Thursday, February 10, 2011

Death as a way out: Angelo Reyes's suicide

Speculations and opinions still run high as to the reason for former armed forces chief Angelo Reyes’s suicide. Just today, former Philippine Military Academy (PMA) superintendent, retired Maj. Gen. Leopoldo Maligalig, opined that Reyes’s death was meant to protect the PMA as an institution – obviously from the attack being hurled against it due to the involvement of some of its alumni in the investigation of corruption in the armed forces.

Another former PMA superintendent, retired Maj. Gen. Rufo De Veyra, said he admired Reyes’s courage of offering his life to end the siege on the military institution. De Veyra, and Reyes’s classmates, even compared the deceased general to the Samurais of ancient Japan who perform ritualistic suicide called seppuku or hara-kiri as a way of saving their honor.

Without meaning to disrespect the dead and being callous to the plight of the deceased’s grieving family, on the contrary, General Reyes’s suicide is neither the courageous way out nor the means to protect the military institution from the assault to its reputation and dignity. By cutting short his life, General Reyes gave up any fight he could put up in defense of his innocence and in clearing the military establishment of any involvement in corruption.

As a famous line goes, death has sealed the lips of Angelo Reyes; he buried the truth to his grave. Sure, he denied – although indirectly and with lack of certitude – receiving the P50 million, but with his death how can the investigation on his involvement proceed and make the public believe his claim as against that of former AFP budget officer Lt. Col. George Rabusa, who spoke firmly and in a straightforward manner? How about the alleged several out of the country trips of his wife and that of former AFP Comptroller Ligot, wherein they were given huge sums of money from the AFP coffers? Will the spilt blood of Reyes wash them away and make the public forget?

Comparing Reyes’s death to seppuku or hara-kiri betrays the deceased’s claim of innocence. The ancient Japanese warriors, the Samurais, disembowel themselves to death to avoid capture from their enemies or to restore their honor for committing serious or grievous offenses. Obviously, Reyes was not evading capture from any enemy, unless one is to symbolically interpret his possible prosecution and imprisonment as such. How about restoring his honor? But that would mean he admitted committing a grievous act.

Reyes’s death will not – and must not, in bold letters – close the investigation to the allegations of massive corruption in the AFP. It shouldn’t be a way out as Sen. Jingoy Estrada seems to be inclined to see now, just days after fiercely questioning to the point of humiliating the deceased general.

Indeed, the suicide of Reyes is a sad and tragic event, but the likes of Generals De Veyra and Maligalig should stop putting the deceased general on a pedestal for trying to escape from a difficult situation instead of facing it squarely and putting up a good fight.

Even more, Rabusa and Trillanes should not be berated, not least of which from their fellow Cavaliers, for their zealousness in exposing corruption in the AFP. Rather than see their acts as a betrayal of the institution they came from, Rabusa and Trillanes should even be commended for by ridding the armed forces of corruption through their exposé and investigation, they are trying to restore the dignity of the military establishment. Does not the cadet honor code state: "A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do"? By coming out and spilling the beans, is not Rabusa in fact reporting a violation of the honor code?

Cleaning the dirt – and not covering it up – by allowing the investigation to proceed to its logical conclusion is the only way to end the siege to the military establishment and restore its dignity.

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