RENE N. JARQUE, 40
It was with shock that I received the news that former Army Capt. Rene N. Jarque had died last Friday of cardiac arrest in Jakarta, Indonesia where he had been working since 2004. He was just less than two months short of his 41st birthday, and when I last saw him -- which was less than a year ago -- he looked strong enough to take on two men in a fistfight at the same time.
But more than that, it is saddening that the country has just lost one of the few honorable men to have come from its Armed Forces -- and at a time when no one expected him to die the way he did.
A 1986 graduate of the US Military Academy, Rene was a staunch opponent of corruption in the Armed Forces, which is most brazen in the highest echelons of its leadership. He sought to fight military corruption through armed means in 1989, and when that didn't succeed he turned to writing articles exposing various corrupt military practices in the different AFP publications. His facts were well-researched, his analyses incisive, his recommendations sound.
Because of his efforts, he was repeatedly subjected to harassment and was even placed under surveillance by his own superiors.
Disillusioned, he left the military service in 1998. He was then just a captain. One of his last works for the AFP was a paper arguing for a self-reliant defense policy, contrary to the present US-dependent one.
But the fight didn't end there. He would spend the next several years combatting military corruption and promoting AFP reform by continuing to write about these issues, this time for the major newspapers and magazines; as well as joining anti-corruption groups.
Even after he had taken his Jakarta job, he would every so often find time to return to the Philippines and speak in forums and conferences on corruption.
As a journalist, I had the pleasure of interviewing him in depth a number of times. He was one of my favorites among my frequent interviewees. Despite his hectic schedule, he always had time for interviews, whether personal or through e-mail, and to top that off he was both intelligent and eloquent.
He also had this way of making good friends with the journalists who interviewed him. He invariably took the initiative of keeping in touch with his journalist-interviewers even when there was absolutely no interview to make: from time to time he would send us jokes and other funny e-mails, aside from giving us the privilege of being among the first readers of his latest articles.
In early 2004, when he left for Jakarta, we lost contact with each other. Later that year, on one of his frequent visits to Manila, we saw each other again -- and without my asking him (which I had meant to do), he gave me his e-mail addresses and told me to just send him an e-mail if I needed anything. I was able to do several interviews with him that way.
Just nine days before he died, he had e-mailed us a copy of a speech he delivered before the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1995. It was about courage, integrity, loyalty and the soldier.
That was Rene N. Jarque -- a patriot in his own right, a brilliant thinker, and a good friend. An officer and a gentleman.