Author’s Note: I am not personally close to the former Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, later designated as Defense Secretary. But for the sake of goodwill, I am yielding my space to the riposte cum Eulogy of Gerry Cunanan, retired officer and former mistuh of the late General Angelo Reyes, PMA Class ’66, when I made comment over the latter’s death at the cyberspace forum of Overseas Filipino Council. This rejoinder is printed in toto, unedited.
What drove Secretary Angelo Reyes to his death is his passion to serve his country. As a PMA classmate and a bosom friend for almost five decades, I can only remember his life in the military and the civilian government as a journey devoted to an impassioned and sincere dedication to duty. I saw him most closely as an officer assigned to the AFP Retirement and Separation Benefit System (AFP RSBS) where his dedication and honesty in helping manage the pension funds of soldiers, despite numerous opportunities for personal gains, had been exemplary.
During the last few years, most of my talks with him had been centered on what he has been doing and what more he wanted to do for the country. He refused several offers of high paying job as a top executive in private business since to be ultra rich is not among his top priorities. Having seen his utmost dedication to government service, I realized that such has become so much a part of him that he could no longer happily exist any other way.
I can only imagine that Angie promised to himself and to the memory of his mother, whom he greatly loved and idolized, that he would never stop until he has truly made a difference to the future of our country. It is unfortunate that in the process, the system being what it is where no one can be an effective leader without breaking some rules, he learned to take or allow bureaucratic and legal short cuts that everyone else on top position of the AFP is forced to do, not for personal gains but to satisfy operational requirements. He knew breaking the rules had its risks, but he had to resort to it anyway in order to fulfill his vision. The highest level of the bureaucracy and the political system he had to deal with provides no room for stiff idealists. He trusted that he could overcome whatever challenges that his decisions would bring, knowing in his heart that his purposes are noble. He believed that in the end his countrymen would understand and destiny would be on his side.
What he did not realize is that the system which he trusted to vindicate him could turn its back on him. He was appalled by the savage vengefulness of those whom he had hurt while in the performance of his duties and the ferocity of the ambition of those who see him as standing on their way. His enemies knew know no bounds and would not be stopped by rules of decency. They are products of our political system where the meek and honest have no place at the top. His enemies ganged up on him, determined not to stop until he and his family has no more dignity left.
It was clear that his enemies were after his blood. He was remotely placed from the corruption committed by General Carlos P. Garcia but they unjustly focused on linking him to the crime. They twisted facts to pin him down. Everyone who understands the organizational set up at the Defense Department knew that the Secretary of National Defense had only policy control over the AFP disbursement system. His enemies I am sure also knew this but they crucified him just the same before the public.
Angie realized that he has no match against the joint effort of his powerful enemies. It was clear that his enemies had completely wiped out his ability to pursue his all consuming goal. He found himself without the only way of life he could happily live–a life of passionate dedication to the service of his country. Worse, living longer would only bring more undeserved dishonor to his family and the institutions he loved very much as his enemies could not be stopped destroying everything that is deeply attached to him. Defeated, he must have realized that the only way he could make his life useful is to offer his life as a sacrifice for his family and his country.
If Angie’s act of sacrifice would lead the nation to an overhaul of the rotten system where good men like he truly is can not succeed while sticking to the rules that they are meant to practice, then his death would not have been in vain.