Speaker’s Monthly Address: May 2019
Written by Phillip Leon Guerrero on May 17, 2019
Hafa Adai Yan Manana si Yu’ous! Many of God’s blessings to each and every one of you. Guahu si Tina Rose Muna Barnes, the Speaker of your 35th Guam Legislature. I am pleased and honored, to be addressing you – our dear people of Guam.
One month since the 35th Guam Legislature crossed the 100 day mark, a myriad of issues are being addressed to deal with some of the most pressing priorities in our community. The most pressing issue for me as mother and grandmother – is protecting our children. Whether it be from sexual assault, as evident in recent events, to school shootings which have happened in two schools in the mainland recently – our children need to be protected.
We can raise the age which a child needs to go to school, we want them to be educated, to be able to make a living one day and a name for themselves – but we are doing them an injustice, if we cannot keep safe. Since February, along with my Vice Speaker, Senator Telena Nelson, who has oversight on the Committee on Education, Senator Amanda Shelton, who has oversight on the Committee on Youth, as well as Senator Pedo Terlaje, who has oversight on Public Safety, we had called upon the Guam Police Department as well the Guam Department of Education and it’s board to better understand the current protocols in place when it comes to protecting our most important asset – our Children.
At the time, it was discussed to potentially allow for Police Reservists to serve as SRO’s – to augment the shortage of manpower within our Police Force. Now that we have a Police Chief that is proactive, one who is a father to two daughters and one son in middle school, I am glad he has made it his top priority to hire more officers. I would also like to take the time to commend the Leon Guerrero Tenorio Administration for creating a school safety taskforce. The taskforce has been meeting parents, teachers, as well as students, at our island’s various schools, in order to open that line of communication with the community.
While our police force and Lt. Governor are instrumental in making the changes we need in the community, it is the parents, teachers and students who know where GovGuam needs to step up. So I would also like to thank all of you who came out, and if you missed it, please make it a point to attend the upcoming meetings – when it comes to our children, we need everyone’s two cents so that we can make these changes.
School safety is more than just hiring officers, its more than hiring Teacher’s Aide’s and monitors. Bill and Ann Muña taught all of their children that there is nothing more important than family. My father once said, “If someone’s child is hurting and we do nothing to help, we all failed that child.”
I co-sponsored the “LaniKate Protehi Y Famagu’on-ta Act” in 2011 with then-Senators BJ Cruz and Aline Yamashita with the purpose of standing up a task force whose primary focus would be to prevent sexual abuse of children.
Child sexual assault were among the highest number of felonies committed on Guam in the last 2 years. This should be appalling and distressing to every resident of our beautiful island where our lives are all about family and our children. I am angered, saddened and refuse to stand by and allow this to become the norm. I will not fail our children.
It is time for that task force to be re-implemented to propose a proactive approach to prevention. We have spoken with Assistant Attorney General Carol Hinkle Sanchez who is as passionate about protecting our children as I am and she vows to help bring this task force and its mission to fruition.
My mother Ann Muna use to remind me and my siblings that whatever we could achieve by ourselves, we could accomplish so much more — together.
This month is Mental Health Awareness month. Just last week I had toured the Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center. From my last site visit, to the one last week, I can that just by walking in those doors, it’s a day and night difference. When it comes to protecting children, I think the Legislature has done a good job reacting to the events that have made the news recently both locally and nationally. But the real champion is my DirectorTherese Arriola.
Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness center, plays a key role, a proactive role in making sure our children are safe. During typhoon Pongsonwa, the third floor of the facility was destroyed. You’ve seen countless times, how drugs have led to children being assaulted, molested, and victimized. Today, under Therese’ leadership, a detox facility is finally open. It is this proactive mindset, where you make a small investment, and in return, you save thousands by ensuring that a person doesn’t end up at Department of Corrections, and most importantly, the biggest savings of all– one which no amount of money can compensate – a child is not molested.
As graduation is around the corner, I hope that as our eager and talented future change-makers cross that finish line and get that diploma which is a culmination of 12 years of your hard work, you strive to take this proactive approach. Un Dangkolo Na Si Yu’us Ma’ase, I pray that many of God’s blessings be extended to you and your families Yan BIBA GUÅHAN!