A tragic turn in the quest for truth and justice
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2011-02-10
The shocking news that reverberated all over the nation last Tuesday — that former AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) Chief of Staff Angelo T. Reyes was dead due to an apparent suicide — can be considered a tragic turn in the quest for truth and justice.

There is no arguing that after the nine woeful years of the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) regime, Filipinos are desperately seeking answers to many questions, suspicions and odd occurrences during that climate of impunity. However, no right thinking person will wish that the death of Angelo Reyes, under such circumstances, to have been the desired outcome of a probe. The star witness to the AFP corruption probe, Retired Colonel George Rabusa, once the right hand man of Reyes, was tearfully narrating last Tuesday how the news of the death of Reyes had sadly affected him. In a way, all of us are diminished when the quest for truth and justice takes such a tragic turn. We can only offer our prayers for Angie Reyes and our deepest sympathies for his loved ones.

Last week, shortly after being implicated in this unfolding AFP corruption investigation at the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, Chaired by Senator TG Guingona, Reyes called for a press conference where he pleaded with his accusers to exclude his family in the mess they’ve hurled at him. That plea of Angie Reyes to exclude his family could well be an indicator of what prodded Reyes to meet his Maker sooner than we had expected. A good soldier is conditioned to make the ultimate sacrifice for what is held dearest in the heart. That could be people and country. It could also be family.

A long time friend of Reyes, Retired Commodore Rex Robles stated on an ANC television interview last Tuesday that Angie Reyes had felt betrayed. Robles said that Reyes had confided to him that the protectors of indicted former AFP Comptroller, retired Major General Carlos Garcia - were diverting the heat to the late AFP Chief. Robles said that when the focus in the Garcia probe shifted to other possible higher accomplices and protectors, that was when the name of Reyes was floated. For the ends of truth and justice, that must be either proved or unquestionably debunked. If Robles is right, then who are these accomplices and protectors and what were their roles in this alleged plunder?

This sad development should also teach those who are conducting these legislative hearings that whether guilty or not guilty their resource persons deserve humane and decent treatment. Suspicion does not justify depriving any person of human dignity. Legislators should not be passing judgment or behaving like judge, jury and executioner.

If the claim of Robles that Reyes was setup to be a fall guy is neither proved nor debunked, this probe will be haunted by controversy. Reyes is not without genuine admirers. He had a good reputation, especially among his contemporaries in the AFP and the Jaycees, until he shifted allegiance from former president Joseph Estrada, resulting in the ascendancy to presidential power of GMA. The GMA regime became the big blow to the image of Angie Reyes.

Sad as this development is, it cannot be made an excuse to relent on the quest for truth and justice. This tragedy should not even be allowed to lessen the intensity and fervor of the quest for truth and justice. There are good reasons — compassion foremost of these — to feel emotional about this tragedy but the national quest for truth and justice must not waver.

No doubt that this era of DAANG TUWID (straight path) of the President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy) administration has emboldened witnesses to testify against our looters and plunderers. Col. Rabusa said this time and again — that the new climate of P-Noy’s DAANG TUWID gave him the courage and assurance that his testimony will be bear good fruits.

Under the GMA regime, you felt like a threatened species if you decided to become a whistleblower. We all know the difficulties that Jun Lozada encountered when he testified during the ZTE-NBN Senate probe. It was only recently when Jun Lozada was able to return home with his family. You felt threatened during the GMA regime because you sensed then that the government was out to protect the guilty and annihilate the witnesses.

Unlike P-Noy’s DoJ (Department of Justice) which is quick to extend to whistleblowers the witness protection program — can you recall when the DoJ under then Secretary Raul Gonzalez ever offered whistleblowers the safety of the witness protection program? Didn’t Gonzalez transmit more of fear in the hearts of whistleblowers than a feeling of safety?

One of the most memorable statements of Ninoy Aquino, P-Noy’s father, was this: “Filipinos will tolerate corruption but not injustice.” Ninoy proved his own words. The injustice of his August 21, 1983 assassination triggered the historical events that led to the February 25, 1986 People Power Revolution.

We grieve with the family of Angie Reyes over their loss and the circumstances of his passing. However, we Filipinos must not lose track of our greater grief — the decades of injustice and inequity that we must all collectively address.

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