THE Bible asks: For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul? (Matthew 16:26)
Once more we are shown the perils of power. Indeed, one could spend one’s life seeking honor and accomplishments, gaining more and more power and with it wealth and comfort, only to lose it all in one fell swoop. What are all the millions in your bank account, the houses abroad, the comfortable retirement, if in the end you lose your good name, your reputation, your integrity brought into question and your name forever linked to scandal?
Is not our duty on this earth not just to leave it a better place, but also to leave a good name and better memories for our children and grandchildren? How do we protect the generations that follow from ignominy and embarrassment? By living a life ruled by decency and honesty, by seeking to do one’s best within one’s limitations, by answering the call to service without falling prey to material temptations.
Only then can we leave this earth knowing we leave things of real value to our family and to our friends memories to cherish.
Reyes was by no means the worst of the lot. I suspect till the end he couldn’t understand why he was being pilloried for doing what had become established tradition among the generals, a tradition so deeply entrenched in the Armed Forces of Philippines that it no longer took on the aspect of perfidy, it took on the aspect of due. He wasn’t greedy, as he himself indicated. The more favored of Arroyo’s generals got much, much more than him, the more favored of Arroyo’s civilian cohorts got much, much more than him. But they all have much, much less capacity to feel shame than him, they all have (the Tagalog puts it much much better) much, much less kahihiyan than him.
Reyes has just raised the bar on the proper conduct of public officials who have found themselves sufficiently dishonored, if not downright disgraced. Something I never thought I’d see in this country in my lifetime. Something I thought would be confined only to our Asian neighbors whose sense of honor, or whose fear of their families being forever blackened by their dishonor, compels them to remove themselves from society’s midst in a way that cannot quite be captured by exile. Reyes’ suicide indicts all of them. His gesture is an open question addressed at his inferiors (in no way can they be called his peers):