November and December 2013 when he withdrew over $12 million,” stated Pangelinan.

Pangelinan is looking forward to a determination—once and for all—that the Legislature is authorized to enact laws restricting the use of certain revenues strictly for the purposes of paying tax refunds.

For further information, please contact the Offices of Senator Pangelinan at 473-4236 or email atoffice@senbenp.com.

 

Sacrifice without regrets: Thank you, Dad

 

A tribute to a life, lived with love for us on his passing

MY DAD never spoke of the sacrifices he made, and most of what I know was passed on to me from others. Like many Chamorro families, every person has their place in the family – especially the children. And with his firm rules at hand, there were very few times any of my two sisters and one brother became adventurous beyond our limits, including asking questions when we knew it was not our place to know the answers.

There were times when I deduced the information for myself and times Mom was willing to share a little bit more when, over the years, I came to see a picture of all my dad’s decisions that remained untold. These were decisions that shaped our lives for the better, but his in a much different way. If you asked him, he would say that because our lives were better, so was his.

He had an interest in medicine and most certainly had the abilities. After the war, he was chosen by the Navy government for training and employment. From what I can gather, he was selected to come to Guam from Saipan for the dental officer training school. The school was established to train local citizens as dental officers for the Trust Territories. He successfully completed the program and returned to Saipan to begin practicing. I never really knew what he did before that first life-changing event.

He became missing from our everyday lives, and for what seemed like a very long time it was just mom, my two sisters, and my baby brother at the house. When we asked mom where was “Tang,” she would soothe us with, “Soon … we will be together soon.”

He had quit his job as a dental officer and moved to Guam so he could better support us and to prepare a place for us in Guam. He had given up his chosen profession of dentistry and began working in construction, because it was the job he could get. This was another life-changing decision for my dad that changed our lives as well.
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FOR IMMEDIATE NEWS RELEASE (April 8, 2014 – Hagåtña, GU) – Senator Vicente “ben” C. Pangelinan (D), Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, Public Debt, Retirement, Legal Affairs, Public Parks, Recreation, Historic Preservation, and Land (Committee), introduced Bill No. 309-32, which will prioritize any potential excess and/or windfall Section 30 Funds received in Fiscal Year 2014 be directed toward education and public safety. Over the past two years, the governor has withheld from or untimely provided information to the Legislature that yielded windfall Section 30 funds that could have assisted the Legislature in its budget deliberations.

“At this point in time, we have yet to know what the exact figure of excess Section 30 funds are because we have not been kept abreast of the ongoing discussions between GovGuam and the U.S. Treasury,” explained Pangelinan. “Similar to previous years, the Administration has kept the Legislature out of such discussions therefore we want to ensure that any excess Section 30 Funds received are properly appropriated and prioritized by the Guam Legislature.”

Bill No. 309-32 intends to fund the following:

  • Unpaid 50% to General Pay Plan GovGuam employees that were unjustly left out of the governor’s Hay Plan;
  • George Washington High School expansion;
  • Recruitment of 20 new police officers;
  • Bolster the Attorney General Prosecution Division and Victim Witness services with additional prosecutors, investigators, victim advocates, etc.; and
  • Unpaid law enforcement retroactive pay raises for GovGuam branches and agencies.

“In addition to education and public safety remaining a priority, equity is also important and if there is a possibility of funding, we must correct the injustice served to our rank and file GovGuam employees that did not receive their full pay increases from the governor,” stated Pangelinan. “Further to equity, we’ve funded renovations for the Sharks at Simon Sanchez High, we’ve rebuilt JFK for the Islanders, we’ve expanded Okkodo for the Bulldogs, now let us focus our efforts on the Geckos of George Washington High.”

Bill No. 309-32 also increases transparency and accountability of the reporting of correspondences between GovGuam and the U.S. Treasury to ensure that the Legislature is kept up-to-date with potential revenue sources to be received by the federal government.

“I am hopeful that whatever actions the governor takes, that it not only is transparent, but that it also provides us with additional windfall Section 30 funds for these priorities,” concluded Pangelinan.

For further information, please contact the Offices of Senator Pangelinan at 473-4236 or email at office@senbenp.com.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE NEWS RELEASE (April 7, 2014 – Hagåtña) – The Office of Finance and Budget (OFB) has published a webpage dedicated to the Fiscal Year 2015 budget proposals as submitted by government of Guam line agencies and semi-autonomous agencies to the OFB. The summaries and details of these budget proposals are available for public viewing.

This comprehensive project has been undertaken and completed annually for the past five years by the professional staff of the OFB. The OFB is under the oversight of Senator Vicente (ben) C. Pangelinan (Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations) and is managed by the Executive Director, Mr. Artemio “Ricky” Hernandez.

“The webpage contains complete information for the FY 2015 budget proposals as submitted by the departments and agencies,” says Pangelinan. “The public has immediate access to this webpage which includes the working files and scanned files of all budget requests submitted to the Office of Finance and Budget.”

