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Most senators absent as Dengue crisis grows; Terlaje offers help

Sen. Therese Terlaje

By Johnnie Rosario

(Tumon, Guam) Senator Therese Terlaje was the only member of the Legislature, who was present at the government’s one and only news conference since the Dengue crisis began.

The island’s senators and mayors were invited by the Governor’s Office to a Wednesday, September 18 critical briefing on the issue at 1:30 p.m. that day. Following the briefing was a 4 p.m. news conference. Ms. Terlaje was there, taking notes of the questions being asked and the answers given.

The only other elected officials present were Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero and Dededo Mayor Melissa Savares, both of whom were on the government panel answering questions of reporters.

Kandit yesterday turned its attention to senators, in light of the spiraling handling of the Dengue crisis and growing frustration from residents about the poor management of the outbreak.

We asked senators whether they are involved in helping with the emergency response, if they’ve spoken with Ms. Leon Guerrero on what they can do to help, and whether any of them have prepared any bills to appropriate more funding for the crisis response.

Kandit learned over the weekend that neither the Governor’s Office nor Speaker Tina Muna Barnes had prepared any measures in anticipation of emergency funding authorization for the Dengue outbreak running out. Ms. Barnes said she is prepared to call the Legislature into session, should Ms. Leon Guerrero submit a bill to appropriate money. The Governor’s Office has said nothing.

Speaker Tina Muna Barnes

Ms. Barnes, however, did introduce a bill to update the island’s price gouging laws in response to reports of mosquito-repellant spray cans being sold for more than $12 since the first confirmed Dengue case. (story continues below pictures)

The group of 15 senators is comprised of people, who have the training, ability, and experience to help the governor with this crisis. Vice Speaker Telena Nelson is an officer in the Guam National Guard. Senator James Moylan is an Army veteran. Senators Mary Torres, William Castro, and Telo Taitague all have extensive experience and training in emergency management from the major roles they played as executive managers in the previous two administrations. Senators Sabina Perez. Regine Biscoe Lee, and Amanda Shelton each have emergency management training and experience honed from their previous roles; Ms. Perez as an environmental protection agency bureaucrat, and Ms. Lee and Ms. Shelton as high-level aides to former Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo. Sen. Jose “Pedo” Terlaje is a retired police officer and former mayor of Yona, who has extensive experience in first response and emergency management.

We also asked senators whether they are confident in the governor’s ability to lead this crisis, and in public health director Linda DeNorcey’s ability to manage it. Ms. DeNorcey has since left the island for a conference in Washington, D.C., and to ask for resources from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officials while there. Ms. Leon Guerrero is scheduled to leave island in three days, her itinerary showing her return on October 11.

It is unclear whether the governor will be cancelling her trip in light of public outcry for better leadership of this crisis.

The senators have not returned our requests for comment as of the publication of this story.

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