I know what abuse of power looks like. I have survived it. Public corruption assaults our trust in the efficient use of our taxes, and the sense of justice we expect of government and its officials. Violent crime raises uncertainty for our family, our loved ones, and ourselves.
But abuse of power; it is controlling, petrifying even. There is nothing more toxic, nor violative and imprisoning. And I state that, even having been a survivor of child rape, often thought to be the greatest violation of a person.
There is no secular power greater than the government, with a rare exception. Think about it. It is not hard to imagine how someone’s abuse of power in government – that is, harnessing the awesome powers of the government against you – can damage you irrevocably. The government is the richest organization in either Guam or the CNMI. It commands the largest workforce. It has the power to make laws that limit us. It can arrest us, and deprive us of freedom. And as we’ve seen during this pandemic, it can enjoin our lives to its edicts on a whim. What can be done about it? Truly? How does one, wronged by the government, challenge its authority?
Let’s say you’re on food stamps, and to keep your benefits rolling, you need to turn in continuance forms quarterly. It’s not hard to imagine a bureaucrat losing your form. Then, your food stamps run out. You call and you get upset. That government bureaucrat knows he made a mistake, so he covers it up by lying. He says it was your fault; and because it is your fault, you can’t renew for another quarter.
You speak to his supervisor, but it’s too late; he already told his story. His supervisor is protecting him. It’s not hard to surmise that the agency director will back up the supervisor. After all, that supervisor is bringing the deer kelaguen to the governor’s next campaign pocket meeting. Who are you, but a lowly resident on food stamps? The entire system wronged you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Take the more serious case of Nicole Chargualaf, who is pleading with the Civil Service Commission. A campaigner for the governor illegally sent her a fundraising ticket while she was working at the Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center. Then, when she called out the misconduct, she received a call, and she was threatened. According to her complaint, if she did not tow the line for Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero – and she was told to remember she owed her job to the governor – then there would be dire consequences.
Ms. Chargualaf is not the only government employee this is happening to. Throughout the government of Guam, and the Commonwealth government, the incumbent administrations are threatening rank and file employees to support the governors, or else. These are people, who struggle paycheck to paycheck to afford a life for their families. Lives that have become extraordinarily expensive, ironically, under the administrations of these very governors seeking reelection.
Good corporate citizens become victims of abuse of power, especially when politicians make them pay to play. They sully their otherwise clean hands with the sliminess of politicians on the take. And if you refuse to play by the campaign rules of the incumbents, you can forget ever having a shot at a fair contract, or at programs designed to assist small businesses.
And then there’s the worst abuse of power – the kind that corrupts justice and employs the power of arrest to silence dissonance. We heard an FBI agent in the federal trial of disgraced Mayor Jesse Blas tell the story of the kidnapping and false imprisonment of Vickilyn Manglona Teregeyo. We listened as the agent said law enforcement officers knew about it and let it slide.
On March 31, 2021, several Guam police officers raided a home with a search warrant showing a different address. They stole the homeowners’s surveillance system, thinking that would conceal the crimes they committed that day. They didn’t expect that the cameras would record to the cloud. That footage clearly showed a member of the governor’s executive security team taking a crowbar to mounted television. Another portion of the surveillance featured police officers discussing the planting of fingerprints at the scene.
About three years ago, a woman who worked for CNMI DPS commissioner Robert Guerrero filed a handwritten complaint of sexual assault against him. The complaint detailed the threats against her, and how scared she was. Despite this, nothing has ever come about from that complaint. Gov. Ralph Torres refuses to discuss it at all.
Police corruption, the ultimate abuse of power, continues to go unfettered and unpunished.
Politics in the Mariana Islands are becoming disgusting and far removed from the culture our ancestors handed up to us. The political fields are cesspools of operatives doing the bidding of politicians who want to remain in power at all costs. Behind them is the awesome power of the government. Their abuse of that power is nearly omnipotent, for what are we in the lowly doldrums of the powerless and non-incumbent to do?
The answer is simple. The only reason these politicians resort to abusing power is because they’re so scared of losing it. And nothing scares them more than an election, especially when they are so rabidly unpopular. These operatives and campaigners, they bully the rank and file and the common man and woman because they have no other way of staying in power. Because, truly, they are scared of the power the collective everyday citizen in Guam and the Commonwealth have. And that power is harnessed on election day. The rare exception to the extraordinary power of government is the power within a free citizen who dispossesses the bonds applied by the bullies and stands up for herself and himself.
Will you be that rare exception? In other words, will you be exceptional?
Take it from me, someone who has spent years entrenched in power politics. Nothing is more exhilarating, electrifying, or liberating than telling a politician to eff off. Not much else in life rivals the absolute freedom of telling someone trying to extort you in politics that they can take their politics and shove it where the sun don’t shine. #freedom