ASEAN Beat

Reyes Case Left Open

Former Philippines Defence Secretary Angelo Reyes has been found dead. Was it suicide?

Former Defence Secretary Angelo Reyes died yesterday morning from a gunshot wound to the chest. Although much of the media has already concluded it was suicide, reports so far have offered only hazy evidence for this conclusion.

So, as we wait for something more conclusive—and assuming that it was indeed suicide—it’s worth thinking about why he might have done it.

Certainly, Reyes had been in the hot seat in recent weeks over alleged corruption during his time in the military. He has been accused, for example, of pocketing millions of pesos during his time in office and on retiring as army chief.

Known as a favourite of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (herself widely seen as very corrupt), Reyes found little public sympathy when he claimed in his defence that he’d been the target of a smear campaign and witch-hunt by armed forces top brass.

The problem was compounded when Reyes said he could no longer recall what had been going on during his stint as defence chief, when military coffers were apparently being raided by corrupt senior officers.

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

Was he guilty of wrongdoing? In the Philippines, suicide is seen as either an act of cowardice or sign of weakness. It’s widely believed that those who commit serious crimes go on to take their own life as an easy way out, so they won’t have to face the legal consequences or be publicly humiliated. The bottom line is that it's an admission of guilt.

Either way, the public has now likely lost the chance to find out for sure whether Reyes was guilty, as formal corruption charges hadn’t yet been filed with the courts. And, of course, he can no longer clear his name.

All that’s left is a tragic end to a military officer's once colourful career, and a public with more questions than answers.