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Back Opinion The Guam Code Annotated is not a playground

The Guam Code Annotated is not a playground

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AS has been a legislative practice, senators last week passed a bill which contains a mysterious section that would not be accessible to the ordinary laymen unless interpreted by legal experts.

We are referring to Bill 271, whose main intention is to remove the Guam Police Department’s authority to use private legal services. The bill mandates the Attorney General’s Office to provide legal service to GPD.

A single-line section was inserted into Bill 271 during its discussion on the floor. The new section, introduced by Sen. Adolpho Palacios Sr., repeals a provision of an existing law that allows the rehiring of a former police or fire chief provided they were not “removed.”

This amendment was not included it the original version of the bill that was publicly heard.

The amendment found its way into the bill on the heels of acting chief Frank Ishizaki’s announcement of his plan to rehire former police chief Paul Suba, who was forced to resign last May amid the controversy surrounding the search on KUAM and the questionable promotion of John Edwards as police officer.

It couldn’t be any clearer that the amendment was aimed at blocking Suba. After all, Senator Palacios is apparently not fond of Suba and he has never concealed it.

The amendment may not have any legal impediment but the prospective of applying it retroactively is constitutionally problematic. The constitution doesn’t allow new laws to cover a situation that occurs prior to the law’s passage.

Regardless of anyone’s personal opinion about Suba, we agree with Ishizaki that the bill—in case the governor signs it into law—cannot legally apply in the former police chief’s case and cannot be used as a ground to block his return to GPD.

Senator Palacios, nevertheless, has clarified that his amendment “is prospective, not retroactive.”

But that is beside the point.  We do not find anything wrong with the existing law that allows the rehiring of a former police or fire chief provided he or she is not “removed for a cause.”  If we are to base our conclusion on the legislature’s habit of introducing bills in response to a particular situation at that particular time, we would be inclined to believe that this particular law might have been enacted to accommodate a particular individual.

But that, too, is beside the point. The existing law doesn’t need to be fixed.

We are troubled at the legislature’s whimsical decision to tinker with public laws that otherwise should stay intact. We are troubled by the senators’ penchant for turning the Guam Code Annotated into their playground.

Critical documents such as the GCA should only be used to fix inequities and not for political purposes or for short-term fixes.

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