Senators put pressure of Customs chief during testimony - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Senators put pressure of Customs chief during testimony

Posted: Jul 10, 2018 4:53 PM Updated:

A turn of events happening during the acting Guam Customs director's confirmation hearing held Monday night. The discussion begs the question - will Eric Palacios continue to lead the agency entrusted to protect Guam's borders? But senators put most of the pressure on the agency's chief during his testimony.

It was a hearing no doubt expected to be controversial. The focus - Eric Palacios - who has only been in the position for about two months. "When Mr. Palacios first came on board in May, he immediately had made some seemingly premature and arbitrary organizational changes without first getting advice from the Chief of Customs, myself, or his leadership team as a whole," stated Colonel Vincent Perez.

But, public safety oversight chair Senator Telena Nelson was quick to turn the discussion then grilling Customs Chief Perez, during his testimony on Palacios. "He made this decision without you, no?" she asked. "How was he able to move the special enforcement teams without your purview?" Perez responded with, "There was a memorandum that was generated that transferred these particular sections under my signature."

Senator Nelson added, "So you felt pressured to sign the memorandum?" with Perez replying, "I felt obligated to support my boss."

Chief Perez also admitting it was after he let loose then opening up to Palacios that he eventually realized his potential, saying, "It's been only a short couple of months and despite his rocky start, I have seen the effort by Mr. Palacios to ensure that consultation matters related to the agency is made in collaboration with his leadership team. I am hopeful that if confirmed, Mr. Palacios will proactively continue to work with our management team and stakeholders to move forward and champion our efforts to build capacity for the agency to provide effective and efficient services to protect our borders and our people from narcotics, invasive species, bioterrorism, terrorism, and other threats that can impact our people."

Perez speaking on Palacios's interaction with uniform Customs personnel, to include increasing education and training, efforts to add about $10 million to the approved Fiscal Year 2019 budget and more.  But, it seems that the overly praiseful testimonies from supporters like Assistant Chief Colonel Philip Taijeron Jr. might have raised speculation elsewhere.

"It's evident that you've been working on it since before Director Palacios came into play, but it gives the impression that this only occurred when he came in May, a couple of months, and so my concern is you're either failing as the chief, or something's not adding up here" said Nelson.

Additionally, Dr. Vanessa Oshiro of Mariana's Vetcare opposed Palacios' leadership, bringing up his open support to the legalization of recreational marijuana during his 2016 senatorial campaign.

Despite the discussion, Palacios is ready to continue his work at the agency, as he said, "Honorable senators, I'm not sitting here to ask you for a job for the next five and half months. What I am here to ask you is to bestow upon me the privilege of having 175 more days with the men and women of Customs and Quarantine Agency."

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