Guam Lawmakers Consider Bill Eliminating Statute Of Limitations On Sexual Abuse Charges

Alleged victims of Archbishop testify strongly in favor of ‘opportunity to seek justice’

By Haidee V Eugenio

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, June 28, 2016) – 

Individuals who recently accused Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron of sexually molesting them or their loved ones when they were altar boys in Agat in the 1970s testified Monday in favor of a bill that could lift time limits on filing lawsuits against child molesters.

Eighteen of the 19 who testified urged senators to pass Bill 326-33, and some of them suggested changes to the legislation that would make it more protective of victims. One person took a neutral stance on the bill.

Arizona resident Walter G. Denton, who accused Apuron of raping him when he was a 12-year-old altar boy, flew back to Guam from the mainland on Sunday just to testify in favor of the bill.

“Please, give us Agat boys a chance to achieve some measure of justice and closure in our lives,” said Denton, the first to testify on the bill introduced by Sen. Frank F. Blas, and heard by Sen. Frank B. Aguon’s Committee on Guam U.S. Military Relocation, Public Safety and Judiciary.

While the Catholic Church is investigating the allegations against Apuron, there have been no charges filed against the archbishop. Apuron still holds the title of archbishop, but is not currently in charge of the local archdiocese’s operations.

Denton said Bill 326-33 would give all victims of sexual abuse, “within or outside the Catholic Church, the opportunity to be silent no more, because it now gives them recourse to be heard.”

“It will give victims like Roy, Sonny, Roland, and me, our parents and families, and to those victims too afraid or intimidated to come forward, for fear of being called a liar and arrogantly mocked by a powerful archbishop, his advisers and allies in the Catholic Church, some measure of justice and closure to the heinous crime that was inflicted on them,” said Denton. “The scar will never go away, but it can start to heal.”

Roland Paul L. Sondia, who said Apuron molested him when he was 15, said no amount of time should limit any victim of child sex abuse to file charges. Sondia works at the Pacific Daily News as an information technology manager.

“We pray and hope that upon the passage and signing of this bill, other victims will come forward so that they can begin the long road towards healing and recovery,” said Sondia, now 54.

Roy Quintanilla, now a Hawaii resident, who also said he was molested by Apuron when he was 12 years old in Agat, had his written testimony read by his niece, Sharleen Santos-Bamba.

“Is it fair that a sexual predator be allowed to get away with molesting children because they’re protected by statutes of limitations? Please do the right thing and lift or abolish the statutes of limitations for child sexual abuse,” Quintanilla said in his written testimony.

Quintanilla said “no child should ever be denied the opportunity to seek justice for a heinous crime based on statutes of limitations.”

“Coming forward is not easy and only victims know when the time is right. Is it fair that I not be allowed closure or justice for what happened to me as a child?” he added.

Attorney David Lujan is representing the four Apuron accusers.

‘I was molested, too’

Doris Y. Concepcion, another Arizona resident who said her son told her before he died 11 years ago that Apuron molested him, also testified in favor of the bill.

“If you pass this bill, I want to take Apuron to court ... so the truth will come out,” said Concepcion, an Arizona resident who also flew to Guam. The ashes of her son, Joseph “Sonny” Quinata, were recently laid to rest at the Guam Veterans Cemetery, 11 years after he died.

Concepcion also said in public for the first time that she, too, was molested as a child and she couldn’t say anything to anybody.

She said she suffered in silence for more than 60 years “and I know what they’re going through.”

“And the thing that I couldn’t help my son, it just kills me because somehow I felt it was my fault. If I have known I would have done something but it was too late so now I’m here in front of you to plead my case, please let’s help our kids, let’s protect them,” said Concepcion.

The mother said she grew up thinking one cannot talk about sexual abuse, nor allowed the neighbors to know because it would be a family shame.

Another individual, Jonathan Diaz, also addressed senators at the Guam Legislature in Hagåtña, and said a seminarian who later became a priest sexually abused him when he was 13 and 16 years old. Diaz said nobody believed him when he came forward in 1991.

“You didn’t believe me. Believe them,” Diaz told senators, while pointing to the four other accusers of Apuron seated in the packed public hearing room of the Legislature.

Diaz ran for Guam delegate in the 2012 election and entered the 2014 gubernatorial race as a write-in. Diaz also testified during a hearing in 2011 on two bills that addressed the issue of child sexual abuse.

John Vincent Pereda, who testified Monday, said, “Justice should have no expiration date.”

Mary Lou Pereda also testified that Bill 326-33 is “long overdue” and should be “unanimously passed.”

“It will open the door for other victims to pursue a civil lawsuit,” she added.

Joseph A. Santos, who founded the Silent No More movement, said once the bill is passed, “the governor should sign it as fast as he can.”

‘Access to legal system’

Sens. Aguon, Blas, Speaker Judi Won Pat and other senators present at the hearing thanked the victims for coming forward and for showing bravery. They acknowledged it’s not easy for victims to come forward.

Most of them expressed support of the bill.

“Sadly, many victims of child sexual abuse have not been able to proceed with civil claims against perpetrators because those claims have been barred by statute of limitations.”

“Once passed, this legislation will give these victims at least access to the legal system,” he said.

At the end of the public hearing, Aguon said the Committee would continue to receive written testimony on Bill 326-33 10 calendar days after Monday’s hearing.

He said he would work with Blas, the main author, in making amendments, should they be necessary.

Guam lawmakers in the past temporarily gave victims of child sexual abuse a two-year limit to file a lawsuit, and that window has closed.

This bill would not restrict the filing of a lawsuit against a child sex abuser or child molester who committed the act before this bill would become law, according to Blas.

“There is no restriction on retroactive cases,” he previously said.

Former senator Robert Klitzkie, in his testimony on Monday, said the reason why the previous law, Public Law 31-07, failed was because it has provisions that discouraged counsel from undertaking representation of child sexual abuse to seek justice.

Pacific Daily News
Copyright © 2016 Guam Pacific Daily News. All Rights Reserved

Rate this article: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Add new comment