Our definition for what a Hero is, and what a Villain is, has deteriorated to the point where the lines are blurred. The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s headline read, “Hero’s burial for Reyes.” ABS-CBN News wrote, “Angie Reyes given special honors fit for a hero.” Business Mirror splashed: “Ex-AFP chief Reyes buried with ‘dignity intact.’” The Philippine Star simply had the best: “ex-AFP Chief of Staff Reyes laid to rest.”
Angelo Reyes received 19-gun salute, and honors accorded a man of his station. The gun salute honors the Office which he served. As a soldier, General Reyes led the Armed Forces to victory against the Bandit Army calling itself the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The gun salute too is for the man who wore that uniform.
Angelo Reyes died without being convicted of any crime. Under the eyes of the Law, Angelo Reyes is innocent. Technically, he died an innocent man.
The Warrior Lawyer wrote aptly about Public Deaths, and about suicide who describes the whole thing as, “those who kill themselves are casualties of one or another’s events which makes continued living unbearable.”
Angelo Reyes simply broke.
The fact Angelo Reyes took his life before he could be indicted of any crime by the state, is a disappointment. The fact that he was indicted on the stage of public opinion by his peers, who are equally, if some— more liable than he was— is also a shame.
One can understand General Reyes’ predicament. How does one defend himself in the court of public opinion?
Without a Truth Commission, without the safeguard like the Office of the Ombudsman to prosecute cases of corruption, without the setup for real justice, how do people protect their honor, and their diginity?
Congress can call hearings in aid of legislation, but it has been perverted into a Court to get reelected. It has become reality television, only sans supermodel eye candy. The Germans have a phrase for the state of our justice system, “Schadenfreude ist die schönste Freude.” It roughly translates to taking pleasure from someone else’s misfortune.
So Angelo Reyes, though not an innocent man— by his own admission, defend what little honor that he had, with his past out to hound him? How does one defend himself, setup as the fall guy, the most evil of men. Oh, he freely admitted his hands were not clean, but the level of the dirt, in his words, and the charges being levied upon him were excessive.
Angelo Reyes did what he thought was his only way out. He spat on the Court that the Senate setup. He got the last laugh. He spat on the system.
Secretary Reyes wrote it eloquently in an aptly titled final words, “Living life without honor is a tragedy bigger than death itself.” Angelo T. Reyes took his own life to regain honor he lost decades ago.
Honor, lest we forget is an adherence to what is right. It is a good name. It is reputation. It is about Integrity; honesty. It is about uprightness. It is about ethics. It is about morals, and principles. It is about fairness, and justness. It is about being trustworthy, and reliable. It is about high principles.
For Angelo Reyes, honor is his reputation. He did keep it. Technically. He can’t be indicted of any crime. He sat on the only court he knew would try him justly. Would it be too far to surmise to ask if he found himself wanting? We’ll never know.
To call Angelo Reyes, a hero, would be too far.
What does it say about our Republic? A nation that elected a President who promised to clean out the Corruption in our Government. This is the same nation who has failed to create a truth commission. It is the same nation that protects the crimes of the past.
For the better part of the last 40 years, our nation has deteriorated. We can not simply say, it was Marcos who was at fault, nor can we say it was entirely the failure at EDSA and its promises that we should lay blame on.
Angelo Reyes’ suicide is an indictment of how low the generations before have taken this nation into. Can we blame their tactical decisions? The generation that has led us to this place in time and while much about it is getting personal gain. Much about it is keeping up with a glamorous standard of living. Much about it is being able to feed the multitude of destitute who look up to the rich as barons and look at themselves as vassals.
In a Republic where Truth, Honor and Justice is perverted each day, there are no heroes, just Villains and Victims. There is no real justice in our Republic. Until the chain of justice from police to investigators to prosecutors to courts of law has been rebuilt with its foundations filled with honor and integrity, we can never find truth. We can never really indict. We can never right our ship of state.
When are we going to start making Strategic decisions, and tactical ones that benefit that strategy?
How can there be honor when we have no baseline for what is right?
Can we be heroes, not just for one week in 1986?
Angelo Reyes eloquently wrote about the tactical choices he made in life. He might as well have spoken for our Race– yes, you and I, who in the last 40 years has been a party to it, one way or another. “I did not invent corruption,” Angelo Reyes wrote. “I walked into it. Perhaps my first fault was in having accepted aspects of it as a fact of life.”
This is the missing manual of honor.