Peleliu State Legislature Floor Leader Donald Haruo questioned Vice President and Minister of Justice J. Uduch Sengebau-Senior and Attorney General Ernestine Rengiil why they have “allowed officer Rekemel to become a candidate on a ballot for election in the upcoming 14th Peleliu State Legislature in violation of BPS Regulation Sec. 3.8.”
In a letter, Peleliu Floor Leader Haruo complained that police officer Billy Rekemel has been “allowed” to run for public office even though “it is crystal clear in the policy that police officers cannot be candidates to an elected political office or involved in political campaigns.”
“You are both on records through the national government press conference making it clear that the subject policy must be followed,” expressed Floor Leader Haruo.
Responding to an inquiry from Island Times, Vice President J. Uduch Sengebau-Senior said those police officers who also held elected office were provided letters before that said they had to decide whether they continue to remain as police officers by December 1st. If they chose to be in an elected office, they will be given a termination letter on December 2nd.
Attorney General Ernestine Rengiil in response clarified that Palau Election Commission only asked Attorney General’s Office about the candidates’ criminal records or convictions. She said they only responded to the questions provided by Palau Election Commission and there was no question regarding the Bureau of Public Safety regulations.
When reached for comment, the Palau Election Commission staff said that they only verify eligibility requirements based on the law.
In the letter to Vice President and the Attorney General, Floor Leader Haruo accused the Ministry of Justice of allowing Officer Rekemel to run for the legislature and justifying their decision by saying that if he wins, he can decide to relinquish his position as a police officer and if he loses, he keeps his job as an officer.
Vice President Senior denied accusations. “The letter issued to the officers says that they need to decide by December 1st. If they don’t give up their political position, they will be terminated, which means they will be given a termination letter on December 2nd. Peleliu’s election is December 7th so by then he would already be terminated as a police officer.”
“By filing as a candidate, Officer Rekemel intends to resign on December 1st,” added Minister of Justice Sengebau-Senior. If Officer Rekemel does not give up his elected position as a legislator and is terminated on December 2nd as a police officer, he will no longer have the option of being a police officer.
Under the Bureau of Public Safety regulations, police officers are not allowed to campaign or run for office. Despite the regulations, previous Ministers of Justice allowed officers to run for elected offices. The issue of conflict came up in 2016 and again in 2020. Early this year, the Bureau of Public Safety and the Attorney General’s Office issued a letter to police officers that held elected offices that they have until December 1st to decide which positions they chose to keep as they will no longer be allowed to keep both.
In addition, the realignment of the Ministry of Justice merging other bureaus under the Bureau of Public Safety, brought all law enforcement under the same regulation. Director of Public Safety Ishmael Aguon and Attorney General Ernestine Rengiil also wrote the same letter to all other departments now under the Bureau of Public Safety, informing them of the same policy.
“We stand firm on this policy. No law enforcement officer will be holding an elected office while being a law enforcement officer,” asserted Vice President and Minister of Justice J. Uduch Sengebau-Senior.