the death of an officer and a gentleman

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The presumption of innocence, sometimes referred by the Latin Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat (the principle that one is considered innocent until proven guilty) is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, recognized in many nations. The burden of proof is thus on the prosecution, which has to collect and present enough compelling evidence to convince the trier of fact, who is restrained and ordered by law to consider only actual evidence and testimony that is legally admissible, and in most cases lawfully obtained, that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In case of remaining doubts, the accused is to be acquitted. This presumption is seen to stem from the Latin legal principle that ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat (the burden of proof rests on who asserts, not on who denies).

Source: Wikipedia

Whenever any public officer or employee has acquired during his incumbency an amount of property which is manifestly out of proportion to his salary as such public officer or employee and to his other lawful income and the income from legitimately acquired property, said property shall be presumed prima facie to have been unlawfully acquired…

If the respondent is unable to show to the satisfaction of the court that he has lawfully acquired the property in question, then the court shall declare such property, forfeited in favor of the State…

Source: Republic Act 1379 (Sections 2 and 6)

The death of General Angelo “Angie” Reyes is a tragedy that leaves many loose ends which may never be tidied up. Despite this, the congressional and Department of National Defense inquiries into alleged corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines have made clear to Juan de la Cruz that this alleged corruption goes far beyond and involves far many more than just one Major General Carlos Garcia.

By taking his own life, Gen. Reyes will no longer be able to clear his name. Despite the general presumption of innocence unless proven guilty, Philippine law actually transfers the burden of proving one’s innocence on public officials accused of accumulating ill-gotten wealth. Gen. Reyes will now never be able to do that.

So what happens now? Does his death extinguish any criminal or civil liability? Or does this transfer the burden to his estate?

One wonders how someone like Gen. Reyes, an accomplished, intelligent and outwardly strong person, could make the choice of ending his life. One also wonders how someone like him could be dogged by numerous allegations of corruption in the latter half of his government career. Is the institution that he once led so corrupt that he eventually could have succumbed to accepted practice? Was he really a “fall guy” who fell on his sword rather than be forced to choose between betraying a benefactor or prospectively admitting to wrongdoing to salvage his honor?

We will never know the answers to these questions from Gen. Reyes.

But maybe, just maybe – by his committing this sacrifice Gen. Reyes intended to open a Pandora’s Box that forces us to think that this may be something where there really is more than meets the eye. Maybe, just maybe – Gen. Reyes wanted to save the institution that he loved – the AFP – from the rot from within. That by continuing to dig into this “where there is smoke, there must be fire” situation, the AFP may finally become the institution that he wanted it to become. He just may not have wanted to be the whistle blower, himself.

Maybe, just maybe by pursuing the cleansing process for the AFP – it can finally become the institution that Gen. Reyes idealized it as being. Then maybe, just maybe – the sacrifice of Gen. Reyes would not have been in vain.

And then, maybe only then will the officer and gentlemen finally rest in peace.


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