Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Untimely death always leaves us battered. 

Shocked, confused and reeling with questions about life volatile and treacherous, we confront an awful fact we do not want to think about.  That death can come any moment for any one.  That each and every one of us has a deadline.  And that death requires no explanations.  Death will come to anyone and eventually to everyone.

But suicide is another matter all together.

When someone reaches that certain point to decide to end his life,there must be something more to ponder than the inevitability of mortality. Fate decides on how far we go and what we have to go through. But faith decides on the moral weight of suicide.  

For certain beliefs, the ultimate mortal sin is to end one's life for whatever reason.  

More than a sin, it is a manifestation of cowardice. Irresponsibility.  Perhaps even heartlessness.  For how can anyone end one's life without taking into consideration the guilt, shame and even torture that remains to the people left behind?  How can suicide bear any semblance of dignity or honor if it leaves so many questions unanswered?  

Suicide does nothing but leave the burden of proof to the beloved who must now bear the cross of having to face people and justify an act so final. Suicide was never and will never be a solution: taking one's own life opens a whole new set of questions without answers. And that is what makes it all the more unforgivable.

For the Catholic faith, suicide is one of the gravest of mortal sins.  He who takes his own life cannot lie in state inside a Church ... much less laid to rest on hallowed ground.  The Catholic God is He who gives life ... and only He could take it away. That is non-negotiable.

Yet for certain cultures, suicide is the ultimate solution --- the final answer.  When one's honor and dignity has been so tarnished, it is one's responsibility to society to terminate this present existence. It is not a matter of saving face: suicide is a gesture of honor to prove that he who owns his life feels he no longer deserves it.

The untimely death of General Angelo Reyes left all of us in a state of shock.

As early as half past eight in the morning, Tweeter exploded with a string of news about the retired general being shot.  Almost immediately the netizens were fixated.  While ANC continued its coverage, the greater the feeling of bewilderment and confusion.  There was a feeling of chaos.  Moral chaos.

Was it not just last week that General Reyes sat across the senators to be questioned and grilled about the alleged fifty million peso pabaon he received upon retirement?   Was it not just yesterday that the name of his wife, Teresita Reyes, was dragged into the whole Ligot scandal and buffoonery?  Things were happening far too fast --- like a series of sequences of some predictable suspense thriller --- with too predictable twists and turns that you somehow cannot believe that this was happening in real life.

But it did. And it happened. Before the morning was over, the entire net was exploding with the update: Angelo Reyes killed himself.  

He visited his mother's grave as it was the anniversary of her death. He was with his two sons and his aides.  After his company left him alone with what they may have thought was his need for private moments, he stuck a gun to his chest aimed at his heart, pulled the trigger and sealed his silence forever.

Reactions to this startling piece of news left almost everyone breathless.  

No one was asking why he could have possibly done such a morbid and final act: everyone had a dozen answers.  Shame. Stress. Fear. Guilt.  Whatever.  At this point, it did not matter.  But there was one glaring truth: here was a man who presented himself as upright, intelligent, calculating, precise.  From all accounts, he was a gentleman soldier who rose from the ranks, a valedictorian in his high school in Cubao and became one of the most influential if not powerful men in the military and the government.

Here was the Angelo Reyes who turned the tide in EDSA II: his defection to the People Power crowd marked the end to the long-drawn battle to expel President Estrada from the Palace. Here was Angelo Reyes who stood by the side of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and who served her administration in a variety of capacities from Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces to Secretary of Defense to the head of the Department of Interior and Local Government ... up to the Department of Energy, etcetera, etcetera.

All those years of public service culminating in ...what? 

An all out media circus of a scandal involving hundreds of millions of pesos and dollars stolen from the coffers of the military funds out of a practice of institutionalized theft?  

A humiliating discovery that the money meant for soldiers fighting in the fields was being used as pocket money for junkets of general's wives and dole-outs to legislators, auditors and perhaps even janitors who help keep the machinery of precision debauchery well-oiled and silently working?  

