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JUSTICE FOR ASHER: Report 2: Joe San Agustin

EDITOR'S NOTE: For the past year, Kandit News Group has been advocating alongside David Lubofsky for the Guam Legislature to repeal the antiquated Medical Malpractice Mandatory Arbitration (MMMA) Act. Mr. Lubofsky lost his son, Asher Dean, to medical malpractice on October 31, 2018 at the Guam Memorial Hospital. In December 2019, Speaker Tina Muna Barnes introduced legislation authored by doctors that feigns reform of the MMMA, but does nothing meaningful to repeal the provisions of the law that price the poor and middle class out of seeking justice for medical malpractice. Other senators have expressed their support for repeal; however the majority of senators have remained quiet about the issue. Kandit investigated the campaign contributions received by the 15 members of the Legislature during the 2018 campaign to see if money talks, and BS walks.

By Jacob Nakamura

(Tumon, Guam) Democrat senator Joe San Agustin, chairman of the powerful ways and means committee of the Guam Legislature, received nearly 20 percent of his reportable campaign contributions from the medical industry in 2018.

According to his election contributions and expenditures reports for the 2018 primary and general elections, Mr. San Agustin received $1,300 from donors associated with the medical industry, out of $7,200 in donations reported at or above $100 a piece.

(Note: the majority of Mr. San Agustin's campaign receipts were earned in fundraisers, where donors bought tickets that were less than $100 each. Guam law does not require disclosure of the identity of donors who contribute less than $100 per candidate in each election.)

The medical industry's considerable interest in Mr. San Agustin's re-election has not yet manifested in action for or against reform and repeal of the Medical Malpractice Mandatory Arbitration (MMMA) Act, which most doctors do not want changed. Mr. San Agustin has neither authored legislation to this effect, nor has taken a stance on the matter thus far.

Speaker Tina Muna Barnes introduced Bill No. 248-35, written by doctors, that provides nominal seed money to defray costs for one or two people per year who make claims against doctors for malpractice. Her bill does not address the due-process-strangling provisions of the MMMA, which is the subject of several lawsuits in the Superior Court of Guam, and the U.S. District Court of Guam.

Medical industry donations into Mr. San Agustin's 2018 campaign include:

  • $100 from Francis Santos, senior vice president for strategic planning and business development at Guam Regional Medical City. GRMC is a party to at least two active lawsuits for medical malpractice that simultaneously challenges the MMMA as an unconstitutional violation of due process.

  • $500 from Fe Ovalles of Guam Marianas Training Center

  • $500 from Ed Ilao, whose family has been a vendor within the medical industry for years

  • $100 from Dr. Henry Garcia

  • $100 from Dr. Dante Garcia

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