Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Angelo Reyes’ Suicide

Posted by butalidnl on 8 February 2011

Angelo Reyes, former AFP Chief of Staff, died by suicide on 8 February.  He was recently implicated in the corruption investigation in Congress. Apparently, he committed suicide in order to spare his family the shame such an investigation brings.

He didn’t succeed, really. In the matter of killing himself, he was successful; but I don’t think he spared his family grief or shame. There is an immense taboo regarding suicide in the Philippines; and at the same time, the taint of corruption will still adhere to his family.  They can only hope that the ongoing investigation will find out that he was innocent of corruption, clearing his name and the family’s shame.

Reyes’ suicide is a unique case. It is probably the first political suicide in the country’s history (not counting Muslim suicide bombers, of course). This kind of action is more in line with the culture of Japan, for example, than that of the Philippines. But, I guess there is always a first time for everything…

Corruption Investigation
What  strikes me is that Reyes chose suicide over the usual thing that politicians do in the Philippines – which is to wait out the hearings, until eventually the issue goes away. This tactic of waiting out corruption investigations usually works. Erap Estrada DID get convicted in his plunder trial, but after a few years in jail, he was then pardoned… so it still ended better,  much better, than if Estrada committed suicide.

Reyes chose to die, because he probably calculated that he WOULD be found guilty (and probably that he will not be pardoned). So, by doing what he did, he hoped that the issue will go away, posthumously.
His death will complicate investigations into corruption in the AFP.  Nevertheless, I find it comforting that he probably considered the investigation process to have a big chance of succeeding (which says a lot about the current level of investigations).

The corruption investigation should indeed go forward, because it involved much more than Reyes. He should not be excused from being investigated, just because he died. After all, if Reyes had participated in corruption, he would have ill-gotten properties and assets; and these assets should be recovered.  I hope that death does not mean that his family is free to retain illegally gotten wealth.

On the other hand, if the investigations end up proving that Reyes did not participate in AFP corruption, then his name would be cleared.

Catholic Stand
The Catholic church seems to have softened its stand in cases of suicide. Archbishop Oscar Cruz of Lingayen/Dagupan, former president of the CBCP, said that “now, the Church is more understanding because in this state of mind that is so confused and depressed, then he is not himself..”

Formerly, no Catholic burials or masses were held in cases of suicide.

I wonder if the Catholic stance on suicide has really changed, or if it is merely that Reyes was a ranking member of the elite, and thus difficult for the Church to censure.  Or in other words, has the Catholic Church attitude to suicide really changed, or is suicide wrong if you’re poor but okay if you’re rich?

If the church stand to suicide is really changed, I applaud it. Suicide should be talked about, at least, so that people can set up intervention programs to help people contemplating suicide. Ironically, the Church softened stance on suicide may end up lessening the number of suicides in the country.

One Response to “Angelo Reyes’ Suicide”

  1. butalidnl said

    Correction: Reyes’ was the second political suicide in the country’s history. The first was Jaime Ongpin, who had served as Secretary of Finance under Cory Aquino. He committed suicide on 8 December 1987, after Cory fired him from the cabinet in September 1987. (This was pointed out by Dr Ferdie Llanes, chair of the History Department of UP.)

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