The blare of a high profile suicide on radio. The brain-numbing rattle of a jackhammer outside my window. Reporters on the run. Networks junk regular shows for breaking news coverage. Taiwan closes its doors to Filipino overseas workers. Facebook and Twitter abuzz with the latest on Angie Reyes’ death. Congress and Senate whirl at the thought of continuing the inquiry on Rabusa expose. Defense Committee head Prospero Pichay dragged into corruption case by Rabusa. Fires hit Makati and Quezon City. Rabusa tearfully apologizes for expose on Reyes. Sen. Jinggoy Estrada shelves further effort to investigate Mrs. Teresita Reyes, wife of Angie Reyes, in the military fund scandal. Jolo drowns in freak flood. President Aquino celebrates 51st birthday by renewing his driver’s license.
This week was absolutely insane.
The reported suicide of retired Gen. Angelo T. Reyes, former defense chief, affects us more than we would like to admit. What boomed with the palaver of a Mexican telenovela had the public glued on radio and television as early as breakfast of Tuesday, wondering why a man of such training would shoot himself for so slim a reason as a congressional inquiry.
The idol of the masses, former President Joseph Estrada, was himself grilled during the Jose Velarde hearings years back, made to look obtuse (and overweight) in front page photographs that caught him snoozing during gatherings of dignitaries. Turning 74 in April 2011, after a conviction of plunder, Estrada is just as spunky as his low-waist gang days in LVN Studios.
Feisty former Chief Executive Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, at 4’11” and weight that is so secret even the Internet refuses to divulge it, went through hell and high water dodging flak that could have killed in mid-snore the faint of heart. ZTE-NBN scandal and the $20,000 Le Cirque dinner almost had her reeling from blow after blow in the media. Yet she continues, now as congressional representative of 2nd District of Pampanga. No, she did not slit her wrists.
Why Angie Reyes? Why a military general? Why suicide? Next to the theory of relativity, these may be the most knotty and complex of all questions. No one, for now, can claim he knows the answers. What is certain, however, is the effect the suicide had on those who accused him of pocketing military funds.
The radio interview with whistleblower George Rabusa said it all: the cracks and breaks in each word, the quivering voice, the glossy, teary eyes—these are all signs of not only extreme sadness but, perhaps, guilt. One could almost sense the heavy breathing, the uncontrolled shaking of his hands even from across the television set. The grim melancholy shows itself more vividly during interviews with Rabusa after Reyes’ death. He probably feels he had betrayed a friend.
Will Rabusa now renege on his promise to offer more exposes on the military fund scandal? Hard to tell, although it would be naïve for journalists to say it didn’t cross the whistleblower’s mind. Sen. Jinggoy Estrada recently proposed to shelve any further investigation on the wife, Mrs. Teresita Reyes, as per Jinggoy’s own words: “Kung ako lang masusunod.”
The young Jinggoy Estrada was quite the crime fighter-senator during the congressional inquiry. In fact, a change in Jinggoy was fairly noticeable: a logical train of thought, tolerable command of words and language, the expensive-looking suit and tie—the well-dressed fighter for truth if only for this inquiry. Until Reyes’ suicide.
Inquirer recently published a statement by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, who hurled what was probably the most scathing comment during the Senate Blue Ribbon hearing on Reyes. Now, Trillanes is backtracking, saying that “It was not Reyes,” echoing what Commodore Rex Robles said as the “big fish” behind the military fund scandal.
If the upshot of Reyes’ death forced these senators to take a few paces back, one can just imagine what’s going on inside Rabusa’s mind—the godfather of two of Reyes’ children.
And with moves to scrap the plea bargain deal between Garcia and the Office of the Ombudsman, one can already surmise where all this is going.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s stance was more encouraging: The Senate and congressional inquiry must go on. It must not be derailed for any reason whatsoever. Not the death of one; not the improper apologies of many.
Simply put, the people need to know.
JOEL PABLO SALUD is the chief editor of the Philippines Graphic magazine, the country’s top newsweekly publication under the ALC Group of Publications, which include the BusinessMirror. He is a member of the Unyon ng Manunulat sa Pilipinas (UMPIL) and the Manila Critics Circle. He regularly writes reviews for the Philippines Graphic Review of Literature.