We continue this second of a multi-part series on GovGuam’s theft of hundreds of properties over the years with some answers to questions the first article left behind. And in this part, former Gov. Carl Gutierrez helps to answer Thursday’s cliffhanger: How can you know if GovGuam stole your land and owes you money?
The government of Guam may have stolen your land, and you have no idea about it. Or maybe you suspect the power pole in front of your home is on your property, or wonder why the government easement is so close to your front door. The sneakiest of encroachments would have been accomplished by Guam Waterworks Authority. Their pipes may be running through your land without any non extinguished license to permit such an encroachment.
The bottom line, is that you and hundreds – perhaps thousands – of other landowners may be victims of illegal land takings by the government of Guam, Guam Power Authority, and GWA. And as such, the bill is tolling. As the big voice announces in those TV commercials from big law firms about what some malicious corporation did to lots of Americans: You may be entitled to just compensation.
There’s a popular social media meme of a giant highway sinkhole in Japan that their government repaired within one week. The common theme among Guam commenters goes something like, ‘Why can’t Guam do it like this?’ The commentary on GovGuam’s turtle-paced pavement of roads might be slightly misplaced, though. Nine times out of 10, the problem isn’t the construction program.
Remember how long it took to open the Layon landfill? The decade it took to repair two small bridges in Merizo? The two decades it took to build phase 1 of Maga Haga Highway through Tiyan? The expansion and full repair of Hamburger Road that has never happened?
Layon could not open until the dump trucks could make their way from every point north through the winding road connecting Malojloj. Those trucks couldn’t traverse that road until it was widened in certain areas. That widening couldn’t happen without GovGuam resolving illegal land takings. Similarly, GovGuam couldn’t repair those two Merizo bridges until it had properly resolved encroachments onto private property through eminent domain. The private property issues surrounding the pavement of Maga Haga Highway took four years of intense negotiation to resolve. And the illegal land taking of private property to make way for Hamburger Road is a clusterfudge sandwich no one in GovGuam has the appetite to bite into.
And according to Gov. Gutierrez, these examples scratch only the surface of the issue. Choose any road on a map of Guam, or follow a web of power lines, and you’re going to find places throughout the island, where the government has taken land without going through any legal process. More importantly for the landowners, this means GovGuam may owe you money for something the Constitution and the Organic Act calls just compensation.
That just compensation is what a private property owner – Core Tech International – is suing GovGuam for through inverse condemnation proceedings. The court case, which ironically was started by GovGuam, will decide whether GovGuam should be forced to award a certificate of title to CTI for Ukudu, Dededo Lot 10184-7. According to all recorded instruments related to that land – it’s where GWA operates the Northern District Wastewater Treatment Plant – CTI legally purchased and owns that property. And since GWA is occupying it, not just with the NDWWTP on top of it, but also the utilities running through it, the court battle may very well open a Pandora’s Box, where Core Tech’s exposure of GWA’s land theft leads to class action against the government for land takings throughout the island.
Core Tech attorney, Peter Sgro, Jr., in an interview with Kandit, alluded to the possibility that hundreds of Guam landowners have been dispossessed of their lands by GovGuam. In response, Consolidated Commission on Utilities member Simon Sanchez rhetorically asked where those hundreds are, insinuating Mr. Sgro’s claim was false.
“When this thing going on with Core Tech came out and I heard Simon on the radio asking, where are these hundreds of people,” Gov. Gutierrez said, “well, there are hundreds of people [whose land has been taken].”
The former governor knows the issue well. During his Adelup tenure, he told us in an interview, he attempted to resolve the illegal land takings, but was stopped by his opponents in the Guam Legislature.
He regaled tales – including his own as a private citizen – of the omnipotent GovGuam encroaching and taking land without any due process of law.
“I don’t want to die and neglect these grassroots people,” Gov. Gutierrez said about the lengthy fight for poor landowners he has been in; a fight that got a third wind, when Core Tech stood up to GWA for its own property rights.
His second wind came in the form of legislation he drafted and former Sen. Dennis Rodriguez introduced in the Thirty-fourth Guam Legislature that would have helped to resolve what Gutierrez believes is $1 billion in inverse condemnation. We’ll discuss that legislation in another part of this series.
Gov. Gutierrez has sage advice to help you determine whether your family’s land was partially taken by the government without just compensation:
“If you see something that’s not sitting well, it looks like there’s something in your property, like say for instance [GWA] has their sewer lines there or their water pipes, and you take that to Waterworks and say, ‘You prove that you took this properly! You show me the documents that you had it surveyed, and you took it as an easement!’ The onus is on them, that department, to prove it,” the governor advised.
The governor said the problem with the everyday Guamanian trying to prove this is that the cost of surveying and legal fees are unaffordable.
Gov. Gutierrez called GovGuam’s old habit of stealing land, a “dastardly deed.”
“In those days, the government of Guam was like a bully,” the former governor said. “They just go in and say they’re gonna build a road here and, you know, they don’t complete the paperwork.”
He said the problem happened everywhere. “Any road they opened up,” he said, “they just took it.”
“It’s about time somebody made it right,” Gov. Gutierrez said, expressing his gratitude that Core Tech ‘stood up to the bully.’
As for the theory that many dispossessed landowners do not yet know the government stole their land, he said, “it’s probably because those people passed away.
If you have property near a power pole, or abutting any road on island, or you suspect sewer and water lines aside from your residential use running under your land, you may be a victim of illegal government land theft. Perhaps it’s time you paid attention to the court case Core Tech is waging against the big bad bully. Your claim could be next; hundreds, in fact, may be resolved if the victims of these land takings start standing up to the schoolyard bully.