News & Views

News and Views 

1 ... Statehood is our future and ultimate destiny

2 ... Replace/amend 1950 Guam Organic Act

 

 

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1 ... Statehood is our future and ultimate destiny

(The following is remarks by  Former Sen. EDDIE DUENAS, Chairman: Guam Statehood Task Force presented at UOG Forum on Political Self-Determination - May 3, 2000)

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          Hafa adai and good afternoon.  Many thanks for this opportunity to speak on a subject that is of paramount importance to our future destiny. I appreciate the invitation to be here and I must commend everyone who are responsible for putting together this forum.         

             Statehood embodies the results of the two previous political status plebiscites on Guam -- in 1976 when the voters chose closer union with the United States, and in 1982 when they overwhelmingly chose commonwealth and statehood over free association,  independence and status quo.

            Statehood has clearly identifiable political parameters; Free Association is independence in association with another sovereign nation; and Independence is standing alone as a sovereign nation.

            Voting for independence or free association is essentially divorcing Guam from U.S. sovereignty.  Statehood, on the other hand, will fully “integrate” Guam into the American family and system of government.  It is an ultimate status with clearly delineated powers and relationships between the state and the federal government. The state has total control on all state matters, exclusive of the powers granted to the federal government by the U.S. Constitution.

            Statehood embodies certain fundamental characteristics shared by every U.S. state on equal footing.  These include:

            (1) State sovereignty or full autonomy on state matters. The state has authority to write its state constitution, set up state government, establish state court system, and enact state laws that could not be altered by Congress.

            (2) Full application of the U.S. Constitution and permanent citizenship conferred with full guarantee and protection under the U.S. Constitution.  The citizenship conferred on the people of Guam by Congress was part of the 1950 Organic Act which also established our civil government.  In a sense, we are a creature of Congress and Congress maintains plenary powers over Guam under the Territorial Clause of the U.S. Constitution.        

            (3) The U.S. Constitution guarantees our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  More specifically, it guarantees under the Bill of Rights  freedom of religion,  free speech, free assembly redress for  grievances; right to own and bear arms; protection of life and property; protection from unreasonable search and seizure, and from cruel and unusual punishment; right to fair and speedy trial; equitable treatment;  right to due process under the law, and protection from double jeopardy and self-incrimination.  It prohibits any person or group of persons from  abusing or misusing  the law or governmental powers to the detriment of another individual citizen or the good of the community.

            (4) As a state, Guam will have active voice in Congress -- through two voting senators and at least one member in the House of Representatives.  This will give us leverage in Congress and enhance Guam’s prestige and status in this part of the world.

            As far as I can remember, we have been clamoring to be treated fairly and equitably and to have a voice in the federal government.  For too long, we have been occasionally subjected to unfair and arbitrary treatment resulting from federal laws, policies and regulations imposed on us without having a say on them.

            Well, having two senators and a representative in Congress would enable Guam to have a say in the enactment of laws and in the shaping of federal policies affecting Guam.  Presently, we have  a non-voting delegate who can participate and vote in committees, but not on the floor of Congress where he could make a difference.

            (5) As a state, Guam residents who are U.S. citizens will be able to vote for the U.S. president and vice president, whose actions do have a profound impact on Guam -- for better or for worse.

            (6)  As a state, Guam will be able to participate equitably in federal revenue sharing, and have greater access to federal programs, grants, aids and entitlements like all the other states do.  Our people would be entitled to receive Social Security Supplemental Income and the Earned Income Tax Credit.  This could mean a windfall for Guam. At present, Guam residents are not entitled to SSSI and the federally-mandated EITC is paid by the local treasury which has been estimated for cost over $60 millions.

            At present, Guam gets whatever Congress decides to give -- and most of the time, less than what we would receive if we were state.

            (7) As a state, Guam will have authority to set up its state government -- comprising of executive, legislative and judiciary branches -- and create state courts and state agencies to provide for adequate and efficient public services to the people.  We will be able to set the qualifications and terms of  office for the governor and members of the legislature, and determine the makeup of the court system. Currently, the qualifications and terms of our governor and our senators are mandated by the Organic Act. To deviate would require Congressional approval.

