MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Senator Gregorio Honasan II became the latest politician to thumb down the idea of running with Vice President Jejomar Binay.
A day after the opposition standard-bearer announced that he was considering Honasan to be his running mate, the senator clarified on Tuesday, September 22, that he is not interested in higher office. The coup-plotter-turned-lawmaker said he would rather stay on as senator, and assist in Binay’s campaign as the vice president of the opposition party.
Asked if the possible tandem surprised him, Honasan said, “Siguro may mga masakit magbiro (Maybe there are people who crack painful jokes).”
He added: “I have no interest in running. I’ll be [senator] up until 2019. I’m working on organizing the party, UNA. I’m not visible or audible. That’s far from my mind because I want to ride into the sunset in 2019.”
Binay has been hard-pressed to find a running mate. His first choice, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, still undecided on vying for higher office or re-election.
Marcos reiterated on Tuesday that he has yet to make a decision following reports his tandem with Binay is already sealed. He said he will decide until October 16, the last day for the filing of certificates of candidacy.
The Vice President first named Senator Grace Poe, resigned Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as individuals he considered to team up with but all of them rejected the informal proposal.
Binay is chairman of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
Honasan said the joke was that if he becomes Binay’s partner, the tandem will be called “Bi-Hon” or “Bin-Go,” from his nickname Gringo.
“Mahirap iyon ibenta. Noodles pa siguro (That’s a hard sell. Maybe noodles),” he quipped.
Now on his 4th term as senator, the 67-year-old Honasan turned serious in stressing that he prefers to be “behind the scenes” and just help Binay become president. Besides, Binay did not even talk to him about the prospect.
“I have not considered it. I have not thought about it outside my consciousness, my present activities. Our discussion is on ground activities, organizing the party at the grassroots level, touching base with the local government officials,” said Honasan.
It was a rare interview with Honasan, who has kept a low profile since he was linked to the multi-billion peso pork barrel corruption scam.
The justice department filed a complaint against the senator before the Ombudsman in August for allegedly earning a kickback of P1.75 million ($37,633) in development funds that were supposedly funneled to bogus NGOs.
Honasan said that he will support a Binay-Marcos tandem should this push through.
“That would be a formidable team. I feel Senator Bongbong would make a good running mate. It will project unity,” said Honasan.
A former human rights lawyer, Binay is considering running with Marcos even after he fought the dictatorship of the senator’s father, the late Ferdinand Marcos.
The Vice President also used to clash with Honasan, who plotted coups against the late President Corazon Aquino. Binay owes his political break to Aquino, who appointed him officer-in-charge of Makati. He even earned the moniker “Rambotito” for wearing army fatigues and lugging an Uzi submachine gun to ward off coup attempts against Aquino.
Honasan said leaders should focus on “healing” like resolving the issue of where the late presdient Marcos should be buried. Critics do not want Marcos buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani because of human rights abuses and corruption under his watch.
When President Benigno Aquino III tasked him to study the issue, Binay recommended a compromise in 2011 that Marcos be buried instead in his home province of Ilocos Norte but with full military honors.
Honasan said: “To me, it’s procedural. Just decide on the issue so we can move on.”
Still no NP decision
With Honasan’s decision, only Senator Francis Escudero and Senator Antonio Trillanes IV remain the candidates for vice president so far.
Honasan, Escudero, and Trillanes are all from Bicol, along with Camarines Sur Representative Leni Robredo, whom Roxas is trying to convince to be the administration’s vice presidential bet.
It is still unclear if Marcos and Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, Trillanes’ partymates in the Nacionalista Party (NP) will also run for vice president.
Last week, the NP of former Senate president Manuel Villar met to discuss the 2016 polls but no decision was made.
“We defer to the non-decision of Senator Marcos and Cayetano,” Trillanes told Rappler.
Cayetano announced that he is no longer running for president but has yet to categorically state if he is sliding down to vice president.
Even if his partymates decide to run against him, Trillanes said he will pursue his vice presidential bid, and campaign for independent Senator Grace Poe.
Trillanes’ Magdalo party, composed of former rebels, is endorsing Poe.
The NP senator said Magdalo asked its 600 chapters nationwide to choose among Poe, Roxas, and Duterte, and the group chose Poe.
“It was [a] close [fight] with Secretary Roxas but eventually Grace won so that’s already a commitment.” – Rappler.com