10 things to know about Gringo Honasan

(UPDATED) A coup plotter, a family man, and a 4-time senator. Here are interesting trivia about the United Nationalist Alliance's vice presidential bet in 2016.

Mara Cepeda

Published: 8:50 AM October 12, 2015

Updated: 5:00 PM February 26, 2016

BIN-GO! Senator Gringo Honasan finally agrees to be the running mate of Vice President Jejomar Binay in the 2016 elections. File photo by Rappler

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan II is many things – senator, ex-military man, former coup plotter.

He is also the running mate of Vice President Jejomar Binay, standard-bearer of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), for the 2016 elections.

Honasan was offered the post only on October 5 after talks between the camps of Binay and Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr, Binay's top choice for vice president, collapsed.

Honasan, who was supposed to retire after his term in the Senate ends in 2019, said he needed time to convince his family to allow him to run for higher office.

Honasan will be up against 5 others for vice president – Senators MarcosAlan Peter Cayetano, Francis “Chiz” Escudero, and Antonio Trillanes IV as well as Camarines Sur Representative Leni Robredo.

He hails from the Bicol region like Escudero and Robredo (Trillanes' father also grew up in Albay). And Trillanes was once a Honasan protégé.

As Honasan joins the fray, here are other things you need to know about him.

1. He had the makings of a leader even as a young man. Honasan, son of Army colonel Romeo Honasan and Alicia Ballesteros, was baron of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1971.

In his class yearbook called Sword, the 23-year-old Honasan was described as follows: "Gringo –Comfortably warm and constantly dynamic; enough determination and perseverance in achieving his goals, coupled with characteristic humility and compassion for the less fortunate have tempered all his actuations thus far. These trains which have endeared him to both equals and subordinates, will remain hallmarks of every endeavor he undertakes."

He was deployed in Mindanao after graduation but his combat duty ended in 1974, when he was wounded by sniper fire while battling Moro rebels.

2. Honasan became famous for his role in the 1986 EDSA Revolution. The then bemoustached Honasan gained prominence as a military officer in the latter part of the Marcos regime.

He was the aide-de-camp of then-defense minister and now Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, who became like a second father to Honasan.

He was a member of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) and helped Enrile plan a mutiny against the dictatorship of former President Ferdinand Marcos.

FATHER FIGURE. Enrile (left, wearing glasses) was like a second father to a younger Honasan (middle). Photo by Romeo Mariano.

However, Honasan also rebelled against the woman he helped become his commander-in-chief. He led at least two unsuccessful coup attempts against the Aquino administration.

3. He went into hiding at least twice – under the administrations of Cory Aquino and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Constabulary agents arrested Honasan after the August 1987 coup in a house in Valle Verde, Pasig. He was imprisoned in a ship moored in Manila Bay but managed to escape later. It was on the ship where his wife conceived their 5th child.

Honasan also went underground after the Arroyo administration accused him of masterminding the botched 2003 Oakwood mutiny that was led by young officers such as Trillanes. Honasan was among those charged by the Justice Department with staging a coup d’ etat. A Makati court later junked his charges.

The senator was also linked to the 2006 Marine standoff against Arroyo, but he has denied the claim.

4. Honasan is a decorated military man. According to his official page on the Senate website, Honasan saw military action in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. He earned several medals, awards, decorations, and commendations for his “gallantry in action.”

His recognitions include 3 Distinguished Conduct Stars, Gold Cross medals, and Wounded Personnel Medals sustained in combat. He was recognized by the Philippine Jaycees as one of 10 Outstanding Young Men in 1985.

As a member of RAM, Honasan was also awarded the Presidential Commendation Medal for Government service by Aquino.

5. He has been a senator for 4 terms now.

For the longest time as a politician, Honasan was an independent, but he became a guest candidate of several coalitions. He was the first independent candidate to win as senator in 1995, but he ran on the slate of the Nationalist People’s Coalition.

He was almost not reelected in 2001, when he placed 13th as an independent senatorial candidate but allied with ousted president Joseph “Erap” Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino. Honasan was able to get a 3-year term after then-senator Teofisto Guingona Jr’s appointment as vice president.

In 2007, Honasan ran and won again as an independent candidate. In 2013, he secured a 4th term still as an independent but allied with UNA.

6. As a senator, his main advocacies include environmental, military, police, and agrarian reform issues. Some of the bills he authored and co-authored include the following: the Clean Air Act of 1999, Clean Water Act, National Security Policy, Disaster Risk Reduction Management Act of 2009, and Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

He is also the sponsor of the POGI bill, also known as the Freedom of Information or People’s Ownership of Government Information Act of 2012.

7. His 2014 SALN indicates he has no liabilities. According to his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), Honasan became richer from P20,958,838 in 2013 to P21,225,615.91 in 2014.

His 2014 SALN indicates that Honasan has P4,733,800 worth of real properties, which include several lots in Metro Manila, and P16,491,815.91 worth of personal properties. Honasan said he had no liabilities.

Meanwhile, when he last ran for senator in 2013, he spent P24,111,848.96 for his campaign. Of this figure, he got P23,107,141.04 from contributions.

His 2013 Statement of Contributions and Expenditures also says that he personally shouldered the remaining P1 million of his campaign expenses.

8. He is facing a graft complaint over the pork barrel scam. Honasan rebelled against the supposed ineptitude and corruption of past presidents, but he faces a graft complaint himself.

Along with other government officials, Honasan was the subject of a complaint by the Department of Justice in August 2015 with malversation of public funds, direct bribery, and graft and corruption. He allegedly pocketed P1.75 million ($37,666) in development funds for the poor through fake non-governmental organizations.

9. He once supported the presidential campaign of Fernando Poe Jr. According to a Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) profile, Honasan was the chairperson of the Philippine Guardians Brotherhood Incorporated, which is an organization consisting of military and civilian members.

When Fernando Poe Jr (FPJ), the father of 2016 presidential hopeful Senator Grace Poe, ran for president in 2004, the Guardians formed the human cordon that protected FPJ during his sorties. PCIJ said the group also served as security detail of FPJ’s widow, Susan Roces, during her appearances in protest actions.

10. Honasan is a family man, too.

FAMILY PHOTO. Honasan with his children, in-laws, and grandchildren. Photo from Kai Honasan

His family was one of the primary reasons why Honasan was reluctant to accept UNA’s offer to be Binay’s running mate. His children include singer-song writer Kai Honasan, who became a contestant in the singing competition, The Voice of the Philippines. (READ: Growing up the rebel's kid)

ON STAGE. Honasan with daughter Kai in the set of "The Voice." Photo from Kai Honasan

Honasan’s second eldest child, Martin, is also married to musician Barbie Almalbis. – with research from Michael Bueza and Gerard Lim/Rappler.com

You may want to read interesting trivia on other candidates that you might have missed:

9 things to know about Jejomar Binay

8 things to know about Mar Roxas

15 things you did not know about Grace Poe

11 things to know about Chiz Escudero

8 things to know about Leni Robredo

22 things to know about ‘Duterte Harry’

10 things to know about Alan Peter Cayetano

8 things to know about Antonio Trillanes IV