MANILA, Philippines - On the eve of the funeral of the late Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) former chief Angelo Reyes, family, friends and former colleagues paid their last respects.
In a 5-hour necrological service on Saturday evening, a long list of speakers shared fond memories of the late AFP chief and Cabinet secretary, tried to make sense of his death, and offered thoughts as to why Reyes might have taken his life.
Reyes's former aide, Lt. Col. Edgardo "Boogie" de Leon, shared that he believes Reyes took his life to save the military institution.
Reyes allegedly believed that he was the main target of a demolition job and the AFP was just dragged into it.
Edgar Flores, mayor of Minalin town in Pampanga, said Reyes valued his family, honor, the military institution, all of which were attacked at legislative hearings.
These hearings were initially meant to investigate a controversial plea bargain agreement that allowed former military comptroller Carlos Garcia to walk free after 6 years in jail for plunder charges.
|The five sons of former AFP chief Angelo Reyes gave their father one final salute.
Retired Gen. Raul Urgello shared how Reyes, who was his bunkmate when they were plebes at the Philippine Military Academy, used to be poked fun at for his big-sized head.
"That may have made him brainy," quipped Urgello.
"But that was actually an advantage because he had a very big cap. After breakfast, marami syang naisa-saksak na pandesal (inside his big cap)," he shared.
De Leon, a former Reyes aide, also recalled how the former chief would scrutinize the metal accessories of the men in uniform who paid him a courtesy call.
Reyes apparently had always emphasized that a soldier reporting to the highest ranking military officer should be in his snappiest appearance since it instills the discipline on how the men in uniform also pay their respects to their own immediate superiors.
"Early this morning, as I was putting the badges on this uniform, I took a second look and momentarily paused. I couldn't help but recall the days when Secretary Angie Reyes... would scrutinize them. More often than not, a military visitor would end up polishing his metal more to meet his (Reyes's) standard," he shared.
Reyes's singing buddies Bayani Fernando and Joey Lina also shared how they had much fun in crooning their way into the public's hearts. Collectively known as the "Manila's Three Tenors", they sang all-time classics usually in fund-raising events.
Fernando and Lina reminisced how their audience would sometime be more tense than they were. "Natatakot (because Reyes was the) secretary of national defense, (Fernando was the) head of MMDA (Metropolitan Manila Development Authority), and I was head of the police," explained Lina, who used to head the Department of Interior and Local Government .
"Pag kami nagpe-perform, walang makaalis," chuckled Lina.
Anti crime crusader Teresita Ang-See also spoke of her fond memories of Reyes whom she egged to take the post as the government's Anti-Kidnapping czar.
"He became our pillar in that anti-kidnapping campaign," Ang-See said, noting how different agencies, that were at odds with each other, accepted his leadership.
She shared how Reyes did not kowtow to the demands of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) when a Chinese-Filipino with American citizenship was kidnapped years ago.
The FBI did not want the rescue effort planned by the Filipino team, but Reyes was "brave enough to make that call (to proceed with the plans) and the boy was rescued," Ang-See said.
"He was conscientious and focused. He restored our faith in the government's ability to combat the kidnapping menace," she said.
Discipline and honor
Meantime, De Leon, a former aide, shared how Reyes, then the defense secretary, dealt with 2 undersecretaries who used to be his superiors.
When the 2 would have shortcomings, Reyes would call their attention, but, De Leon stressed: "There was no humiliation."
He added that Reyes "never maligned anyone in public, not even his subordinates. He (Reyes) may have scolded them in his office for their lapses, but it has been his practice to praise them in public."
Urgello, a PMA batchmate, also shared how Reyes has always been fond of reading books, including those by British philosopher Bertrand Russel.
"He (Reyes) was the philosopher of class 66, while Commodore (Rex) Robles was the philosopher of class 65," he noted.
Robles, who has been vocal about Reyes's theory that Reyes was linked to the Garcia plea bargain deal to divert the focus of the Senate investigation on military corruption instead of identifying the people who benefited from Carlos Garcia during his time as military comptroller.
The investigations took an unexpected turn when former budget officer George Rabusa, Reyes's friend, surfaced. Rabusa alleged that top members of the AFP were receiving monthly payoffs and that former Reyes was one of those who received a send-off money. Reyes retired from the AFP in 2001.
Reyes had categorically denied the allegations and went on to file a libel case versus both Rabusa and Sen. Jingoy Estrada. The latter convinced Rabusa to appear at the Senate hearings and reveal the payola system in the military.
Rabusa also made allegations that the wives also benefited from the malpractices in the AFP. Estrada was preparing to summon the wives of the AFP generals. The following day, Reyes killed himself.
In his speech, Robles scored the flawed justice system and Malacañang for allowing the legislators to humiliate and dishonor him through the Garcia link.
In an emotional response, Reyes's son Marc thanked everyone for their kind works. He described Reyes as "an honest public official aware that the system is flawed but still tries and never loses faith.
As a last act of respect, Reyes's 5 sons gave their father one final salute.
Reyes will be laid to rest on Sunday, Feb. 13, at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.
He will be given full military honors, including a 19-gun salute and flower petal drops during the procession, and a 21-gun salute when the body is interred.