UFC fighter's attorney: Hotel quarantine 'simply a disregard of their rights'
GOING HOME: UFC Fighter Roque Martinez throws up a peace sign as he prepares to leave the government quarantine site on Saturday night. Nick Delgado/The Guam Daily Post
Nick Delgado | The Guam Daily Post
UFC fighter Roque Martinez and his mother, Odessa Martinez, have been granted their request to be released from the government of Guam’s quarantine facility at the Dusit Beach Resort in Tumon.
The Martinezes were among the Guam residents whose petitions to quarantine at home were argued before Superior Court of Guam Judge Elyze Iriarte on Saturday.
“They qualify to be exempt from the quarantine requirements,” Iriarte said during a virtual hearing held Saturday. “I am not reaching any decision at this time to the due process rights but a release from quarantine is warranted at this time. ... I am ordering Public Health release them to home quarantine at this time.”
The pair have been in quarantine for five days. The Martinezes flew into Guam from Las Vegas on Monday night.
Roque Martinez was called to testify late Saturday by Assistant Attorney General Sandra Miller, who represents the Department of Public Health and Social Services.
“My trip was very quick and I thought I could do a home quarantine,” said Roque Martinez. “The last I believed was that a returning resident could do a home quarantine.”
The Martinezes arrived on Guam with negative test results for the virus.
He testified that he was never informed of his right to legal counsel before being placed in quarantine.
However, Miller had Martinez read a form during the virtual hearing that informs passengers of their due process rights. He said in court that he did not sign the form and that it was only dropped off to his hotel room.
The UFC fighter said in court that he prefers to be at home, as he does not believe he is a public health risk and is not experiencing any symptoms of the disease.
Odessa Martinez said she too returned with a negative test result and told the court she didn’t believe she should be quarantined.
“They are simply asking the court to have them quarantine at home,” said their attorney, Jacqueline Terlaje. “There was simply a disregard of their rights.”
The government asked that the court have the petitioners remain at the hotel and complete their quarantine “like everyone else.”
Three others have since won their cases after the court ruled that the Department of Public Health and Social Services failed to let arriving passengers know of their due process rights.
Terlaje, who also represents Marcus Lang, questioned DPHSS Director Art San Agustin.
“Do you think you have the authority to hold people in a government quarantine facility?” said Terlaje.
San Agustin said passengers are placed into mandatory quarantine as required by the governor’s executive order.
He testified that any exemption “depends on what they present to us.”
Lang, who is being held at the military quarantine facility at the Westin Resort Guam in Tumon, was also called to testify. He’s been fighting to get out of quarantine, claiming to be an essential worker.
Lang has also been spending $176.48 each night for his hotel stay along with food expenses.
“I am still confused why I am at a DOD facility,” said Lang, who said he believed that among his options after he returned from California on Sept. 8 would be to be placed in the government of Guam quarantine facility or in home quarantine with restricted movement.
“He’s a licensed engineer and plays a big supporting role in the safe arrival and departure of commercial ships to include Guam’s cargo. It sounds to me like his employer is asking you to please let Mr. Lang go to work. That they are in need of his service,” Terlaje said to San Agustin.
DOD had denied the request by Lang's employer, Cabras Marine Corp., for him to be released from quarantine.
Lang told the court that after he arrived at the A.B. Won Pat International Airport earlier this month, he was initially allowed to leave. But on his way to his job site at Apra Harbor, Lang got a phone call that there was an issue with his documents and that he needed to return to the airport immediately.
That’s when Lang found out he would have to be quarantined in the DOD facility.
He said he complied to avoid paying a fine or having any criminal charges filed against him.
Lang has spent about 11 days at the hotel at his own expense. He decided to take legal action after he wasn’t getting any updates on his situation from Guam Buildup Office Executive Director Vera Topasna, who is also the liaison to DOD.
Lang contends he was never told of his rights - that he could refuse quarantine or that he had thge right to hire an attorney and challenge his “incarceration” before the court.
“I have no choice in the matter,” said Lang. He doesn’t object to a quarantine with the COVID-19 situation, but he said he doesn’t agree with the “fashion in which he has been quarantined.”
Terlaje called Topasna to testify as well.
Topasna testified she had been working on Lang’s case and agreed with the local health director when he concluded that he would not override DOD’s denial of his release or restricted movement.
That information was apparently never given to Lang. He has since tested negative for the novel coronavirus on Sept. 17.
Topasna said in court that she felt she did everything she could to help Lang.
Miller asked the court to dismiss the complaint, arguing the court has no jurisdiction over the case as Lang is being held in a DOD quarantine facility.
"To say that GovGuam is the one who forced Mr. Lang into military quarantine where his constitutional rights have been violated is just a dramatic misstatement," Miller said. "If you do find jurisdiction, then we ask Mr. Lang be transferred to a GovGuam (facility) to complete his quarantine."
It was said in court that a total of 102 passengers who arrived in Guam since the start of the pandemic in March have tested positive for the virus.
“Mr. Lang’s due process rights have been violated,” said Terlaje. “It doesn’t matter if the Westin is a five-star hotel ... a prison is a prison.”
Terlaje contends the court has jurisdiction over the case since DPHSS was involved.
“We live in the United States of America where we have due process rights,” she said. “The court has heard that DPHSS had a blatant disregard for his circumstance.”