Gen. Angelo Reyes, an honorable man

Sec. Angelo Reyes's 5 sons gave their father their final salute

As a doctor I always wrote on topics regarding health, but in here I will veer away from it.  The topic regarding Angelo Reyes got me hooked.  The news surrounding the death of retired Gen. Angelo Reyes continues to dominate the news.  He died on Feb. 8, 2011 of apparent suicide by shooting himself on the chest in front of his mother’s tombstone amidst allegations of corruption in the military. He was laid to rest today at the Libingan ng mga Bayani with full military honors.

I am writing from a perspective of a distant observer. I just felt the compulsion to share to you my take on this issue. As I continue to follow this story I found myself transforming from someone indifferent and even biased towards him to a sympathizer. All throughout the week, news and allied stories regarding him continued to dominate the headlines of different local TV channels. A victim a trial by publicity now he is getting a fair treatment that he was denied of in life, not only in the course of the corruption scandal, but during his stint in politics. He was always pictured in bad light. And as stories of him surfaced, as relayed by the people who knew him more, do Filipinos discovered a different facet of him that was worthy of our admiration. He was truly warrior to its core, a man of honor and integrity.

Who was Gen. Angelo Reyes?
Sec.Angelo Reyes as he takes his oath before a senate probe

He had humble beginnings. He was born in March 17, 1945 to a family of educators. Both of his parents were teachers, from whom probably he got his love for learning. He finished valedictorian in high school and the 7th in the top 10 in his class in the Philippine Military Academy. He earned 2 master’s degree: Masters in Business Administration from the Asian Institute of Management and Masters Degree in Public Administration from Harvard University, Massachusetts, USA.

He was an accomplished and decorated military officer, receiving multiple awards, such as Award of the Distinguished Service Star with 1st Bronze Anahaw Leaf after the Silver Anahaw Leaf (7th Award of this kind), Philippine Legion of Honor (Deg of Commander), Philippine Legion of Honor (Deg of Commander). He held key position in the military. He was Commanding General, Southern Command, AFP (Covering the whole of Mindanao ) and Commanding General of the Philippine Army. In 1998 he reached the zenith of his military career when he was chosen as the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) by President Joseph Estrada.  

He was instrumental in the success of EDSA2 revolution, when he withdrew his support from Pres. Estrada.  He said it was an extremely tough to decision to make. Estrada was a friend to him. But he needed to put the nation's interest above everything else. On the other he gained the favor of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who later appointed him to 4 cabinet positions: Secretary of Department of National Defense (2001), Secretary of Interior and Local Government (2004-2006), Secretary of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (2006-2007), Secretary of Department of Energy (2007-2010).

Necrological services for him were held last night at Camp Aguinaldo. Testimonials and fond memories of Angie Reyes as shared by his friends and colleagues, the people who worked with, who had the chance to know him and understand him as a person and as a professional,  brought me to tears. It was as if I felt the pain that Sec. Angelo Reyes endured in his last hours as he was accused of corruption. That pain must be excruciating, so devastating that something inside of him have died. It was an extraordinary ordeal. To be accused of something is difficult to handle, especially if you are innocent of the charges against you.


Some of the bits and pieces of what was said about him last night at the necrological services:

Lt.Col. Edgardo de Leon his former military aide said that Reyes was a workahaholic. He stayed at his office even at the wee hours of the night. He wanted everything to be perfect. He had never signed any documents without perusing it.
He recalled how the former chief would scrutinize the metal accessories of the men in uniform who paid him a courtesy call. Reyes 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.
He shared how Reyes, then the defense secretary, dealt with 2 undersecretaries who used to be his superiors. He never failed to address them as "sir".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 may have scolded them in his office for their lapses, but it has been his practice to praise them in public."
According to him Sec. Reyes gave up his position as Secretary of National Defense after the Oakwood Mutiny in order to save the AFP. But his time he had no positions to give up, only his life. That is why he made the ultimate sacrifice.

Ret. Gen. Raul Urgello said that he and Reyes were bunkmates when they were plebes  in the military academy. He recalled that as he was reading comics during their free hours, Reyes was reading books by British philosopher Bertrand Russel. He was the class’ philosopher and debater.

Teresita Ang See, a prominent Filipino-Chinese anti-crime crusader  said that Angie Reyes became their  pillar in the anti-kidnapping campaign.  "He was conscientious and focused. He restored our faith in the government's ability to combat the kidnapping menace," she said.

Cates Maceda, an NGO leader, recalled how Angie Reyes even asked her opinion one time, when a contractor was asking Sec.Reyes for approval of a project. She was astonished that Reyes would heed advice from someone like her and not use his position to power-trip.

Retired Navy Commodore Rex Robles, a close friend of Reyes and upper class cadet of him in the academy criticized MalacaƱang for failing to protect the military institution and the late former Armed Forced of the Philippines (AFP) chief Angelo Reyes from being dragged into the military fund scandal. Robles said the feeling of being orphaned hit Reyes hard. "That is what made Angie Reyes feel low. Reyes allegedly believed that he was the main target of a demolition job and the AFP was just dragged into it.

Reyes's 3rd son Marc in an emotional closing speech, talked about an honest Filipino public official. He narrated that "the honest Filipino public official fights a lonely fight. An honest Filipino public official is aware that the system is flawed but still tries and never loses faith, sometimes he succeeds but as long as the system does not nurture integrity and uphold moral righteousness he won’t". He must have been referring to his father.

As I learned he contributed so much, some of which are: while in the AFP he gave soldiers a monthly rice supply, increased the cash reward for valor. Several laws were passed during his stint in the Departments he was in, like the law on Renewable Energy, among others. He initiated projects such as the Green Highway, planting millions of trees along the highways of the country. As Secretary of the department of Energy he helped to provide P80 million worth of electrical connections in Calauan resettlement area.

Angie Reyes may have had a stern faƧade as he projected on TV, but he was a jolly fellow, who loved to crack jokes and laughed the loudest according to his friends. He appeared stoic and yet he was approachable. Even ordinary soldiers wept for him. He must have treated them well. Like some of us he loved singing. His favorites were “My Way” and “Wonderful World”. He was a perfectionist and disciplinarian, but was meek and affectionate to his wife and grandchildren. For a while felt that he was like an ordinary person, just like any of us, though a greater one. It is sad that we were given a glimpse of who he really was too late. Maybe, many of us could agree that he was a victim of the system, a system that he inherited from others, a system that is corrupt and evil, a system that makes a corrupt person out of an honest one. He must have tolerated it, accepting as the normal way things are done. He swam in an ocean full of sharks, ready to swallow him at every opportunity. But did he survive it? Did he take any bribes? He said no. He stayed honest and maintained his dignity. I would like to believe him. He served his country well. He gave his all to make a difference.

He was a good man after all. A man of honor and integrity, he died for what he believed in, for he could not live without honor, an honor that was trampled upon by his nemesis. We have lost a great man, a man who could have contributed more to this country, had we not judged him prematurely. In the end, history will be his final judge.

2 Response to Gen. Angelo Reyes, an honorable man

February 16, 2011 at 3:19 AM

dra.,I'm here already..just read your blog.. Just a thought, he who offers his life to protect other people is a true brave man just like gen. reyes.. Honor must prevailed even life must be taken.. :)

February 16, 2011 at 11:45 AM

Thanks markjulius for leaving a comment. I appreciate it.

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