01 April 2016

Guam Governor proposes 2016 referendum on political status

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Governor Eddie Baza Calvo
Territory of Guam
"...It’s time we confronted the fact that, for nearly 400 years, the state of the island has also been colonial. It is the unchanged and unrepentant shadow cast upon our unshackled destiny.
Confidence may be the one trigger that can change our colonial state once and for all.
I know that we can do this. We can determine for ourselves the course we will take to achieve the dreams we set. In a sense, that truly is self determination.
But it is incomplete until we exercise our right of political self determination.
Are we ready to determine our future? Are we mature enough to decide for ourselves? It’s funny that no one asked us these questions when they took our determination from us.
  • We survived a wave of disease, war, and genocide brought by the Spanish conquest. Of course we are ready!
  • We adapted 300 years of cultural and political change, together with a Catholic heritage that runs through our veins. Of course we are ready!
  • We sacrificed our identity throughout the 20th Century so that we could be patriotic Americans. We’ve paid our dues, and our time has come.
There’s this thinking among some that Guam is not ready. That we need a guiding hand because, all too often, we fail at what we’re supposed to do. Ask yourselves this, though. What was it that we failed to do? What rules did we fail to follow? And then ask yourselves, who made those rules?
I get it. I understand that we failed as a local government to do some important things in following federal laws. But could it at least have been a partnership for improvement and progress, rather than a parent slapping his child? Could there have been a conversation of two people at the table, instead of a command from the master to his subject? Better yet, could we at least have had a say in those federal laws – laws that we are paying for - with even one vote in Congress? And how about a check mark at the ballot box that counts to elect the President, who sends our sons and daughters to war?
These inalienable rights have been denied us. Yet, even if granted a voice in the U.S. political process, one inalienable right remains and blankets all others. Before you include us, can you ask us if that’s what we want? Because, it has been nearly 400 years since anyone asked us that. It’s been centuries since we had a choice.
Colonial sympathizers are now hopping off their seats to point out that we made a choice in 1949 when the elected Guam Congress petitioned President Truman and Congress for citizenship. Let me explain this for those of you who don’t know the history of these things.
Before the Organic Act, the Chamorro people did not have the freedom of speech or religion in three centuries. The supremacy of colonizers over what we could say and where we could say it was so great that the very language we spoke was forbidden and systematically brought to the brink of extinction. All it took was a paragraph on a piece of paper signed by a Naval captain, and his will be done. But these weren’t the only rights deprived from us. We neither had rights to privacy, trial by jury, property, education, nor the plenary power of local law established by a legislature of our election. We were subjects.
What the Guam Congress of 1949 petitioned the federal government for wasn’t a political status choice. It was recognition of our human rights and dignity, and the application of the law to protect our rights. For what is an island of people and no citizens? It is a colony of subjects.
President Truman, at the will of Congress, transformed us from a colony of subjects to a colony of citizens with human rights. The key part there is, ‘at the will of Congress.’ So, as things go in this world, we should be thankful that in 1949 Congress was populated by enough progressive thinkers, who determined that the Indios of its outlying possession deserved human rights. It was possible then, as it is possible now, that a majority of its members can press a button in the House and Senate chambers and take all our rights away. We are not citizens by virtue of the Constitution. We are citizens by virtue of a benevolent Congress. And what Congress giveth, Congress can taketh away. Some people want to build a wall to keep non-Americans out of the country. I’ve oftentimes wondered whether that wall already exists, and we’re the ones stranded outside the fort. What more if another wall goes up? Will we be considered Americans when we knock at the gate?
The progressive movement of 1949 was seven decades ago. We’ve since established local governance. We manage our finances far better than our federal parent. As measurements of maturity go, we care for one another, we carry the burdens of the downtrodden on our shoulders, we are masters of industries that sustain our economy and propel our workforce, and now, we are confident. Manelu’hu yan manaina’hu… man’mapos manaina’ta… ekunguk yu yan in komprendi este todu i Lina-lot-ta… after almost 400 years, it is time we make a choice.
