Reyes takes own life

PNS — “SORRY.”

After uttering this word, former Armed Forces chief Angelo Reyes shot himself through the heart in front of his mother’s grave at the Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina.

The distraught general, accused of receiving a send off gift when he retired as AFP chief, visited the tombs of his parents early yesterday. He was accompanied by his two sons, a bodyguard and a driver but he asked them to leave him. A utility worker, Feliciano Recorba, who was 20 steps away, saw the general pull out a pistol from his waist and shoot himself. Recorba said Reyes also visited his parents’ grave Monday.

Reyes would have celebrated his 66th birthday on March 17.

The 27th AFP chief, whose defection to the camp of Vice-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in January 2000 led to the ouster of President Joseph Estrada, died from a single gunshot that pierced his heart, Health Secretary Enrique Ona confirmed. Reyes was already dead when he was rushed to the Quirino Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City. Former President Arroyo was among the first to rush to the hospital.

Days before the suicide, the general said he could no longer bear the humiliation that he and his family suffered due to the ongoing congressional investigation into corruption in the military. Former AFP financial officer Lt. Col. George Rabusa claimed that Reyes received P50 million “pabaon” when he retired from the Armed Forces.

Reyes appeared at the Senate on Jan. 27, where Rabusa made the explosive disclosure that he delivered the “sendoff gift” when Reyes stepped down as military chief. Reyes denied the charges and immediately filed graft and libel charges against Rabusa.

In his last public appearance, Reyes tried to confront Rabusa.

“I’m just trying to protect my reputation here,” he said. “I have served this government for 48 years.”

“No, no, no, you don’t have any reputation to protect,” Sen. Antonio Trillanes told him. “I believe this is the time of reckoning.You better find very good lawyers.”

Friends said Reyes had been distraught after the Senate incident. Reyes’ singing buddy, former governor Joey Lina, could not believe that the general, a strong willed disciplinarian, could commit suicide. Lina and Reyes used to hold charity concerts along with former Marikina Mayor Bayani Fernando.

Kind words

Reyes’ friends, colleagues and government employees mourned his passing.

“Ako ay nabigla, nalungkot at nanlumo,” Lina said.

Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo also expressed sadness, saying Reyes’ administration was characterized by his vision “of a sense of community under the rule of law.”

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje said the death of Reyes, who also served as DENR chief for two years, shocked the entire department.

“It is a sad day for the officials and employees of the DENR,” Paje said.

Malacañang also expressed its condolences to the family of Reyes.

In a statement read by presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, the Palace urged the public to allow the family of Reyes “their grief and privacy.”

Lacierda said Reyes’s death was an “unfortunate incident.”

“Remember he is an innocent man, for now. There is a presumption of innocence so there should be no accusation of guilt for now because he is an innocent man. He also served in the military for the good years of his life,” he said.