            (8) As a state, Guam will be adequately defended by the U.S. armed forces from external threat or hostile invasion.  The Constitution provides for the common defense of all states.  Being located in the western Pacific with close proximity to potential Asian threats, it is imperativel that Guam does not experience what it did during World War II when it was left defenseless and eventually occupied by the enemy.

            (9) As a state, Guam will accept responsibilities to the country as all other states do -- these include services in our armed services, contributing support to the federal government  and complying with federal mandates as sanctioned by the U.S. Constitution.  I might add that we are already assuming many of these responsibilities.

            There are many other features of statehood that would benefit the people of Guam.  But because of time constraint, I would not be able to discuss them all at this point.

            Let us now ask this question:  What would happen if the voters of Guam choose Independence or Free Association? Indeed, there would be major deviation in the lifestyle as we know and enjoy today. Consider the following:

            (1) The status quo would be terminated because Guam would no longer be under U.S. sovereignty.

            (2) The Organic Act of Guam would be abolished by Congress and the protection of the U.S. Constitution and federal laws would no longer apply.

            (3) The federal assistance and support we are enjoying today would be terminated.  There goes all the financial help and federally funded domestic programs such as welfare assistance, food stamps, public housing subsidy, Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security, senior citizens programs;  grants for law and order, public safety, historical and cultural preservation; funding for public education and  scholarships, aids and grants; highway construction and infrastructure development funding, and disaster recovery assistance under FEMA will be eliminated. .

            The University of Guam’s land-grant status, the ROTC program, and all the other federal support and assistance the institution is receiving today would be gone, too.

            The military reserves units -- such as the Guam National Guard, Army, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard units -- would be dismantled.          

            Those of us  who were made U.S. citizens by the Guam Organic Act of 1950 are asking pointed questions today.  We want to be assured beyond a reasonable doubt that, whichever way we voted in the plebiscite, our U.S. citizenship and the benefits and protection it provides are not jeopardized or compromised because of the new political order chosen. 

            This is a crucial point that should legally be made real clear by facts based on existing laws or judicial scrutiny, and not on assumptions.

            Some legal beagles say that U.S. citizenship, once conferred upon a person, cannot be summarily taken away by the federal government, unless for a cause.  Proponents of Free association and Independence believe that you can still retain your U.S. citizenship under their form of sovereign government. 

            Yes, it may be possible to live in a freely associated Guam and remain a U.S. citizen.  But if you were to be required to take an oath of allegiance as a condition to live there, then that could be a real concern.

            The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, which has been amended many times through the years, says that a person who is a native-born or naturalized U.S. citizen could jeopardize his or her citizenship “by taking an oath or making an affirmation or other formal declaration of allegiance to a foreign state or a political subdivision thereof after having attained the age of eighteen years...”

            The Immigration and Nationality Act also lists other reasons that could result in the revocation or forfeiture of U.S. citizenship, such as treason, serving in another sovereign country’s armed forces or holding public office.

            Proponents for the other two options may suggest that dual citizenship could be possible.   Pragmatically speaking, can you imagine where your loyalty would be if there was a clash of ideology and laws between the two nations you swore to uphold, support and defend?  Certainly the U.S. does encourage any U.S. citizen to assume or maintain citizenship of foreign state at the same time.

            In fact, the U.S. State Department has this to say:

            “The U.S. government recognizes that dual nationality exists but does not encourage it as a matter of policy because of the problems it may cause.  Claims of other countries on dual national U.S. citizens may conflict with U.S. law, and dual nationality may limit U.S.  efforts to assist U.S. citizens abroad.  The country where a dual national is located generally has stronger claim to that person’s allegiance.”

            The U.S. State Department also pointed out “dual nationals owe allegiance to both the United States and the foreign country. They are required to obey the laws of both countries.  Either country has the right to enforce its laws, particularly if the person later travels there.  Most U.S. citizens, including dual nationals, must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States.  Dual nationals may also be required by the foreign country to use its passport to enter and leave that country. Use of foreign passport does not endanger U.S. citizenship.      

And as the founding fathers of our nations did, let us also pledge and dedicate our lives, our honor and our fortunes toward achieving a bright and promising future for Guam not only for the present but, most of all, for our children and the future generations of Guamanians.

            Dangkulo na si Yuus maase, thank you, and maraming salamat po.

