#KnowYourCandidates: Senator Gringo Honasan’s Interview with Karen Davila (Transcript)

Senator Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan II  Transcript of Interview
#KnowYourCandidates, ANC’s HEADSTART
April 13, 2016


KAREN DAVILA: As a member of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) which staged a mutiny against the dictatorship of former president Ferdinand Marcos. After 17 years in the military, he served in the Senate for 18 years. Despite his protests against the supposed corruption of past presidents, he too faced a graft complaint over the pork barrel scam in 2015. After his initial reluctance, he’s now setting his sights on the country’s second highest post. He was not the crowd favorite during the vice presidential debate but some analysts praised him for veering away from attacking his opponents. And joining us this morning, know your candidate, we have with us Senator Gringo Honasan, running for vice president. Good morning.

GRINGO HONASAN: Good morning, Karen. Thank you for giving me a headstart today.

KAREN DAVILA: I was going to ask you, what did you think of the last debate?

GRINGO HONASAN: Okay naman. I guess, we expected that. Some of the candidates would be passionate about the issues. But, I guess on the whole we achieved the objective of educating the electorate about the platforms, even the issues that were raised had to be related to the platforms that the candidates and the parties they represent.

KAREN DAVILA: There have been so many articles about it. And while you weren’t, yes, the crowd favorite but they did say that you were the most distinguished, you behaved the most senior, you didn’t engage in political mudslinging with your opponents.

GRINGO HONASAN: Well, it comes probably with some degree of maturity and some experience. But, I put kasi Karen my 42 years of public service on the line. 17 years as a soldier, 7 years as a rebel, and 18 years as a senator of the republic, the first independent senator in Philippine political history. So, that’s what I put on the table. If the electorate see that these qualifications, this experience, this track record, warrant electing me as vice president. Then, so be it. It’s destiny.

KAREN DAVILA: But, don’t you think, I mean considering you first came into the national consciousness when you rallied, when you protested against the Marcos dictatorship. You had Leni Robredo, Alan Cayetano bringing up martial law, human rights violations. You were one of the central figures of the EDSA People Power Revolution. Why didn’t you ask Bongbong about it?

GRINGO HONASAN: Karen, because ’86 was not all about being against something or somebody.

KAREN DAVILA: What was it then?

GRINGO HONASAN: It was for reforms, good government which places you, People Power in fact, we were all part of, on high moral and political ground. That’s a point. It’s easy to be against this or that. But to be for it, stand firm consistently over three decades, that I think should.

KAREN DAVILA: But, you don’t fear, in other words considering that you have a nation who ousted the Marcos family, you don’t fear a resurgence or a Marcos coming back with just a breath away from the presidency? I’m asking you personally.

GRINGO HONASAN: Karen, it’s not about the Marcoses or anybody else. These are family names. What about the system? My minimum requirement is let’s not reinvent history. Let’s tell our story factually, so that we can teach our children where we came from, where we are now and where we intend to go. And then eventually it has to be a choice that the electorate will have to make.

KAREN DAVILA: But, do you think you did your responsibility in telling the story during the debate, considering you have Bongbong Marcos right there?

GRINGO HONASAN: Karen, one minute and thirty seconds, you want me to tell history? [Laughs] There was the clock ticking. I had to focus on the issues without adding to the confrontation that was going on.

KAREN DAVILA: But, why is your demeanor and stance, I think Bongbong Marcos, some feel you’ve accepted, you’ve embraced him? In other words, you have Leni Robredo, Trillanes, Cayetano, saying words like, “If a Marcos wins we’ll be the laughingstock”. I mean those are very harsh.

GRINGO HONASAN: What’s the point in all that if we keep on dealing with personalities instead of the systemic changes that we need to debate? Two points, Karen, when you’re talking of leaders or candidates, the electorate, the people in fact especially you and media, must motivate the candidates and our future leaders to make the changes happen, not during the 90-day campaign period but before, between elections. That’s what you put on record. So, it’s not about who did this, who did that. Let history be written, properly, more accurate.

KAREN DAVILA: But, I’m curious. What’s your point of view? Do you believe that the Marcoses should also apologize and return ill-gotten wealth?

