Gringo Honasan ‘excited but not worried’ for VP debate

Mara Cepeda
Gringo Honasan ‘excited but not worried’ for VP debate
Will the rockstar of the post-EDSA years outshine his opponents for the vice presidency?

MANILA, Philippines – For a man who has fought battles in the fields of Mindanao and within the walls of the Senate, slugging it out with 5 other vice presidential candidates in a debate may seem like a walk in the park.

“I feel comfortable. I’m excited, but I’m not worried. I’ve been in worse situations before,” Senator Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan II told Rappler when asked how he is preparing for the vice presidential debate on Sunday, April 10. 

The 4-term senator, the vice presidential bet of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), is a decorated military man who had graduated from the Philippine Military Academy as baron of the Class of 1971. (READ: 10 things to know about Gringo Honasan)

Honasan became famous not only for his role in the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution that toppled the Marcos regime but for also staging coup attempts against President Corazon Aquino. (READ: Honasan: In first 6 years, Marcos a better president than Cory)

As legislator, Honasan’s main advocacies include environmental, military, police, and agrarian reform issues. (READ: The Leader I Want: Gringo Honasan’s to-fix list for 2016)

UNA’s bet for the second highest post in the land, however, plans to put the spotlight not on himself but on the opposition party, of which he is also the vice president.

“I’m just reviewing the platform of UNA [so] I can be consistent of course with what our presidential candidate, Vice President [Jejomar] Binay, has already articulated and explained to audiences all over the country,” said Honasan. 

“I think I would have accomplished my mission to do justice in the participation in the debate if I am able to articulate the platform of the UNA in the best manner I can, not so much to the live audience but to the Filipino people,” he added.

Party before self

Honasan’s approach for the upcoming debate is consistent with his actions on the campaign trail: during sortie speeches, Honasan campaigns for Binay but barely tells audiences to vote for himself.

“Yes, that’s true. I seldom talk about myself. I talk about the platform of UNA, the qualities of the Vice President as a leader, and how it relates to our platform,” said Honasan, who was initially reluctant to run.

The Vice President wanted Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr as UNA vice presidential candidate. But when Bongbong Marcos refused, Honasan said he could not allow the standard-bearer of his party to run without a vice presidential bet. (READ: Binay’s pitch for Honasan)

Honasan lags behind in the latest pre-election surveys – he only got 6% in the ABS-CBN poll and 3% in The Standard survey.

He remains unfazed, saying he is “not concerned” about survey results. (READ: Honasan on VP campaign: ‘I wage an effective ground war’)

“I guess by this time, you know a little bit more about me – my character, my principles, my legislative record, my record as soldier and rebel. What else is there to say?” he said.

Back to the past

To boost his vice presidential bid, does Honasan plan to remind those who will watch the debate about his glory days during the post-EDSA years? 

After all, Honasan was once described by award-winning journalist Criselda Yabes in her book The Boys from the Barracks: The Philippine Military After EDSA as someone with a spell “difficult to resist,” a kind of spell that “could easily weave on young minds, on the minds of young soldiers.”

He graced magazine pages, signed countless autographs, and impressed men and women alike for his daredevilry. (Honasan used to go skydiving with his pet python wrapped around his neck.)

As Honasan faces yet another battle on Sunday, he made a vow.

“The only promise or commitment I can make is that I will do my best and I will put my record on the table so the young voters who were not born during various stages in my personal life and my history as a public servant [will be more informed],” he said. – Rappler.com

Read about other vice presidential candidates’ debate preparations:

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.