Gregorio B. Honasan II
Senator Gregorio Ballesteros Honasan II was first elected to the Senate in 1995, the first truly independent candidate in Philippine political history to win in national elections. He has been elected senator four times as an independent.
“Gringo” is the eldest child of Col. Romeo Honasan and Alice Ballesteros, an educator from Sorsogon. He dreamt of becoming a priest, then a doctor, but was advised by his father to apply at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) for a free college education. There, his father said, he would be trained as a cadet and pursue a noble profession as an officer in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
After a year at the University of the Philippines- Diliman, Honasan entered the PMA in 1967, topping some 10,000 applicants during the entrance exam. He was elected President of his class for four years until he graduated in 1971 as Class Baron or First Captain, the highest leadership and aggregate award given by the institution. He was also a contender for the Master of the Sword Award, the highest honor for athletics and physical fitness, after setting records in gymnastics and combat sports.
As a lieutenant in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Honasan was immediately deployed to Northern Luzon and Mindanao against various armed groups, including communist rebels, secessionists, criminals, and terrorists. Leading from the front by example, he was wounded several times in combat.
Honasan earned recognition for gallantry in action, and received three of the nation’s second highest military medals: the Distinguished Conduct Star, and three Gold Cross Medals and Wounded Personnel Medals for wounds sustained in combat. The Philippine Jaycees named him one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men in 1985 for military service, only the second soldier in the country’s history to earn the award.
At age 35, he became the youngest officer in the history of the Armed Forces at that time to be promoted to full colonel. He was also handpicked to serve as aide to the Secretary of National Defense, and later, as Chief of Security. In 1981, he earned his Master’s Degree from the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), where he graduated with distinction for his thesis or management research report.
Honasan played a key role in the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution that ended the authoritarian rule of President Ferdinand E. Marcos. He rose to prominence as one of the leaders of a group of young, idealistic officers known as the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM), who believed that the President had health problems making him lose effective control over governance, and the moral ascendancy to lead the nation. The net effect was the unwarranted loss of innocent lives, destruction of property and curtailment of liberty. Their withdrawal of support was a decisive element in the triumph of the historic revolt.
During President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration, he was accused of masterminding the Oakwood mutiny led by a new generation of young reformist officers in the Armed Forces. He was accused of fomenting a military uprising, a charge later dismissed by the courts.
His entry into the Philippine Senate marked Honasan’s evolution from rebel-soldier to statesman. He has since been a consistent advocate of a proactive government that would address poverty, homelessness, hunger, ignorance, social injustice, deeper forms of violence, divisive partisan politics, and uphold national sovereignty and ensure national security.
His landmark contributions to legislation include the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, Solid Waste Management Act, Increasing the Monthly Old-age Pension of Senior Veterans and Increasing the Base Pay of Military and Uniformed Personnel in the Government. He is the main proponent of the National Security Policy, Freedom of Information or People’s Ownership of Government Information (POGI) Bill, National Land Use Policy, and proposed a Mini Marshall Plan for peace and development in Mindanao. He also supported the proposed amendments to the Human Security Act.
He has authored and co-authored vital laws passed in the Senate on Strengthening the Dangerous Drugs Act, Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation, Stiffer Penalties for the Illegal Possession of Explosives.
Honasan filed several bills that focused on National Security, Intelligence Reform, Land Use, Agrarian Reform, Public Order, and Lasting Peace through a Comprehensive Long-Term National Peace Policy.
In the Senate’s Centennial Year, Honasan was elected Assistant Majority Leader of the Senate, Member of the Commission on Appointments, and Assistant Majority Leader, and Chairman of two major Senate Committees—National Defense and Security, and Peace, Unification, and Reconciliation, and Chairman of the Select Oversight Committee on Intelligence Funds as well as the Ad Hoc Committee on the Marawi Reconstruction and Rehabilitation. Other Chairmanships he held as a four-term senator for 20 years were the Committees on Energy, Labor, Environment, Agrarian Reform, Sports, Public Information and Mass Media, Public Order and Dangerous Drugs.
A progressive but low-key political career notwithstanding, Honasan remains a soldier at heart. He has been called a rebel, revolutionary, reformist, and destabilizer, among other less flattering labels. But he is, in his own words, “just an ordinary professional soldier thrust into extraordinary circumstances.” He has been happily married for the last 47 years to Jane Umali Honasan with whom he has 5 gifted children and 5 grandchildren, all potentially much better versions of himself. Among his greatest achievements, he believes, are being a husband for 47 years, a father for 45 years, and a grandfather for 12 years.
Honasan believes in the ancient definition of heroism: when good people, from all walks of life work TOGETHER, sacrifice and help build for the next generation. He is convinced that the Philippines is a nation of heroes. After he has done his duty in this lifetime, he would like history to remember him less as a personality, and more for his family and children, and the brotherhood of men that he was part of. Our greatest legacy, he believes, will be our most precious, strategic and renewable resource: our next generation of citizens and leaders – our CHILDREN.