SMEAR CAMPAIGN MARS GUAM GUBERNATORIAL RACE

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HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, September 19) – Guam Democrat gubernatorial candidate Robert Underwood and his running mate Sen. Frank Aguon Jr. said yesterday Gov. Felix Camacho's administration was behind recently distributed fliers depicting Underwood as anti-Filipino.

The Underwood-Aguon camp alleged that governor's staff assistant John Vega has been linked to the racially charged fliers. Vega couldn't be reached for comment as of press time last night.

The Camacho-Cruz camp yesterday refuted Underwood's allegations. Camacho is seeking a second term in office with new running mate Republican Sen. Mike Cruz.

Underwood, who held a press conference yesterday on the fliers, acknowledged that the race issue involving Guam's Filipino community also surfaced in the previous gubernatorial election, but the people behind it were anonymous. Underwood lost in the 2002 gubernatorial race to the Republican team of Camacho and Kaleo Moylan.

But in the recent situation involving fliers painting him in a negative light, Underwood said, "it is clear it is the Camacho administration doing this."

Voters will decide who becomes Guam's next governor during the Nov. 7 General Election.

Underwood said his record as a former member of the U.S. Congress shows he is not anti-Filipino. For example, he said, he helped many Filipino families reunite by advocating for their immigration cases and helping Filipino-American veterans.

"In order to hold on to power, they create racial division. This action is shameful because it compromises the harmony we as a community have nurtured over the years," Underwood said of the Camacho-Cruz campaign team. Camacho is seeking a second term with new running mater Republican Sen. Mike Cruz.

Underwood said instead of conducting a "gutter campaign," he would like the campaign to be based on such issues as the recent shortage of blood supply at the Guam Memorial Hospital, and the recurring water problems in Agat and Santa Rita.

Witness presented

During its press conference yesterday to deny the allegations in the recent fliers, the Underwood-Aguon team presented a witness, Eva Ybanez.

Ybanez, an auditor with the Guam Visayas Mindanao association, said Vega, who works at the governor's office, was handing out such fliers at the group's meeting Sunday.

Vega is a staff assistant to Camacho.

After the Underwood-Aguon press conference, the Camacho-Cruz team issued a press release to respond to the allegations.

"Regarding Mr. Vega, this campaign has not and will not make any attempts to encourage or suppress any individual's right to express their opinion even if they are employees of the government, especially on issues about which they feel strongly," the Camacho-Cruz team said.

Vega was not home when called for comment.

In its press release, the Camacho-Cruz team responded to Underwood's allegations. "The Camacho-Cruz campaign had no involvement in the dissemination of any information regarding discriminatory statements against any race or ethnicity made by Robert Underwood," the Camacho-Cruz team said.

Additionally, the press release first treats the flier's allegations as factual, but later backs off, stating that Underwood should respond "to the allegations that he has made strong discriminatory statements against Guam's Filipinos throughout his public career, rather than trying to place blame on anyone who feels compelled to inform the public about those racist comments."

Causing divide?

Ybanez said Vega approached her husband, who was in the same meeting, and gave her husband one of the fliers. She said Vega told her to keep flier and give it to the Underwood-Aguon campaign.

"I don't like the fact that they are trying to divide the Filipino community using false allegations," Ybanez said, reading a statement during the Underwood-Aguon press conference.

About two dozen members of Guam's Filipino community were in attendance during the Underwood-Aguon press conference in a show of support for the Democrat gubernatorial standard-bearer.

The flier that Ybanez said Vega handed out quotes another Filipino community member, Lloyd Umagat. The flier quotes Umagat as saying: "Only the new Filipinos who do not know about Robert Underwood will support him. I will never vote for Underwood."'

Umagat stood by Underwood's side at the press conference yesterday, and said he's been supporting Underwood since the 2002 gubernatorial election.

"When I saw the flier, I was surprised that some of my friends on the other side would go to the extent," Umagat said, of quoting him out of context.

In the 2002 gubernatorial election, Umagat said his friends and family made an analysis of whom to support between Camacho and Underwood by looking strictly at qualifications of both candidates.

"I call all Filipinos who owe nothing to this administration to support us," Umagat said.

Aguon said Guam voters haven't condoned smear tactics.

"Over the course of our campaign, we've focused on real issues," Aguon said.

He said when statements about Underwood are untrue he must stand up to defend his running mate.

"I have never thought negatively of Filipinos and these accusations, though a repeat from four years ago, continue to be wrong and hurtful," Underwood said.

In the previous Guam General Election, about 17 percent of the registered voters said they were born in the Philippines. About 58 percent said at the time said they were born on Guam.

[PIR editor’s note: According to PIR archives, Robert Underwood was awarded the Philippines Presidential Merit Award for "steady leadership in promoting stronger cooperation and mutual understanding between the Philippines and the United States through legislation". ]

September 19, 2006

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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