GRINGO HONASAN: It would be too presumptuous for me to make that judgment call. Tama si Sen. Bongbong, he cannot give what he does not have.

KAREN DAVILA: You believe they don’t have it?

GRINGO HONASAN: I don’t know. Tinatanong ako Karen, I was asked, “Who’s your greatest opponent in this debate?” Sabi ko, myself, controlling myself and moderating it. So that we, the job of leaders Karen, that’s the second point I want to say. It’s not to give the people what they want. You want a live audience, to go over the place, cheering or clapping or booing. No, the job of leaders, candidates especially presidential and vice presidential candidates, is to educate the people, to teach them what they should stop dreaming about and to start praying hard and working hard for.

KAREN DAVILA: Now, are you intent to win?

GRINGO HONASAN: Karen, I’m human. I want to win.

KAREN DAVILA: Yes, but your latest numbers clearly, I mean you are single digit in surveys.

GRINGO HONASAN: Yes, of course. These are snapshots. What matters, this is not a 100-meter dash. This is a marathon. What matters is that one-inch before the finish line tape. That’s what I’m aiming for.

KAREN DAVILA: And you think you can still do it?

GRINGO HONASAN: Well, it depends on the electorate. How far I can reach out to them and educate them about the issues.

KAREN DAVILA: What is the edge of a Senator Gringo Honasan? Let’s say, you did say it’s not about personalities and yet we are voting for personalities. We are looking at character. So, what is the edge of a Senator Honasan over a Bongbong Marcos, who is now leading in the surveys?

GRINGO HONASAN: I was a good soldier, had battle scars, physically, emotionally, psychologically. A good rebel, consistently and dedicated to the cause. And honest, dedicated, and hardworking public servant and senator. That’s 42 years, Karen. Of course, my most important qualifications are that I’m a good father and husband. And if you ask any of my grandchildren, I’m the best lolo, more than enough qualifications.

KAREN DAVILA: Now, this was asked in the debate. Is the vice president a spare tire? You’re asked many policy KAREN DAVILAs in the debate which some critics feel what’s the point of asking that to a vice president when they don’t make policy.

GRINGO HONASAN: Correct, that’s why the job description of the vice president is to wait, don’t laugh because by law you wait if the president is permanently or temporarily incapacitated, then you step into his shoes or to wait for the job that will be given to you. But, for analogy it’s not a spare tire. It’s a co-pilot’s job. When the competent pilot goes to the washroom or checks on the passengers in the cabin then the co-pilot must be flying that plane. Now, some people say, so you’re wishing that the pilot will conk out and so you just fly the plane and gets the pilot’s rating? No, that’s pushing it too hard. Now, that’s a choice we have to make. You want to take a truck going to Tawi-Tawi from Manila, that’s your call. But, you want government to function as efficiently and effectively, as responsibly as it should then you better be ready to fly the plane. Pilot and co-pilot. Taking care of hundreds of passengers in mid-air.

KAREN DAVILA: If Gringo Honasan were Vice President, what would the focus and priority be?

GRINGO HONASAN: Generic security. Not the security we give to policemen and soldiers. Food security.

KAREN DAVILA: But that would be DA…

GRINGO HONASAN: No. It’s holistic. The lines—foreign policy, economic policy, security policy, food, clothing, shelter, food security, job security, security from traffic, security of OFWs—it has to be approached in a holistic manner, that’s the job of government.

KAREN DAVILA: That’s a lot of work.

GRINGO HONASAN: That’s why we need serious, hardworking candidates.

KAREN DAVILA: Alright, your presidential candidate, Vice President Binay in the latest SWS and Pulse Asia is now at number 3—in a statistical tie with Mar Roxas. You have Duterte now in the 30’s. The rating is in the 30’s. Do you believe that Binay can still win at this point?

GRINGO HONASAN: Let me put it this way. We are faced with a prospect of having a minority president.

KAREN DAVILA: You believe that?


KAREN DAVILA: But then you have Duterte at 30’s now.

