GUAM RESIDENTS LOSING FAITH IN PUBLIC SERVANTS

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By Oyaol Ngirairikl

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Feb. 20) - After having seen more than a dozen federal or local indictments against officials associated with former Gov. Carl Gutierrez's administration, some island residents voiced a common sentiment yesterday.

"It's shocking. It's like the ultimate betrayal," Talofofo resident Annie Aguon said of the string of indictments. "At one point, you are full of confidence that these people are in office to protect us and then they're arrested for misusing their power and authority. It makes us wonder, who can we trust? Who can we believe in nowadays?"

Gil Shinohara, Gutierrez's chief of staff, on Wednesday became the 17th public official associated with the Gutierrez administration indicted in federal or local court in recent years, Pacific Daily News files state.

Federal charges against Shinohara include bribery, conspiracy to defraud the Federal Emergency Management Agency, bank fraud and money laundering. Shinohara declined to comment yesterday but he is scheduled to appear in court today to enter a plea.

Aguon and other island residents gave varying reactions to Shinohara's indictment, from Aguon's shock to Yigo resident Alice Garcia's shrug of indifference.

But the residents' comments also had a common thread: They voiced increasing mistrust of Guam's government. And they wonder who's next on the growing list of indicted former local government officials.

Garcia, 32, said she's not totally surprised that various government officials are being indicted on corruption-related charges. She said even the nicest people cannot resist the temptation of what she called the "fringe benefits" that come with the power of their positions.

"People should know better, these officials should know better. But there is so much temptation -- you have people coming and saying 'I'll pay you if you can make sure that ... blah, blah, blah,'" Garcia said. "I guess now we just have to see who's next."

She said she has neither voted in the past few elections nor followed political issues.

She said she has become discouraged that the voice that her ballot is supposed to give her goes unheard by politicians.

Ron McNinch, an associate professor of public administration at the University of Guam, yesterday said he doubts the recent court cases have had much effect on the overall level of trust people have in the local government.

"We study public trust in class like crazy and we've found that 30 percent of the people trust the local government," McNinch said of Guam's scenario. That rate is similar to the confidence level residents in other states have in their local governments, he said.

"Trust is always important, but it's also relative (to the day and) the issue at hand. I don't see this affecting the government in any way," he said.

'Learn from these episodes'

Noel Mallari, 28, of Yigo said residents need to be cautious when they look at the recent federal and local indictments. He said the mistakes of former officials are not reflective of the entire government or the current administration.

"Of course, I'm concerned with the integrity of our leaders, but we have to remember that (the indicted officials come) from a previous administration," Mallari said. "What our leaders now need to do is learn from those mistakes and try not to do the same."

From McNinch's standpoint, Mallari is right.

Current and future officials can look at the cases and, McNinch said, "learn from these episodes and ensure that those lessons will be applied."

Marissa Pangilinan, 41, of Dededo said while she continues to vote, it's disheartening as a voter and taxpayer to know about allegations of corrupt activity in the local government and that there may be very little citizens can do to change that.

She said people are seduced by the power they gain when they are either elected or appointed to a high government position.

"You say 'Do this' or 'Do that' to whoever and it gets done," Pangilinan said.

"But at least the federal (government) and the (attorney general) are cleaning up corruption in the government. That's good," Pangilinan said.

Cora Montellano, 46, said she feels disappointed with the allegations of government corruption.

"These people are supposed to be the model of integrity. That's why we vote for them to do their jobs (while) always thinking of what's right for the people," Montellano said.

A teen said she may not vote in November because she has no trust in government officials to do what's good for the people.

Teiko Aichi, 18, of Mangilao said this year marks her first opportunity to vote.

"I just don't know if I want to vote. What's the use? A lot of these elected officials are all the same. They lie to either look good or make money," Aichi said.

"They do what they want and don't care about the schools and the students and what might happen if they don't do what's right. It's just too much drama."

February 20, 2004

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

 

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