EDITORIAL: I am a hypocrite, and Janela Carrera might be right

By Troy Torres


I am a hypocrite. Let me explain.

In every story I write that is critical of the Leon Guerrero administration, I am mindful to place myself in their shoes. After all, I have some perspective; I used to work for the last administration. I had Janela Carrera's job between 2011 and 2014.

Former Gov. Eddie Calvo NEVER issued an order to mute the media, or to so much as prevent a reporter from asking a question. It just wasn't a thing he would do. His chief of staff, Franklin Arriola, though he wanted to on some occasions, never questioned Mr. Calvo's commitment to transparency - at least to the perception of it. I would have never suggested such a thing.

But would I have done it, if I was told to do it?

Herein lies what likely is the unconfirmed reality of what really happened the day two Thursdays ago that Ms. Carrera pressed the mute button on reporters, who were asking questions about the Pacific Star Hotel corruption scandal.

She muted the reporters, but only after the gist of each question came through. And there sat Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, hearing each question addressed to her, saying absolutely nothing. She could have answered, but she didn't. She even rolled her eyes in exasperation at a question regarding struggling and starving families. (I remember a couple times I cut off reporters in a news conference because their questions were either endless or stupid, and Mr. Calvo would cut me off and answer the questions. Action like that made my job easier. There is no greater menace to the popularity of a governor, once a reporter thinks you're lying or covering something up.)

Lt. Gov. Josh Tenorio visibly was uneasy as the muting was happening. He shot glances at the staff and at Ms. Leon Guerrero herself. He didn't answer the questions either, albeit the questions were for Ms. Leon Guerrero to answer.

Four days went by without a peep from Adelup about the incident and about the larger criticism that the governor has not been honest about a number of issues throughout the public health crisis. Finally, on Monday last week, Mr. Tenorio took to the airwaves, said he was sorry for what happened, and said that Carlo Branch - staff assistant to the governor, and Janela Carrera - her communications director, should apologize as well.

Later that day, Mr. Branch did apologize; and he did something reminiscent of my days in the Governor's Office. He fell on the sword. He said, in all his self righteous indignation, as though Karl Rove and the producers of the West Wing should give him a gold star of political nobility, that he issued the order to mute the media, and that it was his fault.

We've asked Adelup where the apology is from Ms. Carrera that Lt. Gov. Joshua Tenorio said she should issue Monday last week. Every day we ask, and every day we send out a public reminder that she hasn't issued one.

Stephanie Flores, special assistant to the lieutenant governor, told us late Friday night: "Lt. Governor Tenorio stands by his earlier statements and his sentiments have not changed.  It is our understanding that Carlo Branch will be providing a direct response to your question if he has not already done so."

Saturday morning we followed up with both Ms. Flores and Mr. Branch. Finally, late Saturday night, Mr. Branch did write: "I have taken full responsibility for my mistake and issued a public apology.  I am  solely accountable for the direction I gave and this is why I have apologized."

Who, especially if they're at fault, simply refuses to obey a superior's orders to make the matter right with just two words: I apologize.

This is interesting, because under that one roof at Adelup, two very different versions of accountability are coming out: one from I segundu na maga lahi, and the other from a staff assistant to I maga haga.

If the governor indeed had nothing to do with an order to mute the media, and it was just Carlo Branch and Janela Carrera acting on their own, then why hasn't Ms. Carrera said anything, especially with something as fragile as the political relationship between the governor and the lieutenant governor hangs in the balance?

Had Mr. Branch fallen on the sword any day prior to Mr. Tenorio identifying both Branch and Ms. Carrera as the people at fault, then Branch's apology would be believable. But the fact that the lieutenant governor publicly excised Ms. Carrera as well, and that she's said absolutely nothing in defiance of a direct order from the second highest administration official tells me something else about this event - something far more significant than Ms. Carrera's alleged part in this.

This tells me that all of them are covering up for one person, and it isn't Janela Carrera. I doubt they even care that her reputation is collateral damage to the lie that is being perpetuated.

This isn't about an apology any longer. It's not even really about a perceived disrespect toward the lieutenant governor. It's what Ms. Carrera's silence says to us. If she really does have nothing to apologize for - if, in fact, her conscience has compelled her silence - then only one conclusion of what really happened remains: the governor herself told her to press that mute button.

Janela Carrera could resign or be fired today, but we all still will have to deal with Lou Leon Guerrero as our governor for two-and-a-half more years. How many more times will she give an order like that? How many others will take the fall for the governor's own actions that have a direct negative consequence we all will endure? How often will she lie to us in the remainder of her term, and how many more swords will Mr. Branch fall on before the Empress loses all her clothes?

If I were in her Janela Carrera's shoes today, I would have resigned the moment the governor told me to do that. But here's the part that makes me the hypocrite: If, eight years ago, Eddie Calvo told me to press that button, I would have done it, and I would have fell on the sword from the fallout. That makes Janela Carrera a better person than I was, when I had her job.

Lucky for me, I had the better boss.

Now I must shower after writing that last line.

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