MANILA, Philippines – Former Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes was made a scapegoat of a powerful group that is out to hide the real protector of former military comptroller Carlos Garcia, retired Navy Commodore Rex Robles said on Tuesday.
Robles said Reyes was linked to the Garcia plea bargain deal to divert the focus of the Senate investigation on military corruption instead of identifying the people who benefited from Garcia during his time as military comptroller.
He said Garcia “helped congressmen, senators and crooked businessmen to launder their money abroad.”
In a separate interview, Robles said Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez actually know the identity of Garcia’s mysterious benefactor. He challenged the 2 lawmakers to identify Garcia’s protector following Reyes’s death on Tuesday.
“The people who are really protecting Garcia, who Golez and Trillanes know but they have lied blatantly to the public, are the ones also behind this. The sooner that Golez and Trillanes reveal the names that they know about, the true names, instead of the lies they are peddling, the better,” he told ANC’s Dateline Philippines.
Garcia is facing separate congressional probes after a plea bargain deal with the Office of the Ombudsman allowed him to plead guilty to bailable charges and return P135 million in assets to the government. The former military comptroller is accused of salting away P303 million in kickbacks during his time in the military.
Congressman Golez earlier accused Reyes of protecting Garcia, a charge that Reyes vehemently denied. Trillanes later backed up Golez’s claim.
(Robles identifies Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez. Robles says that Golez has been protecting Garcia as early as 2004 when as the head of the House defense committee then looking into corruption charges against Garcia, Golez disregarded further leads on Garcia’s questionable activities.
He said that in 2004, Golez intentionally ignored him and his information that Garcia was a citizen of the United States facing four money laundering and racketeering charges before the US Attorney General’s Office. It is a rule in most military establishments that military men must be citizens of the country in whose army they serve.
Robles was invited to the Golez committee hearings seven years ago. Why did the House committee under Golez refuse to dig deeper into Garcia’s activities?
At the very least, Golez and the members of his committee in 2004 should be investigated too for possible involvement in covering up the manipulation of AFP funds. Robles also wonders why Golez seems to be more concentrated on Reyes, rather than on Garcia and his plea bargain.
Why, in his statement last January 15, was Golez the first to assert that Reyes was the “powerful man” behind Garcia, weeks before retired Lt. Col. George Rabusa testified at the Senate and before Senator Antonio Trillanes IV joined the fray by echoing Golez’s claim.
What Golez and Trillanes are saying, that Reyes is the “powerful man” behind Garcia doesn’t ring true. Reyes neither appointed Garcia as AFP comptroller nor did Garcia serve as comptroller under Reyes as AFP chief.“ — Malaya/Feb.11,2011)
Robles said that before Trillanes linked Reyes to the Garcia plea deal, the
former defense chief sent a letter to the senator asking him to reveal the name of the person who was protecting Garcia. (Read the letter),
Robles said the letter was handcarried by a mistah of Trillanes in the Philippine Military Academy who asked the senator to identify Garcia’s protector. Robles said that under PMA tradition, a mistah cannot lie to a fellow mistah.
He said Trillanes told his fellow PMAer: “‘Mistah, hindi si Reyes ito.”
Reyes died of a gunshot wound after visiting his mother’s grave in Marikina City Tuesday morning. Police said the death was a suicide.
Before his death, the former defense chief was accused of pocketing P50 million in “pabaon” (send-off money) before his retirement as Armed Forces chief in 2001. His wife also allegedly received “shopping money” of up to $10,000 from the Office of the Military Comptroller during her various trips abroad.
Arroyo called Reyes before death
Robles, meanwhile, revealed that former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo called up Reyes inquiring about the handcarried letter he sent to Trillanes.
“He told me that he just received a phone call from [former President] Arroyo asking him about this Trillanes thing. The former president wanted to know certain things. I will talk about it at the right time. I don’t think I should,” he said.
Robles said Reyes sounded worried after Arroyo’s phone call.
“I will expect GMA to call him up and assure him of assistance of help or moral whatever. Yung impression ko, he was cross-examined by GMA,” he said.
