Sunday, November 28, 2004

The travels of Mrs. Reyes

The travels of Mrs. Reyes

Updated 03:11am (Mla time) Nov 28, 2004
By Isagani Cruz
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A14 of the November 28, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

REP. Imee Marcos reported last week that the wife of Secretary Angelo Reyes traveled abroad as many as 48 times during the period from 1993 to July of this year. As such report may be as dead today as yesterday's newspaper, I am trying to keep it alive in the public interest. The people have a right to look deeper into this matter because Reyes is a public officer and a member of the Cabinet. He is married to this expensive and frequent traveler, who may or may not have a private fortune of her own. How much was spent for her trips, and by whom, is a proper subject of public inquiry.

The congresswoman, citing records from the Bureau of Immigration, says that during that 11-year period, Mrs. Reyes traveled to the United States, Paris, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Osaka, Singapore, Shanghai, Bandar Seri Begawan, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, and Kuwait. Her usual traveling companion was the wife of now retired Lt. Gen. Jacinto Ligot, who served as comptroller (before Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia) when Reyes was AFP chief of staff. Mrs. Ligot left the country as many as 25 times from 1996 to 2004. Mrs. Reyes was also accompanied to Singapore by the wife of Col. George Rabusa, Garcia's former budget officer who is himself now under investigation for unexplained wealth. Rep. Roilo Golez adds that Reyes himself and his wife traveled abroad together no less than 22 times during that same eight-year period.

Asked for comment, Reyes said he did not have the records with him, but his spokesman described the report as a mere attempt to discredit his boss. Adverse criticism of the secretary is usually dismissed as part of a smear campaign against him, like the charge that he is building a P10-million mansion in Fort Bonifacio. The administrative probe of this matter was discontinued when he resigned as defense secretary. but it is likely to be revived now that he is back in the government. The suspicions raised by Representatives Marcos and Golez are too serious to be swept under the rug and deserve closer inquiry.

The revelation of these extravagant foreign travels equals, if it does not in fact exceed, the disbelief and indignation generated by the expos‚ of the dollar adventures of the family of now retired General Garcia who will have to show how he amassed as much as P143 million (if not more) on his comparatively meager compensation in the Armed Forces. Mrs. Reyes has explained to the Inquirer her 48 (50, she says) foreign travels during the past 11 years (12, she says) and the funds for her substantial, not to say excessive, expenditures. Some of these trips were official, she says, charged to our government or the host foreign countries that invited her peregrinations. But all these should be established in a formal investigation, not a mere interview.

General Reyes originally served as defense secretary in the Cabinet of Joseph Estrada, whom he belatedly abandoned when the latter's ship was sinking. The tardy deserter was not warmly welcomed at Edsa II but was in fact jeered as a Johnny-come-lately out to save his own skin. Returned to his former job by President Macapagal-Arroyo, he formed a singing team with Joey Lina and Bayani Fernando when he should be fighting the outlaws in Mindanao. At the height of the Oakwood mutiny, he appeared to be rather confused instead of decisive and on top of the crisis. Many say he resigned from the Cabinet because his multimillion-peso mansion was beginning to be so discomfiting, but he later became the anti-kidnapping czar before he was appointed to his present post as interior secretary.

It is rather curious that the frequent travels of the general's wife should be questioned by Imee Marcos, whose own mother was no slouch either when it came to taking trips abroad. In fact, Imelda Marcos was a known international jet-setter who did plenty of politicking, socializing and shopping in the exclusive resorts of the rich and famous in America and Europe, and, of course, and the pleasure spots in Asia. Who paid for these frivolities is still being debated in our courts, unless they have been slumbering all these years since the cases were commenced shortly after Edsa I. If similar informations are filed against Mrs. Reyes, and possibly also Secretary Reyes, let us hope they will not take as long to resolve as the charges against the elusive and presumably immune Imelda.

It is gratifying that Congressman Golez has suggested that the Ombudsman conduct an investigation of the foreign travels of Mrs. Reyes to determine if any crime has been committed. While we are not quick to condemn her, we cannot simply dismiss the suspicions that have been voiced, not without reason, by Representatives Marcos and Golez, from the facts revealed in official records. Such investigation will give her a chance to defend herself from the common speculation that she is yet another, and probably even worse, Mrs. Clarita Garcia.


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