Media coverage of the Reyes Suicide: Breaking all the rules
by Kathryn Roja G. Raymundo
Published in the January – February 2011 issue of PJR Reports
When news broke in the morning of Feb. 8 that former cabinet secretary and retired armed forces chief Angelo T. Reyes had died of a gunshot wound to the chest, the press went out of its way to cover practically everything that had to do with Reyes and the controversy he had been involved in. In the process, they broke almost every rule ever devised in the coverage of suicide.
To their credit, some journalists exercised caution in reporting the incident immediately as a suicide. At presstime, most news organizations were referring to Reyes as an “apparent suicide”. The family, doctors, and police investigators had yet to confirm if indeed Reyes had killed himself. However, initial police investigation showed, and witnesses said, that the wound was self-inflicted.
Reyes had been in the headlines because of the congressional investigation on the allegedly systemic corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Whistleblower Lt. Col. George Rabusa, a former military budget officer, said Reyes had collected millions of pesos monthly when he was still the AFP chief of staff and had received a “send-off gift” when he retired.
Reyes served as the AFP chief of staff from 1998 to 2001 under former President Joseph Estrada. He withdrew his support for Estrada during EDSA II, which led then Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to assume the presidency. Reyes held the defense, interior and local government, environment and natural resources, and energy portfolios under the Arroyo administration.
PJR Reports monitored the Manila newspapers (BusinessMirror, BusinessWorld, Malaya: Business Insight, Manila Bulletin, Manila Standard Today, The Daily Tribune, The Manila Times, Philippine Daily Inquirer, and The Philippine Star), TV news programs (ABS-CBN 2’s TV Patrol and Bandila, GMA-7’s 24 Oras and Saksi, NBN’s Teledyaryo, QTV-11’s News on Q, TV5’s Aksyon and IBC-13’s Express Balita), and online news sites.