MANILA, Philippines – Senator Gregorio Honasan II said he will be forced to become Vice President Jejomar Binay’s running mate if the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) insists on it.
A reluctant candidate, Honasan emerged as UNA’s vice presidential bet after talks with Binay’s first choice, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, failed over the weekend. Honasan is Binay’s second choice for vice president.
A rebel soldier-turned-politician, Honasan said he is still in the process of consulting his family, but will abide by the decision of the party, where he is vice president.
“What choice do I have? I am here to articulate the platform and program of UNA, which I am helping organize. I have always been a good soldier,” Honasan told reporters on Monday, October 5.
UNA is expected to announce the Binay-Honasan tandem on Tuesday, October 6. The announcement comes a day after Binay met with Honasan and the senator’s close friend, Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, to discuss their political plans.
In September, Honasan said he was not interested in running, and preferred to help out in Binay’s campaign. Yet UNA officials had said that the senator would be pressed to run if Marcos continued to delay finalizing his political plans ahead of the filing of candidacies on October 12 to 16.
On Monday, Honasan reiterated that he was not interested in the post but has to consider his political party.
“I did not think about it, I was not considering it, and I am not presenting myself, but it has now become a decision that is a matter of duty. I am now vice president of UNA, a political party I am helping organize. I will subordinate myself to that decision, whatever it is but I will inform the UNA executive committee that my primary consideration is my family and friends,” he said.
Honasan, 67, is on his 4th term as senator. He was re-elected in 2013, and his term expires in 2019. He is an advocate of peace and order, national security, and agrarian reform.
The senator was an aide-de-camp of former defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile, and a key figure in the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution that ousted former President Ferdinand Marcos.
He led two unsuccessful coup attempts against the Corazon Aquino administration, and was accused of masterminding the 2003 Oakwood mutiny against the Arroyo government.
Honasan allied with Binay in his 2013 re-election bid. He finished 12th in the senatorial race.
Family and PDAF case
Honasan said he has to convince his family to support his potential vice presidential bid because they are against him seeking higher office.
“That’s personal. They know the implications of running for public office. I have an unfinished mandate to consider also. I just want to make a decision for the right reasons and it goes beyond personal considerations,” he said.
Honasan said his family is the only obstacle to a vice presidential campaign. “They’re my primary audience. If my family and my friends cannot be behind me 100%, I cannot be behind anybody 100%, and that’s my decision to make.”
A source close to Honasan told Rappler that family and friends are worried that becoming Binay’s running mate will prompt the Aquino administration to pursue the graft case against him in relation to the pork barrel corruption scam.
In August, the justice department filed a complaint of malversation of public finds, direct bribery, and graft and corruption against Honasan before the Ombudsman for allegedly pocketing P1.75 million ($40,000) in development funds.
Honasan’s allies in the opposition – Senator Enrile, Senator Jinggoy Estrada and Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr – were imprisoned over the scandal. The Supreme Court later granted Enrile’s bail petition.
Binay also faces multiple corruption allegations over supposedly overpriced Makati projects. He is the subject of a Senate, Ombusman, and money-laundering investigation into claims he got millions of pesos in kickbacks from the construction of Makati buildings.
Peace and order platform
Honasan said he will push for UNA’s platform of security, pro-poor programs, economic prosperity, and “healing and political unity.”
Senator Nancy Binay, the Vice President’s eldest daughter, said Honasan knows peace and order best among the vice presidential bets.
The politicians who declared the vice presidential candidacies are Senator Francis Escudero, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, and Camarines Sur Representative Leni Robredo.
Like Honasan, Robredo was also initially against running for vice president but eventually agreed to partner with administration candidate Manuel “Mar” Roxas II.
If he finalizes his vice presidential bid, he becomes the 4th candidate from Bicol. Honasan’s parents are from Sorsogon, the home province of Escudero. Trillanes and Robredo are also from Bicol.
“It means this is the age of Bicolanos,” quipped Honasan.
Honasan’s mentor, Enrile, said the senator is qualified but must consider other factors.
“The problem there is first: does he want to run? I do not know. Second, do you have the resources to undergo that kind of a political adventure? Running is easy but these factors are not,” Enrile told reporters.
Sotto to drop Chiz
Sotto said he and Honasan will have a political briefing with pollsters on Tuesday to assess their 2016 chances. Sotto is running for re-election.
The comedian-turned-politician said he will talk to senators Grace Poe and Escudero to ask permission to support his best friend, Honasan.
Sotto though clarified that his support is only for Honasan, and does not extend to Binay.
“Yes, even the Vice President knows. We talked about it and he has no ill feelings because I support Grace. He understands,” said Sotto, a member of the Nationalist People’s Coalition.
Honasan’s possible entry into the vice presidential race further tightens the contest. It also highlights Binay’s difficulty of finding a running mate even if he was first to declare his presidential candidacy.
Binay was in talks with Marcos for over two months but the tandem did not materialize because of the political baggage it brings. Binay was a human rights lawyer who opposed the dictatorship of Marcos’ father, the late President Ferdinand Marcos. – Rappler.com