If we are committed to our self determination, then there’s no reason to wait for another election to pass. There are two triggers to conduct the political status plebiscite, according to Guam law. The first is that an education campaign should be conducted before the vote happens. But in order for the vote to be scheduled, the law says 70 percent of the native inhabitants eligible to vote must be registered to vote.
We can certainly conduct a massive registration drive, but it won’t matter. How do you determine 70 percent of the eligible voters if 100 percent of them aren’t already registered? There is no mathematical way of determining how many native inhabitants must register to vote to meet the 70 percent requirement.
If the Legislature would like to change this law, I welcome it. But this has been a known problem to all of us who served as senators. It is just too controversial an issue to touch. We have to get over that. We need to do what is right. It’s been 20 years!
As the Chairman of the Commission on Decolonization, I have ordered its staff and my office to design a massive education campaign. We will not create any content. We leave that to the academics at UOG, in partnership with the three status task forces. But we will do something that we do well: carry out a winning campaign. Our strategy starts with a major information campaign that helps people understand what self determination is, why it’s important, our history, and the facts and myths of the different status options.
If, by mid-July, indications are strong that voters will be ready to choose, I will ask the Commission on Decolonization to release equal portions of funds to the task forces. The task forces then will have a four-month period, with equal resources, to make their case. This is a realistic timetable for an education campaign. We just have to be committed to it.
As for the changes needed to law in order for the plebiscite to take place in the November General Election, I will not hold my breath. There’s an old saying that if the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain. And go I shall.
Tomorrow morning, I, registered native inhabitant Eddie Calvo, will submit, a draft measure to petition for the referendum of the political status plebiscite. I have organized a campaign to secure the required signatures. I’m not changing any of the status options or even the wording and order of the plebiscite question and choices. A second question will appear below the status choices. It will ask the voter whether he or she was made a U.S. Citizen by virtue of the Organic Act of Guam, which is the definition of “Native Inhabitant.”
We will aggressively seek the required number of signatures, making this a grassroots decolonization effort. If, by mid-July, we determine that the education campaign is succeeding, I will file the petitions, and we will vote – FINALLY – on our political status.
Some may fear this issue or feel removed from it. Look at me, and look at my name. I am the great grandson of an Scotch-Irish-American named John Francis McDonald. The Calvo name? It came from my great great great grandfather, Felix Calvo, a Spanish officer in Manila, whose Philippine-born son married a Chamorrita. Baza didn’t come from the Chamorro language either. I am proud of my heritage as a Filipino, a Spaniard, and an American. I do love America, very much.
But I’m also the descendent of Hurao. His words here, spoken in this city to Chamorro warriors who did not submit to their colonizers, reverberate through my heart. While we all claim pride in heritages and cultures throughout the world, we all owe our lives in paradise to the Lord and to the ancestors of this land. Self determination isn’t about loving or hating the United States. It’s about our right to be part of something, or to be on our own. It’s a choice that was taken from us with the blood of this great man and all those who died so that we could choose. This unfinished business looms upon our heritage. It is our legacy.
The burden of this duty looms heavily on my conscience. I would like to recognize that there are many leaders, past and present, who have taken this mantle. Besides our former governors, the late Speaker Ben Pangelinan – for all that we disagreed on – I bow my head in prayer and reverence for his leadership on this issue. It is something that Speaker Won Pat and Sen. Respicio have been lobbying me to focus on.
But I came to this idea after I had a meeting with Victoria Leon Guerrero, Melvin Won Pat Borja, and Moneka De Oro. They were upset with me a few months ago because of my statements in support of the military buildup. Their point was that if we, as an island community, were to embrace the buildup of a sovereign power in our land, should we not – at the least – determine that this was by the consent of the governed? Should we not at least self-determine how this should move forward in the context of a political status?
Here’s the part that weighs on me, and I’ll never forget it. They said, “You are our Maga Lahe. You are the one we look to first, who should be standing at the front of this.”
They are right. I’m not simply the governor of Guam. I am the descendent of Hurao – I am the Maga Lahe. And while my duty is to the administration of government, my allegiance belongs to Guam and the inalienable rights of her people.
What I’m saying, my dear people, is that, I love America, lao hu guiaya Guahan mas.
Si Yu’us ma’ase yan Hita I man taotao tano!..."

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