CORRUPT GUAM GOVERNOR MADE HISTORY IN 1720

By Tony Sanchez

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, April 25) - The first and highest official to be prosecuted for corruption and abuse was Spanish Gov. Juan Antonio Pimentel. He was a Peruvian-born illegitimate son of the Viceroy of Mexico, the Marques de Mancera. The 65-year-old governor took office Aug. 22, 1709.

In 1720, Gov. Gen. Fernando Bustillo Bustamante initiated the judicial proceeding of Pimentel in Manila, primarily because of his favorable treatment (in 1710) of English pirates who had seized the Manila galleon off the coast of Mexico. The pirates later put into port in the Marianas for supplies with the renamed captured vessel.

Before the judicial proceedings were over, local charges were added against Pimentel, made by Jose de Quiroga y Lozada ("The Tyrant"), the notorious commander responsible for the near genocide of the Chamorros. He died in December 1720, a month after Gov. Luis Antonio Sanchez replaced Pimentel. Quiroga lived on Guam for 40 years, having never become governor and spending his last 10 years fighting Pimentel.

Following is a summary of Quiroga's letter to King Phillip IV, enumerating Pimentel's corruption from the man who almost obliterated the Chamorros. Translated by Marjorie Driver, it underscores the misery the once self-reliant Chamorros endured.

The first charges Quiroga cites are how Pimentel imposed and personally profited from forced labor that received little or no compensation. This included fields that were also pilfered by the alcaldes (district leaders). Quiroga notes:

"This is also the reason the islanders do not take care of their own fields, because they have to leave the best land for the governor and spend most of their time and efforts on his behalf.

"In some partidos (districts) they receive nothing to eat; consequently, if they are married, the wife must fetch food for her husband. If they are single, they must take turns: while one goes in search of food, the other remains to take care of the pigs and chickens. Even on feast days, they are unable to attend Mass. ... All this is done on the pretext that it is for the common good of the infantry, whereas in reality, it is for the private benefit of the governor, who sells the chickens, hogs, lard and oil (except for what the alcaldes steal to sell for themselves or to give to their friends) to the very same soldiers at exorbitant prices."

Quiroga charged that Pimentel partially distributed government-owned fish and game, selling the remainder for profit. Quiroga added "in nearly all the partidos of this island of San Juan (Guam), the governor orders wine and aguardiente to be extracted from the coconut trees, then he has it sold at exorbitant prices for cash in the guardroom or at his store."

The next charge involved forced labor at government facilities.

"The islanders could be exempted from the work at the Apurguan estancia (ranch), which for them is the most unbearable, because they have to leave their homes and wives and then be treated worse than slaves at the estancia. They could be freed from this if, as the padres have advised the governor to do, some Malavar slaves could be brought in for this purpose from Manila, where there are many cheap ones."

Quiroga also called for reduction of troops on Guam: "Finally, it would be a great relief to these islanders if the presidio were reduced to 50 or 60 troops ... enough to maintain the required submissiveness of such a small number of islanders, who are already Christianized and subjugated. There are now more than 130 men, Spaniards and Filipinos, at the presidio. That many troops serves only to oppress the islanders and fill the governor's pockets with pesos and the island with scandals."

Quiroga's next charge involved the governor's store, the only one on island. "Almost everyone, whether Spaniards or Filipino, is constantly in debt to the store. ... They know full well that the governor will eliminate the plaza of any man who draws all his salary. This has happened to many for this reason alone -- among them several old men who have faithfully served Your Majesty at this presidio for many years and who have suffered through many hardships with me during this conquest."

April 25, 2003

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

Tony Sanchez is director of Superior Court and editor of "Guahan/Guam:

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