Reyes Death Does Not Absolve the Institutions and Policies that Breed Corruption

I reserve judgement on Sec Reyes because I have no personal knowledge of the facts – and therefore presume him to be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Trial by a court of public opinion does not od us any good because public opinion can be easily swayed. What distinguishes a civilized society is not only its ability to craft good laws but to observe and enforce them as well.

Reyes apparent suicide will be viewed from different filters, lenses, points of view. -It can be an act of a sinner, saint, patriot, corrupt, a coward – and to another former AFP chief – a “savior and protector”

MANILA, Philippines – Former Armed Forces chief Angelo Reyes “protected us all” when he died Tuesday, another ex-military chief said in an interview at Reyes’ wake in a funeral home in Quezon City.

“He protected all of us, even the institution, for the Filipino people, for us to move on,” General Dionisio Santiago, former Armed Forces chief when Reyes was defense secretary, said in Filipino in an interview with media in Arlington.

Santiago said he never thought that Reyes would do it, referring to the apparent suicide of the military officer early Tuesday when he shot himself in the chest at the grave of his mother in Marikina City.

Santiago said he appreciated Reyes more because what he did was “an act of courage to save the PMA [Philippine Military Academy] and the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines].”

Both institutions have been under fire following the expose of a multimillion-peso fund scam in the military by former budget officer, Lieutenant Colonel George Rabusa, who implicated Reyes, the Armed Forces chief at that time. Reyes was also a PMA graduate.

“It is a difficult act to do, very few people will do that,” said Santiago.

Santiago said what Reyes did was the “best solution so that the AFP will be out of the issue.”

Santiago was referring to an interview with retired commodore Rex Robles who, in his last talk with Reyes, quoted him as saying that he has found a solution where “everyone will be at peace.”

Philippine Generals as Ancient Samurais?

The parallelism of Reyes’ act with the seppuku of the Japanese can be easily made by Philippine media, but does it apply to this case?

Part of the samurai bushido honor code, seppuku was used voluntarily by samurai to die with honour rather than fall into the hands of their enemies (and likely suffer torture), as a form of capital punishment for samurai who had committed serious offenses, or performed for other reasons that had brought shame to them.

In practice the most common form of seppuku was obligatory seppuku, used as a form of capital punishment for disgraced samurai, especially for those who committed a serious offense such as unprovoked murder, robbery, corruption, or treason. The samurai were generally told of their offense in full and given a set time to commit seppuku, usually before sunset on a given day. If the sentenced was uncooperative, it was not unheard of for them to be restrained, or for the actual execution to be carried out by decapitation while retaining only the trappings of seppuku; even the short sword laid out in front of the victim could be replaced with a fan. Unlike voluntary seppuku, seppuku carried out as capital punishment did not necessarily absolve the victim’s family of the crime. Depending on the severity of the crime, half or all of the deceased’s property could be confiscated, and the family stripped of rank.

When viewed from the Samurai lens – does this mean that Senate probes are “enemies”? If Reyes is but a samurai who is his daimyo? Who are the other “samurai’s” If the AFP leadership views probes as “enemies” – the Philippines is in deeper shit than it dares to acknowledge.

An act of courage to save the PMA [Philippine Military Academy] and the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines].

Save the PMA and AFP from who and what exactly? Will suicide open the floodgates that will destroy the traditions built on a perversion of loyalty? Loyalty to who exactly? Mon Tulfo didn’t mince words when he singled out the PMA Mafia within the AFP and PNP

MANILA, Philippines—Why should Angelo Reyes be singled out for amassing wealth while he was Armed Forces chief of staff?

Every AFP chief of staff—before and after Reyes—enriched himself while he was at the helm of the military.

The chiefs of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and its predecessor Philippine Constabulary are no exception.

To blame Reyes for enriching himself as AFP chief of staff is to blame corruption in the Armed Forces, past and present, on one man.

The AFP was corrupt long before Reyes became its chief of staff.

It continues to be a corrupt organization.

* * *

The system in the military as well as the civil service breeds corruption.

Before they point an accusing finger at the corruption in the Armed Forces, why don’t the senators and congressmen look at themselves in the mirror?

The No. 1 source of corruption of legislators is the pork barrel.
Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

* * *

Haven’t you noticed that all military and police generals accused of corruption, past and present, all graduated from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA)?

It seems the PMA—whose motto is “courage, integrity, loyalty”—should exclude “integrity” in its motto since many of its graduates don’t have it.

* * *

Only PMA graduates become AFP chief of staff or chief of the PNP.

Name me one graduate of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) who has become AFP chief of staff or PNP chief since the time of President Cory Aquino.

The AFP chief of staff or the PNP chief chooses “PMAyers” as members of his immediate staff—including officers who hold the purse strings—to succeed him.

That’s because of the so-called “PMA Mafia” that operates within the AFP and the PNP.

The PMA is a brotherhood, and if you’re a non-PMAyer you’re out of the loop and don’t have a chance to reach the highest post.

As Madam Carmen Pedrosa joked – Yakuzas and Triads are scared of coming into the Philippines because it is already the gang turf of the AFP and PNP.

I dunno guys – the Philippine “Samurais” sound a lot more like Yakuza. But then, it will be amusing to see Congressmen, Senators, Mayors, Councilors, Governors, judges, military and police officers sporting missing fingers – they are way too Pinoy to slash their fingers. 😀

Reyes’ alleged suicide is the “best solution so that the AFP will be out of the issue.”?

