In ousting duly elected Joseph Estrada via “people power II” was a quid pro quo of future payoffs offered by then vice-president Arroyo to the armed forces leadership for their overt support of Erap’s rapid dethronement in 2001? There was much speculation that such an “arrangement” had taken place; recent events now seem to give the erstwhile suspicion a stronger tinge of validity.
The late Angelo Reyes became a Gloria favorite during her 9 year stint, receiving multiple, high profile cabinet appointments. This is not to say that Reyes was not qualified for the positions nor did he fail in any of his cabinet assignments. But in light of the payoff revelations it is certainly not a stretch to imagine less than noble motives on Arroyo’s part.
I’ll stipulate that the late General Reyes may have been an honorable man who took pride in his integrity and that he actively participated in the removal of Estrada for purely altruistic and patriotic reasons, i.e. that the latter had committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” and was guilty of “plunder”. Yet in a moment of weakness he may have succumbed and yielded to the largesse and generosity of Madame Arroyo and accepted the going away present when he retired from the AFP. Tragically, it is that sense of honor and integrity that may have led to his suicide. Perhaps he could not face life, his family and his country knowing that he had accepted millions of unearned pesos when he retired, funds that should perhaps have gone to raising the salaries of the underpaid enlisted men he commanded. Sadly, we lost a good man.
The best way for the country, and the present leadership, to render Reyes death some valuable meaning is to doggedly and publicly pursue the truth about the payoffs. What it will uncover perhaps, among other things, is one of Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo’s “strategies” for staying in power. She saw how the many coup attempts launched against her predecessor Corazon Aquino hogtied the latter’s tenure and she was determined that such a fate not befall her regime. And it seems that she calculated that the best way to keep the military leadership in line and backing her was to give them a “financial incentive” to continue supporting her.
Arroyo also took other steps that would make her “untouchable” and enable her to slither away from any attempts to hold her accountable for the debauchery of corruption that characterized her administration. In a column I wrote before the May elections last year (“The Sham and The Shame”) I pointed out that what had driven her frenzy of midnight appointments, including that of the Supreme Court’s chief justice, was an elaborate scheme to ensure that she had the means to subvert and undermine Benigno Aquino III should the latter try to carry out any judicial efforts to bring her, her family and other key members of her administration before the bars of justice. And, so far, it seems that she has succeeded.
For sure the military leaders who willingly took the bribes need to be held accountable; yet we cannot ignore the fact that the giver of the bribe is just, if not more, culpable. And we surely cannot believe that when 50 million pesos changes hands at the highest levels of the military that the “commander-in-chief”, which Arroyo was, was not aware of it.
Corruption was elevated to an art form in the Arroyo administration. Her near Machiavellian power plays to retain tenure as long as she could are well known. Now we can add the death of an honorable man to her legacy. In my view she has blood on her hands. She must not be allowed to “slither” away one more time.