“The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.”—James A. Garfield
I expected an immediate reaction from Rep. Gloria Arroyo after retired Lt. Col. George Rabusa exposed the humongous pabaon system for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) top brass. I expected her to say, “What? I trusted my generals, how could they do that to me?” Her silence is telling.
The reaction of former AFP chief of staff Angelo Reyes was just as revealing. Instead of immediately calling Rabusa a liar, he responded with, “Can I ask Colonel Rabusa, if, during the time that I was chief of staff, I became greedy? Did I ask him for anything? Did I demand money from him, officially or unofficially?,” and “This amount that you said you gave me, did I ask it from you?”
So Mr. Reyes, it’s not about the illegal act but how one behaved while he was breaking the law? That’s like the bank robber who says, “But I reminded my cohorts there would be no killing, that we were bank robbers and not murderers.” That’s like the rapist who says, “But I politely told her please don’t resist before I bludgeoned her and raped her.”
Rabusa said he and Reyes talked several times before the Senate blue-ribbon committee hearing and, in one conversation, he told Reyes the Senate might ask about the Provision Command-Directed Activity (PCDA) fund, the source of the monthly pocket money and golden parachute for at least three AFP chiefs of staff.
Reyes, according to Rabusa, replied in the vernacular, “How can that be explained? We cannot say it is SOP or tradition. It (PCDA) has no legal basis. It’s internal to the AFP. In case they ask, just explain that it was being done to conform with requirements of the AFP.”
And so Rabusa explained that in the case of one AFP chief of staff, conforming to those requirements meant providing him with P5 million a month, a P50-million golden parachute, travel allowances for his wife, and fun money for his sons. Now Reyes is suing Rabusa and Sen. Jinggoy Estrada.
Bonifacio Alentajan, the lawyer of Reyes, claims Estrada and Rabusa conspired to destroy his client’s good name. The antigraft law, he pointed out, “penalizes public officials who cause undue injury to any party through manifest partiality, evident bad faith, or gross inexcusable negligence.”
The lawyer said, “They worked together so, to me, may sabwatan [collusion] ’yun. Hindi naman maaaring gawin ni Jinggoy ’yun kung wala si Rabusa [Jinggoy couldn’t have managed that without Rabusa], so it appears nag-usap na sila [so it appears they talked before the hearing]. They planned this to attack the name, integrity and honor of Secretary Reyes on the Senate floor.”
Shortly after, Alentajan added, “That was the government’s money, that was not his [Rabusa] money. Why did he give it away? He should be the one sent to jail.”
Well, ass-backward, as Alentajan so wonderfully demonstrated, is one way of looking at a whistle blower’s allegations and turning him into the culprit.
Rabusa complained in an interview about text messages ascribing pecuniary motives for his exposé. My 14-year-old can teach those texters a lesson or two.
His school scheduled a field trip to a drug rehab in Tagaytay. Before the trip, his teacher pulled him aside and told him, “We learned that you have a relative in the rehab that we are going to visit. Are you going to be embarrassed or uncomfortable with that?” My son replied, “No. Why should I be ashamed? I’m proud of him. Proud that he decided to rehabilitate himself.”
So to hell with all those who tried and will persist in shifting the focus away from the exposé and to Rabusa’s past and his motives. Rabusa decided to rehabilitate himself. He opened a can of worms. Now let’s deal with those worms.