GRINGO HONASAN: That’s now. Three weeks plus down the road, let’s see if this snapshot changes. But I’m not giving up on the Vice President because he has been consistent, Karen. What he built as a political base over the last three years is now kicking in if you notice the numbers, no? He’s steady. He doesn’t go below the thirties. He has a high of about 35 to 40. Look at the tracks of the other candidates—they go down, they go up, they go down, they go up. Consistency, I think, will be the deal changer.

KAREN DAVILA: But do you believe the corruption allegations against him are actually the reason why he’s dipping continuously?

GRINGO HONASAN: What I believe is immaterial to what is guaranteed by the Constitution. I’ve been reading the Constitution over and over, Karen. In fact, I brought a copy. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty and property without due process of the law.

KAREN DAVILA: So I want to ask you, do you believe that Duterte is also ‘berdugo’? Because Binay has called him ‘berdugo’ in the campaign.

GRINGO HONASAN: These are names. This is vocabulary. Maybe they have a wider vocabulary than I have but even criminals have rights. Okay?

KAREN DAVILA: Do you believe he is a criminal?


KAREN DAVILA: I mean Duterte.

GRINGO HONASAN: No. He’s an elected official. Even criminals have rights. I faced criminals, terrorists, drug pushers. Any possible (unintelligible) except rapists, estafadors. I always gave them a choice. I’ve never faced anybody who was not holding a firearm.

KAREN DAVILA: If they don’t want to surrender? And they try to fire back?

GRINGO HONASAN: That’s my point, Karen. I had so much confidence in my level of skill and level of skill of my men that we always told them: you face the law, drop your firearm or you suffer the consequences. And then you read them their rights.

KAREN DAVILA: If we have a Duterte presidency for six years, describe it.

GRINGO HONASAN: I think it will be a strong presidency. The grey area is rights. I don’t know if the Davao experiment can work on a national scale. And these are variables that we cannot discuss.

KAREN DAVILA: What if Grace Poe wins? There’s an upset.

GRINGO HONASAN: What I am more interested in, Karen, is what will happen to the Filipino people after May. Public interest. Are we going to have more unity, more lasting peace? About three weeks ago, I was sent by the Vice President to the camp to meet with the Chairman Murad of the MILF. You know what, I conveyed to him—he convened the central committee of the MILF, I don’t know if he did that for the other candidates, ano—I talked with him not as a politician but as a rebel. I told him “you know, Mr. Chairman, you have to set in place the foundations for lasting peace otherwise, the vicious cycle will continue.” So whatever the outcome of the elections will be is immaterial to putting in motion a comprehensive, national, long-term peace policy. We agreed on that. And that’s a good start.

KAREN DAVILA: Does a good soldier suspend good judgment?

GRINGO HONASAN: Good judgment, bad judgment comes with your definition of duty. My duty is to God—that’s personal, country, and family. Our most basic fundamental and strongest political, economic, and social unit.

KAREN DAVILA: So does a good soldier suspend good judgment? No?

GRINGO HONASAN: No. Better judgment is part of being a good soldier.

KAREN DAVILA: Then why follow Enrile and why follow Binay?

GRINGO HONASAN: I follow them because we agreed on common principles. If any of them violate the law and the courts decide so, I will be the first to stand up and say “Manong Johnny, sir, or Vice President or President Binay, the courts have spoken.” That’s duty. That’s being a good soldier more than being a better politician.

KAREN DAVILA: So you do believe in a way that Enrile and Binay are good role models for people like you to follow?

GRINGO HONASAN: That’s for history, and the Filipino people, and God to decide. But I have lasted this long with, especially with Senator Enrile, because we never interfered in each other’s judgment calls and sense of duty. That’s why we lasted more than most marriages, Karen.

KAREN DAVILA: (Laughs) Is Senator Enrile supporting you in any way?

GRINGO HONASAN: Morally. He recently said that after attending the proclamation rally of one candidate and I made paalam to him. I went to ask for their blessings—the couple, no? Senator and Mrs. Enrile. And he said “Greg, I did not know that you are going to run.” Sabi ko “sir, no problem po.” And recently, he said he is duty-bound to support the UNA, whatever that means.

KAREN DAVILA: On rivals for the vice presidency hitting Vice President Binay during the debate and bringing up GRINGO HONASAN’s involvement in the PDAF scam.