He said the former president even asked Reyes why he (Robles) was attacking Golez. “You can draw your own conclusions,” he said.
Arroyo’s spokeswoman, Elena Bautista-Horn, meanwhile, said she was surprised by the news that Arroyo allegedly talked to Reyes before his death.
She said there was no meeting between Arroyo and Reyes in the past few days, or any conversation between the 2 over the phone.
“Pakikiramay at katahimikan ang kailangan nila sa panahong ito, hindi intriga. Ipagdasal natin si Secretary Reyes at ang mag-anak niya,” she said in a text message.
Robles said Reyes expressed the sentiment that he was being abandoned by his former allies.
“For a long time, as chief of intelligence, marami siyang hawak. Marami siyang assets who tell him what is happening also,” he said.
Asked who could be behind the smear campaign against Reyes, Robles said: “I will not speculate but I think it’s obvious. It does not matter if the group is in government or not. Sa lakas lang…do you have to be in government to be strong?”
Garcia probe was derailed
Robles said the congressional inquiries on the Garcia plea bargain was effectively derailed when issues about military corruption started cropping up.
He said that while Reyes’s case was simple graft, Garcia’s case struck at the root of good governance.
“It’s very different in quality. But the people in Congress, some of them quite deliberately, try to derail this by pointing to Reyes as a staking horse, as a whipping boy,” he said.
He also questioned why the government, through the Sandiganbayan, protected Garcia by setting him free. “Why did the former government or leadership to the highest levels (get) involved in this? Why is the justice system perverted?” he asked.
Robles said he told Reyes to just invoke his right to free speech in the congressional probes since he was considered a guest there.
“You are not a witness neither are you accused. You are just a guest. And that is just a board of inquiry. They can intimidate you to the heavens but in the end, they have to let you go,” he said.
He said he was also angry at some of the comments made by some of the lawmakers in the inquiry.
“Sabi kasi ng mga kalaban niya: ‘Hindi ka na secretary ngayon. You are just an ordinary citizen.’ Nagalit ako dun. Sabi ko ‘Ah, ibig sabihin kapag ordinary citizen ka, wala kang kalaban laban?’ Hindi ba insulto yan sa rest of the Filipino people? Na hindi ka na Cabinet member, ordinary citizen ka na, kayang-kaya ka na ng powers-that-be?” he said.
Despondent before death Robles said he was with Reyes for several nights last week to talk about the Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearing.
He said Reyes was despondent after news about the latter’s alleged involvement in military corruption cropped up in the Senate and House of Representatives inquiries.
“Hindi sila titigil, pare. Marami sila, malakas sila. At wala na silang gagawin kundi ipitin ako. Hindi ito titigil at wala akong magagawa dahil wala naman akong lakas para labanan ito,” he quoted Reyes as saying.
“This is an organized group. Mini-meeting-an nila ito. Ang lahat ng mga contact nila sa gobyerno. They will gang up against me. Hindi nila ako lulubayan. Sa tingin nila – wala na ako sa gobyerno, panahon na para yariin ako.”
He also revealed that Reyes was still recovering from an operation after allegedly suffering a heart attack.
“He had a heart attack. I don’t ask him about it. He cannot hear from his right ear. He cannot see straight because of his medication. When I have to talk to him, I have to tell 2-3 times anything I tell him before he can absorb it. And people think that when he hesitated in Congress, it’s because he was guilty. He did not want me to bring this out,” he said.
Robles admitted being close to Reyes since the latter was his yearling in the PMA.
“In the PMA, if you are a plebe, you are assigned to a squad. I was the squad leader of Angie Reyes. I was the one, in a manner of speaking, nagpadodo, nagpalit ng lampin niya…until he became a full fledged cadet,” he said.
He added Reyes was also godfather to one of his children.
Robles said he has no plans to visit Reyes’s wake at Arlington Funeral Home.
“I am not going anywhere. I am not going near Reyes’s body. It’s private. If I have a friend who died, I never look at the body. I want to remember him at his best,” he said. With a report from Henry Omaga-Diaz, ABS-CBN News.
ABS-CBN – Wednesday, February 9, 2011