Today, Guam senators are expected to discuss legislation that would address the governor's call for more drastic measures to keep the virus that causes COVID-19 from spreading further on our island.
The governor has restricted people from staying within 6 feet of each other in stores, the post offices and other public areas that are still open. In addition, she has floated the idea of mobilizing the Guam National Guard and Guam Police Department to conduct COVID-19 checkpoints. As described by her administration recently, this plan would allow the checkpoints to turn people around if the reason for their presence on the roads is nonessential. Some senators have proposed fines of up to $5,000 or jail time, or both.
There has also been talk of an islandwide curfew for adults – and the governor, as recently as Wednesday afternoon, said she leaves the time frame and other parameters up to the Legislature.
On one hand, it's good the governor concedes she can't impose curfews on grownups and set up checkpoints to constrain everyday lives of motorists simply by her signature. She at least recognizes her power isn't absolute and she would need the Legislature to sanction these actions.
There are those who agree that Guam needs more drastic rules to keep the public from going around – taking the entire family to the grocery store, for example – and not recognizing that we are in a pandemic.
But restrictions on citizens' movement in public is one thing. It's a whole different ballgame to hear that senators might even consider giving law enforcers the power to break up a family activity in our home and in our yards with our loved ones. What we do in public might be subject to government rules in a public health emergency.
However, we, as citizens, should not be yielding our rights to privacy and protection from unwarranted COVID-19 intrusions into our homes.
We hope the senators and governor know where to draw the line between public good in a climate of COVID-19 fear, and respect for our constitutional guarantees from unnecessary intrusion into our homes and lives.
The governor, in response to calls from some to completely lock down Guam, did say this was impossible "in a free society protected by a Constitution which guarantees certain fundamental rights."
With the governor's statement so far, maybe we don't have to worry too much.
"I believe these are serious measures necessary to save human lives, yet I cannot ignore the fundamental rights of individuals or the legitimate role the Legislature must play in this process," Leon Guerrero stated during a press briefing Tuesday.
We can hold the governor to her commitment.
Now, we turn to the senators. Soon we'll know if we can trust them to be straightforward with us and do the right thing.