GRINGO HONASAN: Yes but that’s beside the point. I mean, we took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. And I go back to Section 3, are we going to resolve that issue of corruption? Whether it’s anybody’s corruption? In that debate? No way, Karen. That’s what I’m going to fight for. We’re not going to use that venue as a forum for trial by publicity. In fact, when I raise the issue, please forgive me for…

KAREN DAVILA: Sure, sure.

GRINGO HONASAN: …there are some corrupt and irresponsible elements in media that have rendered the courts irrelevant. One of the moderators raised that issue. So she became prosecutor and fiscal at the same time. Now, is that fair to the electorate—to the audience? That’s what I am upholding—the rule of law and the Constitution. I left the system—the constitutional mainstream 30 years ago because the rules were not being followed. I went back 20 years ago. Are you telling me now—is anybody telling me—that I was wrong? What do we tell those who took up arms? Are we telling them the rules are—there are no rules? This Constitution means nothing? I am not going to stand for that. Whatever it takes.

KAREN DAVILA: What is your reaction to the Basilan clash—18 soldiers dead.

GRINGO HONASAN: Karen, only the dates and the personalities have changed so it proves the point we were discussing earlier that it’s systemic. Okay? I think we should improve our capability to respond to our role of fighting to defend the life, liberty and property whether it’s soldiers, innocent civilians, rebels, OFWs. So it’s local government. They must get full support from the national government. Every single conceivable issue: food, clothing, shelter, health services, education—local government ‘yan. Peace and order, local government ‘yan. So we should actually avoid giving the military and the police a role they are not equipped to play. They are just the tip of the spears, so to speak but it’s development. How do you fight an idea for cessation, for insurgency, for criminality, for extremism? You fight it with a better idea.

KAREN DAVILA: But who’s going to ask you after all these years—I mean, you’ve got the AFP saying they’ve killed the leader of the Abu Sayyaf. They’ve neutralized the Abu Sayyaf. A few years after, andiyan na naman ang Abu Sayyaf.

GRINGO HONASAN: Bakit? These people have children. Soldiers (have) children. Rebels have children. That is precisely the point we’re discussing with Chairman Murad. They are beginning to feel a new breed of young people who have been influenced by their religious leaders and told “you have lost families, fathers, brothers, parents, loved ones, and the only way is the armed struggle.” This is the challenge for all of us, including those of our revolutionary brothers who are operating in the fringes…

KAREN DAVILA: It’s actually to break the cycle…


KAREN DAVILA: …to change the mindset…

GRINGO HONASAN: You do not wipe out everybody. That is my point. It’s not even against any of the candidates. There are rights to talk about. That’s why you value life and then that’s the common ground. That’s the ingredient for putting in place a lasting, long-term peace.

KAREN DAVILA: You believe that we should negotiate with the Abu Sayyaf?

GRINGO HONASAN: From a position of strength—putting in place the root causes. You cannot solve these by…

KAREN DAVILA: But they’re a terrorist group.

GRINGO HONASAN: Of course, but even terrorism, Abu Sayyaf, ISIS—these are ideas, Karen. When translated into something that happens on the ground are ideas we will have to fight in the hearts and minds of our people with better ideas.

KAREN DAVILA: So you have so many presidents that have come and gone. What hasn’t been done to fight insurgency?

GRINGO HONASAN: Continuity, predictability, long-term policy, security policy, economic policy, even foreign policy are not divided anymore. It’s now very porous. How can you have a modern army, armed forces or police, if you do not modernize your thinking? That’s how it starts. And this has to be driven by what constitutes our national interests in our shores and our national interests in our backyard. Until we can manage rapists, drug pushers, kidnappers, riding-in-tandem, terrorists, how can we manage our problems 100% in our borders?

KAREN DAVILA: You’re sounding like Duterte na. (Laughs)


KAREN DAVILA: I’m kidding.

GRINGO HONASAN: I’m Senator Gringo Honasan. I am just Senator Gringo Honasan.

KAREN DAVILA: I was just teasing. But where should the country prioritize in? You have a maritime problem. You have a territorial dispute. And then, not only that, you have insurgency. Where should we put our money?

