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Senators saddened by Reyes' death

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Shocked and saddened by the death of former Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes, the Senate decided on Tuesday to defer probe on the plea bargaining agreement between former military comptroller Carlos Garcia and state prosecutors.

”The prudent to do is to postpone or defer the hearings,” Senate Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto III said on the postponement supported by majority of his colleagues.

Reyes, one of the accused in the alleged corruption in the military, died from a gunshot wound on his chest in an apparent suicide Tuesday morning in front of his mother's grave at the Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina City.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile was also saddened by the 'unfortunate' demise of his friend but as head of the Senate, urged his colleagues to pursue the investigation “in aid of legislation to perform the work for the people and the nation in order to help in its development in spite of this incident.”

”It’s unfortunate, we are sad that this happened, but we are doing a duty, and anyone who is hailed in this Senate to answer questions must be prepared to defend himself. Of course we will not tolerate any act that will demean or inflict indignities to a member of the public who will appear before us,” Enrile said in a short message he delivered at the plenary.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, former Reyes' subordinate who named the former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff as one of the top officials involved in the corruption in the military, appealed to respect the privacy of the family of Reyes.

”First of all, I extend my condolences to the family of the late general Angelo Reyes. They need strength at this time,” Trillanes said. “Maybe for until we get to bury the departed out of respect but ultimately we have to continue with the investigation.”

Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada also extended his condolences to the bereaved family of Reyes, calling the incident a 'truly a sad episode” in the country's history.

”I just hope that Sec. Reyes’ death will bring the changes toward deeper enlightenment and understanding our country so greatly deserves,” Estrada said.

Estrada clarified he was not guilty despite exposing 48 foreign travels of Reyes' wife and Reyes' P50 million retirement 'pabaon' (send-off) money based on the testimony of former military budget officer retired Lt. Col. George Rabusa.

”I'm not guilty. I'm just doing my job,” Estrada said in a media interview before the session. Senator Francis 'Kiko' Pangilinan described Reyes' death as “tragedy”, expressing his condolences to the Reyes family.

“It started in an investigation in the Senate that ended in a suicide. Reyes' death should serve as a lesson to everyone and should pave the way for true reform in the military,” Pangilinan said.

Senate committee on defense chairman Francis 'Chiz' Escudero said he was “extremely shocked” with what happened that no one can imagine Reyes will do amid the investigations of irregularities in the AFP.

Escudero was one of the four senators whom Reyes wanted to inhibit from the Senate proceedings due to their alleged

Pangilinan said Reyes' death should serve as a lesson to everyone and should pave the way for true reform in the military “cold neutrality.” Other senators are Estrada, Trillanes and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

Santiago, on the other hand, said the death of Reyes eliminates both his criminal and civil liabilities in the allegations that he pocketed millions.

Santiago clarified that based on the Penal Code, Reyes' wife or family would be obliged to return whatever property that will be proved to have been acquired by illegal means.

Senate blue ribbon committee chairman Senator Toefisto Guingona was also shocked when he heard the news about Reyes' untimely death.

”We share the pain of the Reyes family in this time of great loss. We condole with them and assure them of our prayers,” Guingona said.

”It is unfortunate that our last interface with the late secretary should be under difficult circumstances. However, Secretary Reyes’ untimely death can only further strengthen our resolve to bring the current probe on issues hounding the AFP to a swift, just and rightful conclusion. We are confident that Secretary Reyes shares with all of us the aspiration to help shed light on AFP-related issues and help reform the institution,” he added.

Guingona reset the fourth Senate investigation on February 18. The probe was supposed to be held on Friday.

With the death of Reyes, Senator Gregorio 'Gringo' Honasan proposed to define ground rules in conducting 'moderate' public hearings.

”So that we do not unnecessarily and prematurely subject any personality or any institution to trial by publicity,” Honasan said. Honasan said Reyes was 'possibly' a victim of trial by publicity that could led Reyes to end his life.

”The results would have to speak for itself according to the theory and now it is being supported by facts that Secretary Reyes took his own life,” Guingona, a former military colonel, said.

Enrile agreed, saying “Angie Reyes adhered to the tenets of the Philippine Military Academy of integrity, courage and loyalty and I think that rather than being embarrassed and losing his honor, he’d rather lose his life and that is what he did.” (PNA/PIA9-BST)




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