Call of the Void

Feb 22, 2011
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In the Philippines, a former general’s suicide leaves a massive corruption scandal in limbo.

448 Angelo T. Reyes (March 17, 1945 - February 8, 2011) was the Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff from 2000 to 2001. He also served as National Defense and Energy Secretary during Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's presidency.


If we consider former Sec. Angelo Reyes’ death along sociological lines, his alleged suicide was anomic.

His death, as things seem now, was symptomatic of moral confusion, emotional perturbation, social dissonance. When you’re in the middle of a corruption scandal that reaches the upper echelons of government and the military, those descriptions are themselves inadequate. It would be, as Dostoyevsky termed it, a deep-seated feeling of toska: that someone so powerful, someone who built his career by the spirit of military integrity, would fall dead by his own hand.

Whatever led Reyes to die allegedly by his own hand is something we leave respectfully and with much reverence and deference to his memory. What he left in the way of testimony and public interest, however, is something we should not leave in peace. Justice should never be obscured by the veil of mourning.

Perhaps something sobering about the death of Angelo Reyes was that it combined two peculiar quirks of how we respond to news in the Philippines: the seeming normalcy and ordinariness of corruption, and the seeming spectacle and extraordinariness of suicide. Corruption is normal, tolerated, and even justified: it wouldn’t be Filipino politics, after all, if the leader does not lie, cheat, and steal. There is no shortage of good leaders in the Philippine government, but the corrupt ones are those we notice more often.

History will judge whether Reyes was corrupt or not, whether his name will be vindicated by time, yet that is not true for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the government. History happens now for them.

While we cannot establish at this point whether Reyes was an accomplice, enabler, or active actor in the AFP corruption scandals, what we do know is that it has very high stakes: in the case of Reyes, life itself. Perhaps the most important takeaway from the apparent suicide was what was not said, or what was denied by his passing. Who made it happen? Who lorded it over corruption in the AFP? Who was responsible? Who should be accountable?

Perhaps the most important takeaway from the apparent suicide was what was not said, or what was denied by his passing.

Whatever drove Reyes to (allegedly) take his own life is something that is out there in the void now, among the secrets that people take with them to the grave. Yet surely, there are tales that even a grave or a void cannot contain. Reyes’ death shouldn’t be anything but the untimely death of an investigation going on right now: an anomic suicide of institutions, especially the Armed Forces of the Philippines.



This post was originally published on The Marocharim Experiment in February 2011.