GRINGO HONASAN: I’ll tell you how and when. After May, convene the LEDAC, the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council—you set the priorities and you set the support mechanism. And you start from what constitutes our national interest—what do we solve first with our budget? We don’t have the budget? Borrow. We don’t have the wherewithal? (Unintelligible) that of our performance audit of our security, economic, bilateral and multi-lateral arrangements. And then rationalize foreign participation in our economy. Bring in more players so that they will compete and the prices will go down. From broadband to transportation to health services. That’s the way a government should be run. That’s the way a government should be prioritized. You ask me what went wrong over several administrations? Short-term—every three years we have elections so our vision is three years. No continuity, no sustainability, no predictability.

KAREN DAVILA: Will BBL solve this problem? Even the Abu Sayyaf situation?

GRINGO HONASAN: Words. BBL is a word. This is vocabulary. The peace process is more than BBL or no BBL, debate or no debate. We must put it in place and set in motion a comprehensive, long-term national peace policy that will deal with the root causes of every conceivable problem we are facing.

KAREN DAVILA: Would you want to be defense secretary?

GRINGO HONASAN: No. I want to help any president, any Congress, any Senate set this in motion, no conditions. Now, you want to make me Secretary of Tourism and participate in anti-criminality? So be it.

KAREN DAVILA: But would you be effective in defense?

GRINGO HONASAN: I think so. That’s my area of… But again, defense, military, DILG, police—I want to deal with it in the generic sense. Let’s say, job security—you get stuck in traffic, you’re a laborer, an office worker, you get penalized. Baka sisantehin ka, Karen. OFWs, they live…

KAREN DAVILA: I know. I understand what you are saying but when you say this, it is like you’re in a cloud. What will your function be?

GRINGO HONASAN: Okay. Let’s go (to) specifics. If the incoming president threw an administrative order, declares organized crime as a national security problem, I step in.


GRINGO HONASAN: National security adviser? Secretary of national defense? Secretary of interior and local government…

KAREN DAVILA: There you go. So you are naming a post.

GRINGO HONASAN: I’m naming posts but the posts are of no moment compared to the job at hand which reqcuires all hands. That’s my point, Karen. Like, do you want to scale it down? You name me a street. Everybody knows everybody.


GRINGO HONASAN: …the jobless, the lasenggo, the wife beaters, the man holding a paltik. You scale it up, we must report this to a mechanism that will allow us to react proactively.

KAREN DAVILA: Let’s go back to Basilan. You have 18 soldiers killed. Should the military retaliate?



GRINGO HONASAN: No. I mean, operations are not a reactive set up. You have to uphold the rule of law, serve a warrant of arrest, go after every single unauthorized armed group because the military is the only legally authorized armed group together with the police.

KAREN DAVILA: As Senator, what have you done to improve security?

GRINGO HONASAN: Firearms Regulation Law, Explosives Regulation Law, Fire Code, Amendments to the National Defense Act—Commonwealth Act No. 1 drafted 70 years ago by Major Dwight Eisenhower who became president and has long since been dead. These are the kinds of things that we should do as serious lawmakers. Congress has tried to do that already kaya lang, wala sa priority, Karen.

KAREN DAVILA: When you say modernize our thinking, how would you do it?

GRINGO HONASAN: How would I do it? First of all, let’s work with what we have. Do we have a modern navy? No. Do we have a modern air force? No.

KAREN DAVILA: So you’re talking about money? In a way?


KAREN DAVILA: Didn’t this administration put the biggest…

GRINGO HONASAN: It tried. To its credit, it tried. But you have to start with policy. What we did was pass the Human Security Act, putting the icing before the cake. If we did not amend Commonwealth Act No. 1, how can we do that? Security is generic. Security against everything. So that’s what we need to do. And that has to be a function of the LEDAC, if there are any Constitutional issues, make it JELAC. We need the judiciary. But establish your priorities. Funding, okay, I’m glad you mentioned that. Most of our problems—food, clothing, shelter, health, education—need funds. But the first steps must be political.

KAREN DAVILA: Yeah. But you’re talking about the largest budget in history. More than a trillion.

