By Cynthia Balana
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—It all begins and ends with the warrior code. The public humiliation of Angelo Reyes by a junior Cavalier may have driven Angelo Reyes to fire a bullet through his heart, according to retired Maj. Gen. Leopoldo Maligalig, a former superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).
The attack on Reyes by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV at a Senate inquiry was an assault on the PMA that hurt Reyes deeply, Maligalig said.
Maligalig said he was saddened that the PMA was being dragged and maligned in the course of the congressional investigations on alleged irregularities in the Armed Forces of the Philippines simply because the players involved were PMA graduates.
“Everything begins at PMA. It is a nucleus of AFP value formation, and a warrior’s honor code. To be humiliated in public by a fellow Cavalier and a junior officer at that … I know that hurt Angie very much,” Maligalig said.
“We were shocked at the demeanor of Senator Trillanes. Senators are senators, and PMAyers are PMAyers. The attack was no longer on personalities. It was already against the institution,” he added.
PMA alumni are called Cavaliers, regarded as part and parcel of a prestigious brotherhood.
During the Senate hearing last week, emotions ran high when Reyes tried to respond to accusations that he skimmed off military funds when he was AFP chief of staff and received P50 million on his retirement, charges he indirectly denied.
“I’m just trying to protect my reputation here,” Reyes then said. “I have served this government for 48 years.”
“No, no, no, you don’t have any reputation to protect,” Trillanes said. “I believe this is the time of reckoning. … You better find very good lawyers.”
As a Navy lieutenant, Trillanes led a short-lived mutiny in 2003, seizing the posh Oakwood apartment hotel in Makati City, calling on then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to step aside for corruption before surrendering. He was jailed for over seven years but was provisionally freed in December last year. He later applied for amnesty.
As AFP chief of staff, Reyes in a crucial moment in the move to oust then President Joseph Estrada in 2001, also on corruption allegations, withdrew support from his Commander in Chief in what he later said was an attempt to preserve the divided military.
The four stars on the shoulder pads of Reyes shine even brighter in his death, leaving a legacy of honor and courage that may be difficult for men and women in uniform to emulate, Maligalig said.
‘I cried unabashedly’
“His death is bigger than his illustrious career and his life. His death is a wake-up call for all of us to protect the institution that we dearly hold. His death becomes a rallying point for the institution and I think it gives us time to pause and reflect on what he died for,” Maligalig said.
Retired Maj. Gen. Rufo de Veyra, also a former PMA superintendent, said he admired and respected the “extreme courage” of Reyes to end the siege on the military institution by offering his own life.
“When I read about his suicide, I cried. It was the first time I cried unabashedly,” De Veyra said.
“I’ve learned a lot from his death. One is about assessing our own inner strength. Given that kind of situation, the question in my mind is: ‘Can I do it? Can I do what he did? No, I can’t do it.’”
Honorable way out
De Veyra continued: “I repeatedly asked myself: How would I handle a situation like that? I would think there is no easy answer. Knowing the fortitude that Angie had, he could not handle it, could we?”
De Veyra said what Reyes did in the end—an act likened to a samurai in ancient Japan committing seppuku—was not a question of right or wrong. All situations, he said, are unique to every individual, and being right or wrong is something personal.
“It brings us face to face with our mortality. In the end, Angie chose the honorable way out. I suspect that his grand exit will be a constant source of wonder and awe especially for some of us fortunate enough to have known him.
“I can already see him yonder now with his impish smile,” De Veyra said.