Haunted by the ghost of Angie Reyes
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2011-02-13
Senators Antonio Trillanes IV, Jinggoy Estrada, Miriam Santiago and AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) corruption scandal investigation star witness retired Lt. Col. George Rabusa must be coping with varying degrees of guilt feelings over the suicide of Angelo T. Reyes. If you were in their shoes, after the roles they had played in pressuring Angie Reyes to do what he did — you have to be conscience-less not to be affected.

Perhaps because he is not a politician and has a lesser ego to pander to, Rabusa was more forthright in admitting that he had inflicted a deep hurt on his former boss, Angie Reyes, thereby contributing to his decision to end his life. Rabusa was gentleman enough to seek the forgiveness of the family of Angie Reyes although he was quick to qualify that he will pursue his mission to expose what he knows about the AFP corruption scandal.

Contrasting with the humility of Rabusa to acknowledge inflicted injury — Senators Trillanes, Estrada and Santiago hardly showed any regrets or sadness over the tragedy that most of media and the nation feel they significantly contributed to.

Estrada expressed sympathy for the Reyes family but quickly added that he does not feel guilty for doing what he claimed was his job. Was it his job to be boorish and embarrass Reyes during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Hearing when Lt. Col. Rabusa was first presented? Was it Estrada’s job not to even allow Reyes to defend himself when he tried to ask Rabusa a question?

Perhaps fearing a political fallout after seeing the praises that were being heaped on the late AFP Chief, Estrada proposed to leave out the family of Reyes in the future hearings. Some conviction this Senator has! If he was so sure of the complicity of Reyes and his family in this AFP corruption scandal — just what kind of a Senator is he to now offer to give those he previously accused a free pass?

Sen. Santiago was the height of insensitivity and devoid of Christian compassion for the family of Reyes when she stated, right after the suicide was announced, that the death of Reyes does not save his family from further investigation. Considering that Reyes had pleaded for his family to be excluded — that was just about one of the lowest points Santiago went down to. Before committing suicide, Santiago called Reyes “one of the greatest morons in history.”

Sen. Trillanes was either really uncaring or too driven by resentment perhaps to have uttered “That’s just how life was meant to be for all of us” when asked by media for his reaction to the suicide of Reyes. Coming from a history of reckless and irresponsible actions which had already landed him in jail — it did not occur to this arrogant Senator that he was not empowered by his position to prematurely pass judgment on any Filipino, to say that he does not have a reputation to protect.

Trillanes is an elected legislator — another major mistake of the Filipino voters — but he does not even respect the presumption of a person’s innocence sans any presentation of evidence, due process and conviction. What gave Trillanes the right to say to Reyes in front of a nation following the Senate hearing live on television that he does not have the right to defend himself and has no reputation to protect? He only had his own personal opinion of Reyes and the say so of Rabusa. No documentary evidence, no due process, no cross examination of a hostile witness and yet Trillanes acted like judge, jury and executioner by declaring that Angie Reyes had no reputation to protect.

Even Lt. Col. Rabusa acknowledged in an interview with ANC’s Karen Davila that Trillanes went overboard and that the Senator’s unexpected boorish treatment of a Mistah (fellow graduate of the Philippine Military Academy or PMA) must have heavily impacted on the late AFP Chief. A Mistah is not supposed to do that to another Mistah, especially one as senior to Trillanes as Reyes was.

Senator Gringo Honasan expressed the need for civility in the Senate hearings. “We can moderate the conduct of our hearings so we can take into consideration the reputation, the name, the future of the children and grandchildren who have nothing to do with this issue,” he said.

Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile confirmed that boorish behavior does not have a place in the Senate. “You can ask questions, exercise your right of cross-examination, but you have to be very circumspect in the words that you use in asking the question and the manner you ask the question,” Enrile said.

A STAR online reactor registered this comment in a February 9 news story about the Senators that pushed Angelo Reyes to commit suicide: “Section 21, Article VI of the Constitution, states, “The Senate or the House of Representatives or any of its respective committees may conduct inquiries in aid of legislation in accordance with its duly published rules of procedure. The rights of persons appearing in or affected by such inquiries shall be RESPECTED.”

Another STAR online reactor stated: “No, you don’t have to explain because you don’t have any reputation to protect,” Trillanes told Gen. Reyes during the Senate hearing. Imagine a lieutenant telling his Chief of Staff dead on his tracks when the latter tried to explain the goings on at the AFP Command. The Looney navy man should have been more respectful to a higher ranking officer and fellow graduate of the PMA. …Senate hearings MUST be done in aid of legislation which is its mandate but recent hearings are for maligning people they hated, fodder for negative publicity and an aid for grandstanding.”

The Senate and the Congress should announce to the nation just what exactly is the code of conduct for Senators and Congressmen during hearings and investigations — clearly stating what is considered undesirable and un-parliamentary behavior. This should be presented before every Senate and Congress hearing.

For those Senators with blood on their hands, let’s all pray for them.

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