Honasan warns vs 'trial by publicity' amid Duterte claim on generals

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Gregorio Honasan on Wednesday, July 6, warned against “trial by publicity” in the wake of President Rodrigo Duterte's claims linking 5 police generals to the illegal drug trade.

While Honasan said Duterte meant no harm, the senator asked intelligence units to be careful in giving information to the President. 

"Paano pag na-feed natin ang ating leader with inaccurate and malicious information? We are exacerbating institutional damage. Dahan-dahan," Honasan told Rappler in an interview. (What if we feed our leader with inaccurate and malicious information? We are exacerbating institutional damage. Let's go slow.)

Citing his own “painful” experiences, the former coup plotter said he was wrongfully accused in public as part of a so-called shadow government under previous administrations. These supposed false claims led to his imprisonment and affected his children.

Trial by publicity, Honasan maintained, renders the justice system useless.

Dahil I was at the receiving end… There are irresponsible, corrupt elements in the media subjecting people and institutions to premature trial by publicity, which impacts their family and children, ” Honasan said.

He added: "Further, let's suppose any or all those mentioned walang pananagutan pero binanggit na sa headline na drug coddlers and syndicate sila (have no accountability but they were already mentioned in headlines as drug coddlers and syndicates)? Paano yung mga anak na binubully sa eskwelahan? May mag-so-sorry ba sa kanila for the wrong information against their family? (How about their children bullied in schools? Will someone say sorry to them for the wrong information against their family?)"

Honasan, however, was quick to point out that he neither pities nor supports the 5 generals. For him, it is all about “due process.” (READ: Lacson: No reason to doubt Duterte claim on generals)

I’m not protecting them, di ako naaawa sa kanila (I do not pity them). Ang dinedepensahan ko ay ang proseso, ang sistema (I am defending the process and the system). We should have a responsible intelligence management system,” he said.

Duterte means 'well'

While slamming the “trial by publicity,” Honasan said he understands where the President is coming from, adding he believes Duterte meant well when he revealed the names.

His advice, he said, is more directed to intelligence groups, as they are the ones feeding information to top officials.

“We believe the President means well. He wants to govern well but the responsibility is on the government bureaucracy, especially those managing information. We must equip our highest leader the capability not only to govern but to make responsible decisions, which spell the difference between life and death."

For the senator, Duterte already gave the generals enough leeway to come forward before the public announcement, adding he doesn’t “entirely fault” the President for doing so. (READ: Dela Rosa to cops involved in drugs: 'You have 48 hours')

"Para di mapahiya, pinagbigyan nya magreport kay Director General Dela Rosa yung 5 bago niya pangalanan. Pero siguro sinabi nya 'dinedma nyo ko, binigyan ko na kayo ng chansa.' So it was warranted. Kung ikaw din si Presidente, dinedma ka, eh di i-announce mo," he said.

(So the 5 won't be embarrassed in public at first, President Duterte allowed them to report to Director General Dela Rosa before naming them. But maybe he said, 'you ignored me, I already gave you your chance.' So it was warranted. If you were President, you were ignored by these people, then just announce their names.) – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com