Fingers pointing to people who were looked upon as heroes, authority figures and benchmarks of integrity --- now diminished to mere petty thieves who actually usurp the money belabored by taxpayers?

The mourning has begun ... and words are spoken both carefully and with sweeping generalizations, both praising and condemning the man and the deed.  The day has become more saddened by the shattering of ideals --- and the persistent question as to why a man of such strength --- he who was once the bastion of the country's defense --- chose to answer the challenge in such a fashion. 

Was this not an admission of guilt? Or was this his way of sparing more harm to people who were close to him ... or who he protected ... in the event that the inquiries snowballed into a fiasco so great to reach the level of the politically catastrophic?  Was there indeed nobility in his act? Was this his sacrifice ... or a convenient but unforgivable escape?

No, we cannot forget the achievements of a man who has dedicated almost four decades of his life to the military and the government.  For indeed, despite all that we feel and think about him because of all the brouhaha happening at the Senate and the Lower House, we still cannot deny that Angelo Reyes played a vital role in our contemporary history and governance.

But that is the irony of it all.  Like untimely death, honor can be so volatile. One mistake. No, let us say a series of mistakes that have been kept quiet and even glossed over because these were considered acceptable practices ...that was all it took to destroy of a lifetime worth of pride.  

For right is right and wrong is wrong. And just because everybody else does something wrong ... that does not necessarily make it right.

And sometimes we have to pay with our own lives in our attempt to bring back what we thought was correct or out of our despair knowing that the consequences are far too great confront.  But that does not make it right either.



  1. very well said mr. joey. i am more bothered, affected of his death than when my mobile phone was snatched.i dont know him personally but i have high regard for this man, now everything has been shattered.. all those men in uniform, so dignified and so proud, has been tainted with questions that will never be answered. how could i gain back my trust to the Filipino Men in Uniform.. i am a Filipino, I am a Taxpayer, I am a government employee... i do my share... I DESERVE TO KNOW THE TRUTH... :(

  2. Minor detail: It is Twitter, not Tweeter.

  3. Courage, Integrity, Loyalty...

    These were the three cardinal virtues by which Ret. Gen. & Former Sec. Angelo Reyes was formed to abide with during his prime years at the Phil. Military Academy.

    "They form the vertices of the triangle that bind the limits of the sphere of his conduct. This triumvirate of manly virtues is the basic pillar of a cadet's character." – Brig. Gen. Jose M. Crisol, PMA '42

    Indeed these virtues are the standards inculcated to be an honorable gentleman and a leader in uniform serving the country.

    Out of these three cardinal virtues, Integrity is the most important of them all. Quoting further Gen. Crisol on the matter; "This trait of character is the most important of the three. The other two may be disregarded but never, never this second. Strike out the second and a cadet or any man for that matter will be a wretch, a scum of the lowest stratum of society, an abominable creature who is a living dead."

    INTEGRITY, by which meant honesty, uprightness, moral soundness.

    With the recent events that unfurled on the life of Gen. Reyes, his Integrity as an honorable gentleman got stigmatized and blemished together with those fellow career officers with the allegations of millions of peso pocketed by them, extending as well the money trail to their family, may have further negate his state of mind to that of which in the military lingo a living dead, a hateful pest that is unwanted in the army and in society, so unbecoming of a professed protector of the weak and the defenseless to which they are sworn in and took oath as a career military men.

    “Sorry” was the last word Gen. Reyes uttered as his shocked children and aides rushed at the scene on top of their grandmother’s grave and found him lying on the ground holding a gun.

    Gen. Reyes may have resolved to the ancient way of committing seppuku, to be put out of his misery so that he may die with dignity and not to be further subject to public humiliation, to be seen waling in his own pain in front of people he remained courageously loyal to.

    That may be an honorable end to his career but this act of seppuku may also have been done out of shame, to which the ancient way also dictates to persons who looses their integrity and thus must deal with the self inflicted pain and die like a sick dog.

    We may never know what was truly happening in his mind at that time and with his death, we further would not know the truth behind the scandal to which his name was inflicted with.

    Gen. Angelo Reyes was courageous and loyal … and he will be remembered as such.