CAMPAIGNING AS an independent candidate has never been easy, much more when you’re behind bars.

Detained former senator Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan is hoping to make a comeback in Philippine politics, eyeing one of the 12 vacant Senate seats, amidst facing charges of rebellion, which is non-bailable.

Honasan was captured in a Quezon City subdivision last November 15, 2006 after nine months in hiding, due to his alleged involvement in a military mutiny in 2003. He was also accused of conspiring to oust President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo February last year.

Without a political party to support his bid for the Senate, Honasan had no one but his family and the Guardians to campaign for him.
Honasan’s family launched his senatorial campaign last March 2 in Mindanao through a “political concert”. Instead of him delivering a speech, rock bands were on stage performing loud music. Honasan was only able to appeal for votes through a video, where he claimed to be a “Mindanawon” who had lived and worked for peace in the island for so many years.
Being its leader, Honasan also mobilized the Philippine Guardians Brotherhood Inc. (PGBI) or the Guardians, a group which consists of retired and active army and police officials, together with civilians and professionals, to run his campaign.
Honasan was the 27th person to formalize his candidacy for a slot in the Upper Chamber upon the approval of his request to personally file his certificate of candidacy by Judge Oscar Pimentel of the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 148.
During his filing of certificate of candidacy, Honasan told reporters that his senatorial bid is “for the Filipino people”, adding that his platform will be that of “peace, unity, and reconciliation”.
Despite not being able to personally attend to campaign sorties, and his limited media exposure and shortage in electoral funds, Honasan still figured well in pre-election surveys, and even gaining advantage over top campaign spenders Prospero Pichay and Mike Defensor of the Team Unity ticket.
In the national survey by the Social Weather Station (SWS) conducted last February 24-27 among registered voters, Honasan ranked 11th, with 29 per cent of the respondents choosing him as one of their 12 senatorial bets.
Similarly, in the Pulse Asia survey from February 28 until March 5, Honasan clinched a spot in the 10th to 12th places with Genuine Opposition’s Alan Peter Cayetano and Vicente Sotto III of the administration coalition.
Honasan entered politics in 1995, becoming the first independent candidate to win a Senate seat. He was re-elected in 2001, and left the Senate in 2004 when his term expired.
During his nine years as a legislator, Honasan had filed 117 bills of national importance.
Among his noteworthy bills signed into law were Republic Act 8368, which decriminalized squatting, R.A. 8532 which increased the Agrarian Reform fund to fifty billion pesos, and R.A. 8749 otherwise known as the Clean Air Act.
The legislative agenda of Senator Honasan for the 11th Congress revolved around Good Government and Efficient Bureaucracy, Reforms in AFP and PNP, Industrialization and Genuine Economic Development, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection and Management, Good Education for all and Opportunities for the Marginalized Sectors.
For the 12th Congress, agrarian and environmental reforms, and peace were his top priorities. He authored the Land Use Act, the Clean Water Act, and an act declaring a National Peace policy.

In terms of his attendance in the Senate sessions, Honasan was able to attend 167 out of the 171 days of the first and second regular sessions of the 12th congress, with a total of eight days allotted for official missions.

Some of the huge bills that Honasan voted in favor of are the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001, the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002, and the Oversees Absentee Voting Act.

Born on March 14, 1948 in Baguio City to Colonel Romeo Honasan and Alice Ballesteros, Gringo Honasan attained his Bachelor of Science degree in the Philippine Military Academy, where he received the academy’s highest leadership award and became the Class Baron.

In 1971, after his graduation, he joined the Philippine Army, where he went into combat against communist insurgents in Luzon and Mindanao.

Honasan’s performance in the military earned him three Distinguished Stars of Counter Insurgency Operations against Economic Saboteurs and Drug Traffickers. Aside from the three Gold Cross Medals for Gallantry in Action in the Battles of Lebak, Jolo and Zamboanga in 1973 to 1974, he also received awards such as Military Merit Medals, Military Commendation Medals, Anti-Insurgency Medals, Anti-Secessionist Medals and Wounded Personnel Medals for wounds sustained in actual combat, among others.

In 1974, then Lt. Honasan served as aide-de-camp to then Secretary of National Defense Juan Ponce Enrile, and later became the department’s Chief of Security. After leading three successful operations against insurgents, Honasan became one of the youngest full Colonels in Philippine History.

Because of his continued service to the military, Honasan was awarded as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) for military service.

In 1986, Honasan , a leader of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement, was among the junior officers who plotted a failed coup against Marcos. He later joined then Defense Minister Juan Ponce-Enrile and then Armed Forces vice Chief Fidel Ramos when they broke their ties with the Marcos dictatorship, which preceded the popular uprising.

Honasan became one of the most important figures of the People Power Revolution. Shortly after the said revolt, Honasan became the “poster boy” or the face of the revolution, receiving awards such as the Distinguished Conduct Star for the EDSA revolution and a Presidential Government Medal from then President Corazon Aquino.

Under the Aquino government, he became the head of a special group in the Defense ministry. Disappointed in the said government, he led various coup attempts against Aquino, leading to his arrest.

Honasan was granted amnesty under the Ramos administration, enabling him to enter politics.

In July 2003, Honasan expressed his intentions to run for the presidency, gaining the support of millions of supporters from the Guardians. However, he later on withdrew his candidacy and instead supported Fernando Poe Jr., in which he acted as the latter’s security chief.

Despite the tumultuous military and political life, Honasan remains to be an accomplished man in some ways. He was the author of the Mini-Marshall Plan for Mindanao, otherwise known as the Mindanao Aid Plan. The Plan was aimed at creating a blueprint to assist Mindanao in its socio-economic recovery, following the region’s devastation due to the full scale military offensive against the Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

He has sponsored 200 medical-dental-surgical missions in parts of the country, computer education scholarships of 3,000 students through the Sulong Dunong sa Kaunlaran Program, and has provided college scholarships to 106 out-of-school youth.

Honasan has also been the prime mover of the National Security Strategy Framework, which seeks to define the country’s national security and strategy.

He also distributed relief assistance to calamity-hit areas in the country through his Gregorio B. Honasan Peace and Development Foundation.

In last month’s celebration of the 21st anniversary of the EDSA revolution, Honasan released a statement calling on the people to “reject violent and illegal methods to achieve power”.

“Let us continue the legacy of reforms through peaceful means—a legacy of hope, not violence.”—JM Ragaza

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