GRINGO HONASAN: Yeah, it’s like rice, you don’t know if it’s a supply problem or a distribution problem. That’s why I’m saying empower the local governments.

KAREN DAVILA: But aren’t they empowered enough?

GRINGO HONASAN: You know, you decentralize authority or responsibility, devolve it, in fact. What did you fail (or) forget to devolve? The money. ‘Di ba? Nakapila lahat, Karen, dito because even what is yours has to be a function of where you are in that line. So let’s stop politicizing local governments, basic services, disaster risk reduction management. Let’s all just stop politicizing, media and the judiciary, the last bastions.

KAREN DAVILA: Is Senator Honasan going to join any other debates?

GRINGO HONASAN: I will think about it because it’s a function of my priorities. But this I will say to our people, this is a beautiful country. We are good people. We must stop dreaming already. This is one time where national impatience is a virtue. Let’s continue to work hard, pray hard for unity, peace and the prosperity that will follow for the sake of our most precious God-given resource, our next generation of leaders and citizens, our children.

KAREN DAVILA: Are you open to federalism.

GRINGO HONASAN: Yes. If it will decentralize execution but centralize planning.

KAREN DAVILA: Baka nga you should be with Duterte.

GRINGO HONASAN: We are an archipelago.


GRINGO HONASAN: It’s beyond the good mayor who is a good friend and me. It’s beyond Vice President Binay or Senator Greg.

KAREN DAVILA: But do you think the country is prepared?

GRINGO HONASAN: We are an archipelago, Karen. Our geography, our topography, our politics, our regional attitude, our loyalty to our family before our country warrants it. It’s the call of the hour.

KAREN DAVILA: Why should they vote for you?

GRINGO HONASAN: Because I’m a good soldier. I was a good rebel, a good citizen, honest.

KAREN DAVILA: What is a good rebel?

GRINGO HONASAN: Dedicated, consistent, fighting for the same cause. Even 30 years ago. But I’m a good father, good husband, good grandfather. But more than that, we all want to go home. But we cannot separate, Karen, anymore our family, our home from our country and our family from our people. We have to go home to a family, a country that is strong, safe and truly free. I have these qualifications. I put it on the table. If my qualifications fit the bill of vice president, vote for me. If they do not, choose wisely a better candidate.

KAREN DAVILA: Do you support Vice President Binay’s stand that we must have bilateral talks with China?

GRINGO HONASAN: Yes, of course.

KAREN DAVILA: Bilateral?

GRINGO HONASAN: No, multi-lateral. We must talk with everybody.

KAREN DAVILA: Okay, but he wants bilateral.

GRINGO HONASAN: Well, that can be a function of back channeling, away from the cameras of media. Once we have something serious, then we push for it. But the first order of the day, Karen, is to conduct a performance audit, sabi ko nga, of our multi-lateral, bilateral and find out who our friends in the long-term are. If they don’t work, these arrangements do not work, why continue? But talk to everybody.

KAREN DAVILA: How important is it that the next president is capable of handling the issues involving the West Philippine Sea?

GRINGO HONASAN: Manage our problems at home: rapists, kidnappers, drug pushers, riding-in-tandem, terrorists—so that we can manage 100% our problems abroad. China, when you deal with a country with a 5,000-year history, Karen, you better be careful. And that’s a function of foreign policy, security policy, economic policy—driven by our definition of public interest, national interest. No country wants to go to war. Not even China. And two tracks: diplomatic, nasa international tribunal na. Joint exploration and use, the economic track. That’s the common ground that binds all of us globally.

KAREN DAVILA: Are you for EDCA completely? Critics are saying it’s dangerous that we have the US with us considering it’s their interest…

GRINGO HONASAN: So what’s your solution? Where’s the beef? Ako dagdagan pa nga, Karen. They said (five?) add more but put them in front of what China has built and reclaim 800 hectares. So let’s put airstrips there also, fly the Philippine and the US flag and then resolve this later on, when we do not need to go into EDCA’s or VFA’s or mutual defense treaties anymore.

KAREN DAVILA: On that note, Senator Gringo GRINGO HONASAN, thank you so much.