Start over

I think I could be forgiven for thinking it's another hoax being spread through text messages. But I turned on the television instead, and the news channels were on a frenzy.

Angelo Reyes was shot.

My dad's text message actually said he was killed by that gunshot wound - one to the chest - but the news channels were still waiting for verification. All that time I was watching the words fly on my television screen, and remembering what's been happening over the past few weeks, all I could say was "wow".

Angelo Reyes, of course, was the former chief of our armed forces. He was also former secretary of defense. And, later, the environment. And, later, energy. In the nine years Gloria Arroyo sat as president, Reyes occupied various positions, never mind that it didn't seem to fit his qualifications as a retired member of the military. It's what we'd call "pagtanaw ng utang na loob" - rewarding someone who's been loyal to you all these years through high-profile government positions.

Inevitably, that status meant Reyes became a controversial figure. I don't remember every bit he got tangled into over the past ten years, but I do remember his name floating around the past couple of weeks. Of course, nobody could escape that. When former AFP comptroller Carlos Garcia - who was accused of plundering military funds for personal gain - managed to get a plea bargain agreement and walk free, things inevitably snowballed. A Senate investigation (another one of those, yes) was called, and George Rabusa, a former budget officer for the armed forces, revealed the existence of a "pabaon" system within the military. High-ranking officials would get huge sums of money by means of welcoming them to the circle. Leave that circle, and you get money again. The source, allegedly, were numerous funds set up for other purposes, notably the long-delayed modernization of the Army. It ended up in some people's pockets.

Names floated. Yesterday we heard of military wives getting a cut. The past few days we heard of government auditors allegedly getting cuts, too, as Heidi Mendoza - she who looked into the AFP books and, upon seeing some discrepancies, was told to act as if it doesn't exist - released her frustrations. And then, of course, there was Rabusa, he who launched the first bombshell. The first name they floated was that of Reyes, who, according to him, received P50 million upon retiring from the military. The night after that revelation, he went to TV Patrol, denying everything. And then he filed libel cases.

But from where I am, his getting embroiled in this is no surprise. He's the guy who earned flak for running for a party list position, claiming to represent the transport sector, when people think he'll just be another Arroyo crony. It seems that everything he does is closely scrutinized, and considering what happened in the nine years Arroyo sat as president, well, he's become one of the bad guys.

I'm not saying that he isn't, though, but definitely some people have. That explains the "wow" I said, over and over, while watching the news this morning. Someone must've followed him and, in frustration over his alleged corrupt practices - especially with corruption in the AFP dominating the headlines, like it should be - shot him in the chest, in front of his mother's grave, in a cemetery in Marikina. When I first tuned in, reports said that he was being revived at a nearby hospital. Minutes later, authorities have confirmed that he didn't make it. Minutes later, they're saying it's a suicide.

Angelo Reyes shot himself.

At least according to a witness, a caretaker to a nearby grave. He pulled out a gun, pointed it to his chest, and shot himself. One to the heart, and it's over.

"Nagpakamatay raw," I texted my dad.

"Sana sumunod na yung ibang magnanakaw," he replied. And then, another one. "Kapag lahat ng magnanakaw sa government nag-suicide gaya niya eh baka maubos sila. At least siya nakonsensiya."

"Kudos to him, then."

"Di rin. It was his easy way out. Tinakasan na niya. Mayaman pa rin pamilya niya. Sana yung asawa niya mag-testify na rin after."

"Ie-excuse niya, she's grieving. Makakalimutan rin after."

"Unfortunately ganun na nga mangyayari. Since namatayan na, hindi na siya kasama sa investigation. Yaman pa rin family niya."

"Eh wealth yun, eh. Sinong sira ang magpapakawala nun? Lalo na kung 'nagpakahirap' ka."

"It would have been great if he just testified and gave up his wealth. Unfortunately, yung family eh suwapang din."

"Runs in the family, kumbaga."

"Kinain na ng sistema."

I remember a conversation I had with Dinna a few weeks back. Another one of those online friends I met through Valerie and her love of David Cook, she was similarly frustrated at how prevalent corruption is. She's from Indonesia, which looks like it's recovering from my perspective - but she'll say it isn't. ("We have a hot case of tax corruption which turns out [involves] every government department. Those bastards.") I'm from the Philippines, and with these stories floating around every single day, well, who can't help but feel sad? Here you are, hoping for the best, and you have a bureaucracy that does what it says on the tin, and a president who vows to set things straight, but doesn't have an inkling of an idea what to do. Well, except lambasting past administrations and glorifying himself. You have revelations of military corruption - an open secret, because when you're "the son of a general", you get to drive a luxury car and feign recollection of buying it - and you have a president who says he isn't surprised, but doesn't suggest a way of doing anything about it, even if he's commander-in-chief.

"Guess it'll be the end of the world before everything gets better," she said.

"Or at least our lives," I said.

"Or at least our lives, indeed. Well, if not our generation then I hope our kids would be the one to beat it."

"That's a hard one. They follow by example. We may do something, but the rest won't, so it's all for naught."

"Ouch. You got a point. The problem is, the bad people outnumber the good ones so the system is in chaos."

Over the past couple of weeks - with the evening newscasts inundated with reports of carjackers and corrupt officials - I thought, man, the Philippines absolutely needs a reset. Start over, and by that, I mean start over. Our memories will be wiped and we'll start everything from scratch. We'll have people who are genuinely concerned for the country rather than for their return of investment in the elections. We'll have media who stop aiming for the gut (imagine a report on the chaos in Egypt emphasizing the lack of food rather than the political movement) and aim to enrich them. We'll have responsibility rather than obligations. We'll have vision rather than dreams.

And then you realize that, a hundred years into this, we're absolutely screwed. We have people with pockets like that of the Doctor's. We have a system that works for those who can fill up those pockets - it's dimensionally transcendental, thanks to Time Lord technology - rather than those who just need it. Angelo Reyes is just another example - him espousing corruption in the military, those are allegations, of course, but the Senate hearings have been suspended, and his next of kin have started blaming Rabusa's revelations for his suicide, in between grieving, but not worrying about his funeral, because they can afford it, and then some. All the time, to us watching on our televisions, his death is out of guilt - he categorically denies everything but we are not as dumb as the media wants us to be. And selfishness, for the same reasons.

To quote Dinna, "I've lost optimism toward my country way a long time ago." And never mind the people who think they can make a change. We have to start over, but we won't allow ourselves to do it.

And your responses...

I got mention! Yay!

I don't have anything clever to say or add to this insightful post, but I can only nod in agreement.

I sincerely hope blogging helps everything toward recovery. It is, after all, our voice.

Let's continue doing what we can toward better future for both Philippines and Indonesia.

Anonymous dinna2/09/2011     

"And never mind the people who think they can make a change."

Those people who think can make a change WILL make a change. Problem with the people here in our country, pag may pagbabago, iisipin nilang dinadaya o niloloko sila. Negativity and a scarce mentality won't get us anywhere kaya inaalis yan sa sistema. Once these are out of the system, that's when we start over. Kung di yan aalisin, malamang magpaikot-ikot lang tayo sa kinalalagyan natin at isisisi nalang lahat ng bagay sa gobyerno at sa ibang tao.

Blogger Aleigna Lin2/21/2011     

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