Culture Magazine

Give Us a Frackin' Break, Father

By Gibbs22manila @gibbscadiz
“I mourn his passing because he was a bright man, a true soldier and a faithful public servant... As for the ersatz whistle-blower who was budget officer or something in the Armed Forces and made the pabaon claims, he can sniffle and sound sorry all he likes, mourning, he claims, General Angie’s death, to score yet more points with a gullible audience. He has only my scorn and spite.” -- Catholic priest Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, on Gen. Angelo Reyes
Scorn and spite? You know, Father, the words of kindness would have been enough. Your paying tribute to the good qualities of Gen. Reyes would have sufficed. You are his friend--nobody would begrudge you your desire to highlight the better angels of his nature, and thereby remember him in the most positive light.
But you couldn't leave well enough alone, could you? You couldn't trust your simple words of charity to do their work. You also had to play judge, attempting to exonerate Gen. Reyes of the charges leveled against him not by an appeal to facts or hard evidence, but by assaulting the character of the person whose testimony led to your friend's sorry circumstances.
You are a Catholic priest. Your loyalty, I would reckon, has to be to something higher than friendship--the truth, for instance. Instead of lashing out against Lt. Col. Rabusa, might it not have been more helpful if you had called for a speedy resolution of the questions raised against Gen. Reyes? If you believed your friend was innocent, surely you would want the truth to come out, too, once and for all.
Why didn't you call for the investigation to continue--not only to persevere in uncovering more of the anomalies that have come to light, but, more importantly, to be fair, thorough and unrelenting in its work? Because, if Gen. Reyes were indeed the object of unjust accusations, only the truth would cleanse him of that taint.
Where was the call for the truth? Where was the call for the guilty to be punished--not in Gen. Reyes' death, which, it must be said, was his choice alone, but in the system and environment whose all-consuming corruption had led him to this tragic pass?
By your words, you would like the public to believe that Gen. Reyes couldn't have been capable of the transgressions attributed to him. You paint him in broad strokes--“a bright man, a true soldier and a faithful public servant.”. He might well have been all of that, and God bless him. But you'd honor your friend more if you were to acknowledge that he was also more complex, more human, than how you would allow yourself, and the nation, to remember him.
Here, for instance, were among the last words Gen. Reyes wrote, reportedly for an upcoming interview before his death:
“I did not invent corruption. I walked into it. Perhaps my first fault was in having accepted aspects of it as a fact of life... Tinyente pa ako, ganyan na ang sistema (i.e., 'conversion' system, etc.)... I can perhaps be faulted for presuming regularity in a grossly imperfect system."
Even Gen. Reyes was forthright enough to admit he wasn't lily-white. That he was, indeed, privy to the long-term rot of the institution he would devote his life to. He could accept that, if there was anything that could be flung at him, it was that he accepted the way things were, and didn't do much to change them. At the minimum, by helping perpetuate iniquity with his indifference or inaction, he was, in the Catholic Church's formulation, guilty of the sin of omission. Not as grave perhaps, as the active, conscious commission of wrongdoing, but still a big enough sin. Right, Father Aquino?
In fact, if I remember my catechism right, omission could, in cases, be the greater sin. Because, by such acquiescence, by such timid acceptance of wrongdoing, one only enables crookedness to thrive and do greater harm. If Angelo Reyes had had the boldness to stand up to the widespread misconduct in the organization he said he loved with all his being, had he openly damned the system for the grievous compromises it imposed on the character and consciences of the people working in it--had he said “Enough is enough!,” and then used all the power and influence of his lofty office to make sure change did happen--would we even need to be reminded now that he was, indeed, “a bright man, a true soldier and a faithful public servant?”
I would think, Father, that the best way to respect the memory of Gen. Reyes is to make sure his legacy is a more honest, more upright, more professional Armed Forces of the Philippines. He himself would have no quarrel with that, correct? And that means, at the very least, supporting any attempt to shine a light on the organization, to remind it forcefully of its moral and legal obligations to the nation--to search for the truth in all the lies, wherever it may lead and whoever it might implicate.
In place of all of that, however, you dismiss Gen. Reyes' accuser as an “ersatz whistle-blower” (you must have felt very clever using that word--ersatz). He was merely a “budget officer or something.” You mock him for his sniffles--an attempt, you say, “to score yet more points with a gullible audience.”
Father Aquino, I am part of the audience that's been paying close attention to this controversy. You insult me, and I believe the rest of the nation, when you call us gullible. We are not gullible. We may not know all the facts at this point (who does--except the stonewalling generals themselves?), but we can pretty much think for ourselves. We're not even guessing--the pitiless glare of TV cameras does the work for us.
If you have been watching the proceedings, as most of us have been, and you are of sound faculties, you would know by now who are probably telling the truth and who, through their weaselly words and sheepish dispositions, are shamelessly spinning lies; which testimony is more plausible, and which one deserves ridicule.
Unlike you, we're invested in more than loyalty to certain people here. Quite simply, we would like to know the truth. We are sick and tired of the unending corruption in high places, and we want to know how our money is spent. Yes, in case it has escaped your mind--the millions of pesos of misappropriated funds they're talking about? That is OUR money. Those are from the taxes that people like me pay month in and month out, without question--only to be misused, it is apparent now, in shopping trips by generals' wives for houses and properties in the US, and hefty pabaon to retiring generals.
I repeat: That is our money. That is the people's money. And to treat them in this fashion--as the personal petty cash of people who otherwise insist on honor and integrity as the very threads of their spiffy, bemedalled uniforms--is plain stealing. Now why should we not find that outrageous and enraging? Why presume, Father, that the enormous public interest in these proceedings could only be explained by the fact that people are “gullible,” unthinking?
You are a priest. You are supposed to know better. Or maybe that's where we've been gullible enough--believing that somebody like you is capable of fidelity to something higher--wisdom, in a word. Scorn and spite? Frankly, your words are a disgrace to you, your cassock and your calling.
Given the uncharitable, intemperate nature of your remarks, I'll offer my own. You and your ilk don't EVER pay taxes. Maybe that's why you can't even feign interest in this matter. A request then: on occasions like this when the country has a rare opportunity to rid itself of so-called public servants who rob us blind of our hard-earned money, do spare us the misguided, pompous bloviation and just shut up. You never share in the pot, anyway.

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