Behind the General’s Death (2nd Part)

The unnamed powerful man behind Maj.Gen. Carlos Garcia

By Ellen Tordesillas

From left: Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, Late General Angelo Reyes, Commodore Rex Robles, Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

The mysterious powerful man behind Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia is once again mentioned in the news following the outburst of retired Commodore Rex Robles after the suicide of former Armed Forces Chief Angelo Reyes.

Robles, who belongs to Philippine Military Class ’65 said his closeness to Reyes goes back to PMA days because he was the yearling, the academy lingo for mentor, of Reyes who was in Class ’66.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV yesterday said investigations into alleged diversion and conversion of the military budget might lead to Malacañang during the administration of former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo.

“Masyadong malaki yung perang involved na imposibleng nasa level lang ni late General (Angelo) Reyes…sa Malacañang lang nagre-release ng ganung level,” Trillanes said.”

Source: Malaya

The following version of that controversy which has now involved Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV , PMA Class ’95, is the result of my interviews with Robles, Trillanes and talk with other sources even before the Ombudsman entered into a plea bargain agreement with Garcia, the subject of the congressional investigation which has led to more revelations of corruption in the military.

Last Jan. 12, Trillanes, a few weeks after his release from a 7-and- a- half- year detention was quoted in media to have said, “”I believe General Garcia is only a front for somebody powerful. At some point in late 2009, he was actually willing to talk and reveal the story behind his enormous wealth. But I don’t know, maybe he got afraid.”

Trillanes refused to identify the person he believed is protecting Garcia but he said he has told Malacañang about it.

Trillanes and Garcia were both detained at the Camp Crame Custodial Center. Garcia, who was accused of a non-bailable crime of plunder, was released on bail last Dec. 16 on the strength of the plea bargain agreement which the Ombudsman said has not yet been approved by the Sandiganbayan.

On Jan. 14, Reyes wrote Trillanes asking him to reveal who that “powerful person” behind Garcia. He said,”And knowing you to be a forthright and just person, I am confident that when you do name this powerful person, you would be able to substantiate the allegation.”

The letter was hand carried to Trillanes by a his PMA classmate on Jan. 18. This letter was a subject of Gloria Arroyo’s call to Reyes a few days before he killed himself.

Robles said that Trillanes told his mistah,””Mistah,hindi si Reyes.” That’s why Robles said he could not understand why Trillanes said it was Reyes in a media interview last Feb. 1, the day after Reyes published the letter through a paid advertisement in major newspapers.

Trillanes said Reyes was one of the “principals” behind Garcia based on the revelations of former military budget officer George Rabusa.

Take note that the delivery of the letter to Trillanes happened before Rabusa’s Senate appearance on Jan. 27. It was in that hearing that Rabusa revealed that he personally delivered to Reyes, together with then military comptroller Jacinto Ligot, P50 million send- off gift when AFP chief retired sometime in March 2001. Rabusa also said that Reyes was receiving P10 million monthly for his personal allowances when he was AFP chief.

Trillanes admitted that at the time he met his mistah, the “powerful man” he was referring to was not Reyes.

But Trillanes revealed that his mistah delivered a message from Reyes which indicated that he also knew who that powerful man that the senator was referring and he wanted him (Trillanes) to disclose it in public so he (Reyes) would be cleared.

Trillanes said his mistah told him that Reyes admitted “May dumadaan sa akin. Pero wala akong kinukuha. Wala ako diyan. (Some pass through me. But I don’t benefit from it. I didn’t get anything.”

Trillanes’ said his mistah relayed to him Reyes request “to absolve him.”

Trillanes said, “I couldn’t do that.” Instead he told his mistah that since the former AFP chief and also former defense secretary himself said the deal just passed through his desk and he knew there was a higher destination, “Ituro na niya.” Identify the ultimate beneficiary.

The mistah said it’s unlikely that Reyes would do that.

Presumably, Trillanes’ information who the powerful person behind Garcia came from the former military comptroller himself. The problem is, during that Jan. 27 hearing, Trillanes asked Garcia if he was willing to cooperate with the government in eradicating corruption in the military. Garcia firmly declared, “I am not applying to be a state witness.”

Trillanes said he was puzzled why Reyes even came out with a full page ad with his letter even after the Rabusa expose. He said he named Reyes based on the Rabusa testimony. He said that’s why he asked for procurement papers of military equipment because purchases for the armed forces pass through the office of the defense secretary.

Robles said in his last conversation with Reyes, which was the day before he killed himself, the latter confided to him that Arroyo called him up about his letter to Trillanes. Robles said Reyes sounded concerned about Arroyo’s probe about the letter telling him about it in conspiratorial way. “Pare, tinawagan ako ni GMA,” Reyes told him half-whisper over the phone.

Robles said one of the things that Arroyo wanted to know was the identity of Trillanes’ mistah who delivered the letter.

Does this mean now that Arroyo will grill that young officer? Was Arroyo worried that it was her former aide, nor LCDR Christopher Magdangal, who delivered the letter? Was she worried that Magdangal would talk? No, it was not Magdangal.

There is also there is also the question why Reyes was challenging Trillanes to name the “powerful person” behind Garcia, who apparently he also knew. He knew that coming up with proofs to pin down this powerful person would be difficult. Was he laying a trap for Trillanes?

With Reyes gone, that powerful person may think that as long as Garcia adheres to his code of omerta, he is safe. But we got information that Garcia has written a letter, copies of which were given to three persons he trusts, with the instruction that it be made public in case something unnatural happens to him.

Uneasy must be the head that sleeps on stolen comforts.

Behind the General’s Death (1st Part)

Retired Gen. Angelo Reyes

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

Top: Commodore Rex Robles, Mid: Rep. Roilo Golez, Below: Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV

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