Will it stop the systemic pressures that increase the probabilities of committing corruption? I beg to differ. There will be more Reyes and Rabusa to come because the policy environment is conducive to corruption.

Empirical evidence has shown that corruption is needed to maintain the corrupted policy environments. In the case of the Philippines – keeping a lid on the Filipino consumers demand for more choices and more jobs needs an entire array of social tools to keep such demands in check. What better way than thru the constitution. Politicians receiving substantial campaign contributions and largesse to keep the Filipino consumers’ choices restricted is no secret – it is a way of life.

In an article titled “Dancing with Anticorruption: Is Government Complicity in Corruption a Form of Economic Protectionism? (published in the East European Constitutional Review, Vol.7, No.3., Summer 1998, p.56,, Internet web-site: Ivan Krastev (director of the Centre for Liberal Strategies, Sofia, and a fellow at the Collegium Budapest, Institute for Advanced Studies) points out that corruption itself, can be a form of protectionism.

Corruption as a hidden form of protectionism

Multinational companies—foreign investors in general—and international financial institutions are the driving forces in today’s global anticorruption campaign. Transparency International’s Corruption Index registers the evaluations of “cleanness” given to specific countries by the officers of multinational corporations. In the traditional perception of bribery, the “conversion” of multinational companies from sources of corruption into fighters against corruption is a dramatic change. To illustrate the extent to which foreign capital was once seen as a source of corruption, I have only to point out that in the Bulgarian language, all French, German, and English words for doing business—Geschäft, for example—have the connotation of performing a corrupt act.

In the 1960s and 70s, foreign investors considered corruption to be a useful vehicle for opening up and modernizing the economies of developing countries. Corruption was an instrument for breaking the official protectionist barriers that were tolerated and in some cases encouraged by the governments of developing countries.

In the new world of global finance and free trade, protectionism is an unaffordable luxury for most governments. In the transition economies of Central and Eastern Europe, protectionism is simply unthinkable. Their need for market reforms and their dependence on foreign investment and on World Bank and IMF financing has forced the postcommunist states to open their economies and to adopt nonprotectionist legislation. But in this new openness, postcommunist industries have had to face the harsh reality that they are in fact uncompetitive.

A look at the Transparency International Corruption Index reveals that the least competitive countries are the most corrupt. The correlation could suggest that corruption is a major factor contributing to uncompetitiveness. But a different conclusion may be closer to the truth: corruption is a response to uncompetitiveness. Postcommunist governments are torn between their commitment to free trade and openness and their desire to create a favorable environment for noncompetitive local businesses.

Compared with the normal markets of goods and services, corrupted markets are characterized by the very high value to be placed on local knowledge. In order to corrupt public officials, one cannot rely simply on offering the biggest bribe in the biggest brown-paper bag. The market in corruption services is a clandestine, closed market. In order to be competitive in this market, one has to know whether to give a bribe, to whom to give the bribe, how to give the bribe, and when to give the bribe. Local businesses are much better positioned in the corruption market because they are plugged into existing networks and because they possess local knowledge. In other words, a corrupted business environment is much more favorable to local businesses than a transparent market. This “patriotic” side of corruption is one of the major reasons for the much lamented ineffectiveness of anticorruption campaigns and the (tacit) unwillingness of postcommunist governments to crack down seriously on corrupt practices.

The protectionist nature of present-day corruption complicates the attitude of postcommunist governments toward their own official anticorruption policies. For instance, we can expect the Bulgarian government to focus its efforts on fighting the illegal import of foreign goods into the Bulgarian market rather than on fighting the illegal export of untaxed Bulgarian goods. This symbiosis between corruption and protectionism is crucial in understanding the ambiguous, half-hearted, and selective policies of the postcommunist governments.

One of the major assumptions of the present campaign against corruption is that anticorruption rhetoric and anticorruption “sensitivity” are part of the reform effort. But a review of the history of anticorruption rhetoric demonstrates that such an assumption is misleading. In Bulgaria, at the turn of the century, anticorruption rhetoric was associated with virulent hostility toward modernity and modernization. Corruption was conceptualized as the essence of modernization, as the all-corrosive force bent on destroying traditional morality and traditional community.

In the 1920s and 30s, Bulgaria witnessed a heated anticorruption debate provoked by the rise in the incidents of bribery and by growth in the black market. In its essence, this debate was a part of the deep anticapitalist sentiments that had captured people’s imagination in the prewar period. In the communist period, the accusations of corruption were successfully used to attack communist reformers. In the late 1980s, anticorruption rhetoric was heavily used by communist hard-liners to attack Gorbachev’s perestroika. This brief backward glance at the anticorruption rhetoric of this century in Bulgaria serves to remind us that the new war on corruption declared by the IMF and World Bank can be counterproductive if it does not take into account the cultural and political hinterland within which this war takes place.

The success of anticorruption rhetoric is endangered, in the context of postcommunist politics, because the majority of the public sees corruption as a direct result of market reforms. Public-opinion polls testify that, for the losers in the transition, privatization of state assets is the quintessential example of corruption. The success of politicians, like Alexander Lukashenka in Belarus and Alexander Lebed in Russia, illustrates that the anticorruption platform can be misused by antireform populists. In an ideological environment where there are no plausible alternatives to democracy and a free market, anticorruption rhetoric can, in a distorted way, occupy the place of a policy alternative.

What all this points to is that before we indulge ourselves in Reyes suicide, it might do us good to give a closer look at the national suicide we commit for each day we allow the 1987 Constitution’s 60/40 provisions to maintain a policy environment that is a well spring of corruption.


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