Malou Mangahas and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) should be congratulated. It is a singular honor, this privilege of sharing with the nation former Armed Forces chief of staff Angelo Reyes’ musings on mortality.
I must admit feeling bewildered, however, by the title, “A warrior comes clean in last battle for honor”. I am afraid it gives the late Mr. Reyes too much credit. And Mr. Reyes already does much of that, starting with the implied claim of having lived – and died – with honor.
I must have been reading dictionaries from Mars. After reading the article and transcript of what will forever stand as Reyes’ last testament, I still don’t get it.
Admitting that something stinks in the Armed Forces (despite the big number of honorable men that serve it) isn't exactly like gifting us with the Hope Diamond. Everyone knows about the stench, including and especially the men on the bloodied fields who make do without the privileges Mr. Reyes' enjoyed.
(Mr. Reyes famously said he was not rapacious, was not an extortionist. What people really wanted was a clear answer as to whether or not he accepted P50 million in pabaon and a monthly allowance of P10 million. What people will remember is Mr. Reyes saying he does not remember accepting. His last testament shows no sign of a reinvigorated memory.)
I appreciate the fact that the Mr. Reyes wanted to accept liability for something. I appreciate that he did not flinch at “giving up something” – his life, as it happens. I appreciate that he admitted not being guiltless.
Mr. Reyes mused:
“Honor, truth, but there must be justice. And justice can be served if laws are applied evenly and well – not favoring the rich and powerful. I hope my case/situation will not be used as something that would bring closure to the issue of military corruption. The fight to reform the system and the entire country must continue; the sad part is that they are selectively targeting individuals and institutions.”
That is hardly an original thought. It is, in fact, the cry heard daily in the hundreds and, sometimes, thousands of posts on Facebook and elsewhere. It is the cry that rises daily from ramshackle eateries and coffee shops, jeepney stops, factories and farmlands.
Millions of Filipinos despair of the filth that chokes off routes to development in this country. Millions wonder if we will ever cleanse the nation’s arteries of this plague. Yet the same millions, even just by speaking out, show a willingness to continue with what sometimes feels like a thankless, hopeless task.
Mr. Reyes could have done the nation a great service. He could have fought the last great fight to show genuine remorse for presuming regularity and accepting a “grossly imperfect system” – which is an understatement.
But coming clean isn’t done by sketching vague WHATs, and barely there HOWs.
Of all people, a general knows that victory must necessarily start with a map with the right information. That is never any guarantee, of course; there are too many volatile factors. But it sure would help clarify the playing field.
Instead, we are left with murky directions, other than what we already know: That the rot did not start nor end with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. And even that he couldn’t relay in clear, concise terms.
So, forgive me for not being impressed.
It may be that we ordinary folk may have a different, erroneous definition of honor.
Maybe, as we have all been told directly or obliquely this past week, we ordinary folk have a missing gene that blocks us from understanding that suicide is a heroic act of saving so many "brave and honorable" – and stunningly wealthy --men and women and the institution they serve.
Maybe there IS something wrong in the genetic makeup of ordinary folk -- including tens of thousands of soldiers who face death daily. Why is it so hard for us to understand that it is to the troops’ interest that they are kept ignorant of how billions of pesos -- meant to sustain them in the trenches and fetid jungle trails and godforsaken hamlets -- ended up in the bank accounts and mansions of a few men and women?
So many men of stratospheric IQs, including former President Fidel V. Ramos, want us to know that truth can be a dangerous thing, that it would be cruel to let a man torn apart by bullets know that these killer ammo originally came from boxes marked “DND” of “AFP” or “PNP”
The soldiers know about conversion. We know about conversion; Fe Zamora wrote a darn good story on it a couple of years back. We know conversion is a shortcut. We know it is sometimes used to save lives and ensure battlefield victories.
Now we all know that conversion gives but crumbs to the troops. Now we know the bulk of conversion proceeds are used to purchase apartments from Donald Trump, mansions in exclusive subdivisions, dozens of shopping trips and god knows how many twirls from a DI.
Unfortunately, all we get from Mr. Reyes are crumbs of the truth. He may have set himself free, but it’s a long road to freedom for the rest of us. Mr. Rabusa has his work cut out. As do the friends who finally convinced him to come clean (though we’d like to also hear an accounting of Rabusa’s wealth).
Mr. Reyes spent a lot of time talking of EDSA 2 and the woes this has visited on him. I hope it gives him some comfort to know that the only reason Jinggoy Estrada ended up playing a prominent role is, because those who supposedly trod the straight and narrow balked from the challenge of helping an institution come clean and confront the rot from within. The coming days, hopefully, will tell us WHY.