                                                                                                --END-- 

2 ... Replace 1950 Guam Organic Act

       (The following is an article submitted to the Pacific Daily News more than a  decade ago)

        From the sum total of our political experiences, the question is not whether the 1950 Organic Act of Guam should be amended but rather should it be replaced by a Guam Constitution that would facilitate our efforts to address most, if not all, of the problems and dilemmas facing us today.

       No doubt, the Organic Act of 1950 is archaic, to say the least.  In its own wisdom, Congress enacted the Act in the aftermath of WWII with no input from local leaders.  Yes, it reflected the basic desire of our people and our leaders of the time when we were clamoring for fair treatment and equity from the hands of an authoritative naval administration.  We did petition for U.S. citizenship, and in 1936 Francisco Baza Leon Guerrero and Baltazar J. Bordallo traveled to Washington D.C. and conveyed our desire to the administration and Congressional leaders.

        But beyond that, the Organic Act of Guam was entirely a product of the Congress, crafted and put together without any input from the leaders of Guam.  Although it appeared to be well-intentioned, the Act reflected a pattern of civil administration that had the trappings of the authoritative way a succession of naval governors had governed us from 1898 till 1950.   

         We aspired for more home rule but the Act gave us limited self-government.   We wanted a participation in our local government that provides a check-and-balance of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches but the Act installed a governor with sweeping powers.  Granted that through several amendments made by Congress in the past five decades, we were able to gradually enjoy greater local governance.  

          Starting in 1970, we have been electing our governor instead of being governed by Presidential appointee.  A few years later,  in 1972, we also started electing our delegate to Congress, albeit a non-voting position, and the responsibility of providing public education is now vested in the “government” instead of solely under  the governor of Guam.  This enabled the Legislature to establish an elected school board and put public education under its control.  A Congressional amendment also paved the way for the establishment of the Guam Supreme Court.

         But there is another way we can rectify the shortcomings of the Organic Act and provide more home rule for Guam in the meantime.  Adopt a Guam Constitution to replace the outmoded Organic Act; we have been authorized by Congress to do so since over three decades ago.  And we did adopt a Constitution crafted by elected members of two constitutional conventions but, sad to say, it failed to be ratified by the voters of Guam when indigenous rights groups campaigned against it, apparently fearing that it would further cement a closer relationship with the U.S. It was believed that the  activists feared  the U.N. would consider its ratification as tantamount to self-determination.

         Still aspiring for closer integration with the U.S., the people of Guam in a political status plebiscite in 1982 overwhelmingly voted for Commonwealth and Statehood as their two top choices from a slate that included status quo, free association and independent.  A Commission on Self-Determination was established by the Legislature comprising of elected and community leaders, chaired by the Governor Guam.  The commission worked diligently to write a Guam Commonwealth Act which was introduced in Congress by our Delegate.  A series of talks and negotiations between commission members headed by the governor and Congressional and administration leaders transpired for several years, but yielded no mutual agreement on the entire document.

         The Commonwealth Act languished in political limbo, and no efforts have been made to resurrect it in recent years. As an intermediate alternative, we should renew our efforts to write a new Guam Constitution and I call on the Governor and the Legislature to convene another constitutional convention comprising of elected and community leaders.  Staying within the framework of the U.S. Constitution, this convention should reassess our government structure and define in specific terms the powers and functions of our elected leaders and the courts.  Under the Guam Constitution, for example, we can specify what Governor can and cannot do in office and how long his term will be. Likewise, we can restructure the Legislature – unicameral or bicameral -- and determine number of seats and the Senator’s term in office.

         Once approved by Congress and ratified by the voters of Guam, the Guam Constitution would become the law of the land and, once and for all, be able to facilitate in addressing our needs and problems as they develop.  The Constitution could be amended from time to time by the people of Guam, without having to go to Congress.  This would give us more home rule, set Guam on a path  to  statehood.

         In fact, when Guam achieves statehood in the future, the Guam Constitution that we put in place today could be a springboard for a permanent state Constitution of Guam.  Adopting a Guam Constitution does not preclude us from exercising political self-determination or further pursuing more closer relationship/incorporation and eventually statehood; it could be part of Guam’s evolving political process toward our ultimate political status -- the 51st state of the Union. 

 /s/ EDWARD R. Duenas -- Chairman, Guam Statehood Task Force