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FOR IMMEDIATE NEWS RELEASE (April 24, 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), provides his reaction to the issuance of the Office of Public Accountability’s Government of Guam Public Debt Performance Audit which illustrates the growing public indebtedness the government of Guam has experienced over the past six fiscal years. The OPA audit also explains that the payments necessary to service the government’s increased public debt has increased significantly.

“There has been a lot of discussion over the past few years about the government’s ability to borrow money as a result of our debt ceiling limitations,” explained Pangelinan. “In all the discussion, I stated that we focus on the government’s ability to repay the money we are able to borrow given the large increases in government operations.”

As Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Pangelinan has made it a point to ensure that before any debt service and government operations are funded, that income tax refunds are set aside in the annual government of Guam budget. “With the Tax Refund Permanent Injunction requiring that tax refunds be paid within 6 months of filing and knowing that debt service payments are increasing, it is imperative that our government move toward a direction that ensures that we can afford tax refunds, debt service payments, and government operations,” stated Pangelinan.

“I appreciate the Public Auditor’s work in announcing to the public, the facts and data that truly illustrate the government’s increasing debt levels and debt service needs. Public discussion should involve the understanding that it is not how our government can continue to borrow through subverting the debt ceiling, rather, it is what our government can afford,” concluded Pangelinan.

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

 

 

Building a renewable mindset

 

OUR people have come a long way. From using the galaide or carabao cart to transport us from one destination to another, to presently living in a world where, without thinking twice about it, we simply get in our vehicle and go to the local convenience store even if it was just a few short blocks away or buy a plane ticket to get from one island to the next. We have become so accustomed to the conveniences of refrigerators, microwaves and air conditioners. Most of us are only in the infancy stages of adapting our way of life toward more recycling. Reducing the effects of our everyday lives on the environment becomes a topic only when we hear about a rise in the price of oil, and these days especially, when opening our monthly power bill. The idea that we can continue to consume Earth’s – our island’s – resources indefinitely and without consequence must change if we are to ensure we leave a healthy Earth and island as our legacy to our children.

A sustainable Earth as our legacy means that we must move toward a more actively engaged community of recyclers and guardians of the natural environment. We must reduce our energy consumption and seek alternative energy solutions that will help to ensure a livable existence on this Earth in the days and decades to come. We must shift and enhance our thinking, and turn inaction into positive action. We must protect and preserve our natural resources for future generations. We must begin now and it must begin with us. There are many incremental steps we can take beginning with understanding how the environmental movement began.

I was first exposed to the concept of environmental responsibility when I read the 1962 Rachel Carson book entitled “Silent Spring.” The book was a New York Times bestseller that spawned a modern movement toward public health and environmental responsibility. Her book raised environmental awareness on a national level that had not been seen before. Carson and others spurred a series of events that would change the landscape of addressing environmental issues and the importance we place on protecting our natural resources. During a time when most people were oblivious to the impacts their consumption had on the environment and there was little accountability or legal consequence for big businesses, her call to change sparked a shift in the mindsets of many, including me and the government.
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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.
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