For more information, please log on to: www.senbenp.com, and click on the Office of Finance and Budget tab.

For further information, please contact the Offices of Senator ben pangelinan at 473-4236 or email at office@senbenp.com.

 

Another vision for cultural survival – less is more

 

IN ALL my years as a policymaker, I have always been curious about and appreciative of the efforts at work with our other leaders, so that we might also benefit and learn from them the unique and innovative ideas implemented in their own island nations. The hope is that what they are doing may have an effect on how we, here in Guam, live our lives. On a daily basis, if you look attentively, you might see that our people really try to make ends meet, as well as develop plans that take us into the future.

Recently, Palau has caught the attention of some of us invested in sustaining the livelihood of our people and our way of life. At the United Nations Oceans Conference in early February, Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. declared a ban on commercial fishing within Palau’s territorial waters. The ban was motivated by the concern that Palau provides fish to tourists, to the local population as well as to millions of people outside of the area. Because of this exploitative practice of large-scale fishing by large fishing vessels, Palau’s ocean environment – one of its most valued resources – has sustained incredible damage from illegal fishing and the dumping of garbage by operators of these fishing vessels.

President Remengesau proclaimed that the supply of fish should remain abundant for the people of Palau and the tourists that come to visit their islands. Admirably, the president extended the invitation that if others want to eat fish from Palau, they should come visit. What a whole and meaningful invitation. All the while, the people of Palau maintain the pride of preserving their own resources.
Continue reading »

 

Tax credit cravings

 

A WISE man once said, “Remember that credit is money.”

Over the past three-and-a-half years, the governor has managed to effectively “expend” government of Guam revenues without a direct appropriation by the Guam Legislature through the use of tax credits. The Organic Act of Guam provides powers to the legislative branch of government to appropriate funds and authorize for programs, services, etc. to be provided by the government. The governor has been able to circumvent such a basic tenet of our governmental structure-the concept of separation of powers, and checks and balances via separate but co-equal branches of government-in order to unilaterally subject the people of Guam to financing schemes and methods without the details and input from the Guam Legislature or the people of Guam.

The explanations we have heard from the governor is that through offering tax credits, the people of Guam will not have to pay cash for the payment of these tax credits. A tax credit is simply taxes a company owes to the government which it must pay in cash, but instead keeps the cash, which the government should have received for its operations, by redeeming the credit. Although the governor would like to say that the people of Guam will not have to pay for these tax credits, more clearly put, the people of Guam will not receive the cash that it expected to receive to provide the services to the community it needs to provide. At the end of the day, our government will be short the amount of tax credits being provided.

So what tax credits have been provided by the governor, or authorized via the governor’s appointed directors, executive directors, and boards and commission members?

Most recently, the governor authorized about $13.3 million in tax credits to former Layon landowners, which includes Calvo’s Insurance Underwriters. Despite the shroud of secrecy by the governor in trying to cover up or “be silent” on the awarding of these tax credits, the continued efforts by my colleague, Vice Speaker Benjamin J. Cruz has uncovered the truth, wherein these tax credits were authorized through a dormant, almost 40-year-old program that was recently revived in a veiled attempt to pay off certain landowners. To date, we still do not know who was paid, when they were paid or for how long this payment of tax credits has been occurring.
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Crime is not cute, get serious

 

IF YOU have read news headlines lately, you would have noticed an increasing number of stories involving armed robbery, theft, criminal sexual conduct and assault. Public outcry has led to the passage of far-reaching and debatable legislation such as the Castle Doctrine – which I spoke about in a previous column in January.

Our mayors and residents have formed and revamped Neighborhood Watch programs in Dededo, Barrigada, Agana Heights, Agat and Yoña to help their villages tackle crime. The Guam Police Department has had its hands full apprehending those responsible for a number of offenses including a slew of armed robberies. These crimes against our community highlight an underlying gap in our system that must be taken more seriously by public officials. No amount of comically written personal notes can undo the residual harm felt by victims in the wake of such crimes.

“Cute” comments like deporting criminals to the bottom of the Marianas Trench or GPD is coming to get you, Love the Gov, do not highlight the serious crises in crime we are facing. I know from personal experience having been a victim of burglary three times within the past 18 months. We all do not have the comfort of 24/7 private security and sentry gates guarding our homes and most of us are subjected to the realities of crime on Guam.

Just last week, a resident was attacked near the Tamuning baseball field while he was jogging. Three men, unknown to the jogger, approached and blocked his sidewalk access. While trying to run through the group, the jogger was struck with a small baseball bat causing him to fall to the ground. While in a crouched position, the attackers were able to take his pouch which contained his personal effects including a cellphone. After the men left, the jogger tried to wave down cars passing by to help him call the police – no one stopped, no one slowed down. Bloodied and battered, the jogger was able to make his way back to his car and restaurant where he was finally able to call local authorities.

Continue reading »