Second of two of three parts
REYES decided to withdraw his support of President Estrada on January 19, 2001.
Angie had a very crucial choice that day, and days before, between friendship and love of country. Like a Bushido warrior, he chose country over and above friendship. That kind of man is not easy to come by these days. Love of country for many Filipinos is just a matter of lip service. For Angie Reyes, it was not just a matter of a principle to be invoked – it had to be lived. And he lived it.
While many people were anxiously waiting at the Edsa shrine for Angie Reyes to arrive, since he was late, I had no doubt in my mind that he would come based on my assessment of the man in one single encounter. It sounds very presumptuous, but being a trial lawyer for decades, it is not difficult to judge a witness based on his eyes, his body language and the way he articulates his views.
Events proved me right about Angie Reyes. In the months after Estrada was expelled (or after he resigned for fear of being ousted) from the presidency and Gloria Arroyo emerged as president naming Angie as Secretary of National Defense, Angie was as humble as he was when he made that bold move to help expel his friend from Malacañang. His behavior reminds me of the Napoleonic maxim – “in defeat defiance, in victory magnanimity.” He was very magnanimous.
I had a number of opportunities after that historic moment at his office in December 2000 and thereafter at the Edsa Shrine on January 19, 2001 which showed very clearly the genuine character of the man.
Angie and I were interviewed in a radio program. His replies to questions were very intelligent and to the point – no kilometric and convoluted explanations like other generals whose intellectual credentials are very limited and whose readings even of military strategy and tactics are obviously diluted and scarce. But not Angie – his expansive knowledge of the political and social conditions in the Philippines made him an outstanding exception among his peers, who paled into insignificance in comparison.
Midway during the interview, I had the surprise of my life as he wrote a note and handed it on to me. The note read: “Sir, permission to leave as I have other similarly important appointments.” He stood up, saluted me and left. I wondered – such humility though he was the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. There goes a man whose intellectual credentials and humility make him a better human being than most and a soldier who, in the words of the late Vice-President Emmanuel Pelaez, knows the Spanish maxim, “Lo cortes no quita lo valiente.” Courtesy does not make you any less valiant. Such act of humility, despite his intellectual qualities, reminded me of General Rigoberto Atienza, another Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, whose sterling qualifications as a learned soldier towered above his peers. Atienza, like Angie, had outstanding intellectual training – Angie from Harvard University and his readings; Atienza from the University of the Philippine and, of course from his readings, having graduated from the University of the Philippines, not just from the UP ROTC.
Then, we met again at a party at Lakeshore, an upscale subdivision in Mexico, Pampanga. He was the guest of honor. When he learned that I was also an invited guest, he went to my table and greeted me. Again, a genuine expression of humility from Angie! Of course, I was moved to be greeted by the Secretary of National Defense, me an ordinary citizen no longer holding any position in government. It is this kind of humility that should become a habit with government leaders. Unfortunately, Angie is dead but the hambugeros or mayabangs are still alive.
Angie was busy and so was I. Our paths hardly crossed again until a brotherhood of soldiers was organized and orchestrated by Colonel Oscarlito Mapalo. In the launching of the organization at Fort Bonifacio, Angie was the guest speaker. I was also an invited guest. After all the hoopla, Angie was rushing to join President Arroyo on a flight to South Korea as he was the last member of the party who was not at the airport and the President was waiting for him.
I lost Angie in the crowd. I stayed near the stage as there was a group of people sending him off at door of the Philippine Army Gymnasium. To my surprise, he was by my side telling me he had to come back to see me because he forgot to tell me he was already leaving, as the President was waiting for him at the airport. It was not just Angie’s style that was captivating it was his genuineness and the absence of pretense that was outstanding for a high level official like him.
It is a pleasure to have had Angie as a friend. It is a greater honor to have known a soldier who knew his constitutional duties and moved to give meaning and reality to love of country, irrespective of the consequences.
I met Angie again one evening at his residence or place of refuge. The appointment was arranged by Colonel Oscarlito Mapalo for dinner. From what I gathered, he just came from a meeting with President Arroyo. He was fuming with rage because he did not like what Gloria was asking him to do and berating him for not acting on her order immediately. He was also unhappy at the way GMA was treating him. He said he wanted to resign from his position as Secretary of the Department of Energy. I prevailed upon him not to resign since he could be an important cog in the effort to remove Arroyo as President for massive graft and corruption, making a joke of the electoral process and her highly immoral conduct. Angie simmered down and we finished the evening talking about the weather, figurative or otherwise.
(The last part of this 3-part series on General Angelo Reyes will come out on Saturday November 7.)