Senator Gregorio Ballesteros Honasan II was first elected to the Senate in 1995, the first truly independent candidate in Philippine political history to win in national elections. He has been elected senator four times as an independent.
“Gringo” is the eldest child of Col. Romeo Honasan and Alice Ballesteros, an educator from Sorsogon. He dreamt of becoming a priest, then a doctor, but was advised by his father to apply at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) for a free college education. There, his father said, he would be trained as a cadet and find a noble profession as an officer in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
After a year at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, Honasan entered the PMA in 1967, topping some 10,000 applicants during the entrance exam. He was elected President of his class for four years until he graduated in 1971 as Class Baron or First Captain, the highest leadership and aggregate award given by the institution. He was also a contender for the Master of the Sword Award, the highest honor for athletics and physical fitness, after setting records in gymnastics and combat sports.
As a lieutenant in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Honasan was immediately deployed to Northern Luzon and Mindanao against various armed groups, including communist rebels, secessionists, criminals, and terrorists. Leading from the front by example, he was wounded several times in combat.
Honasan earned recognition for gallantry in action, and received three of the nation’s second highest military medals: the Distinguished Conduct Star, and three Gold Cross Medals and Wounded Personnel Medals for injuries sustained in combat. The Philippine Jaycees named him one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men in 1985 for military service, only the second soldier in the country’s history to earn the award.
At age 35, he became the youngest officer in the history of the Armed Forces then to be promoted to full colonel. He was also handpicked to serve as aide to the Secretary of National Defense, and later, as Chief of Security. In 1981, he earned his Master’s Degree from the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), where he graduated with distinction for his thesis.
Honasan played a key role in the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution that ended the authoritarian rule of President Ferdinand E. Marcos. He rose to prominence as one of the leaders of a group of young, idealistic officers known as the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM), who believed that the President had lost control and the moral ascendancy to lead the nation. Their withdrawal of support as accelerators of events was a decisive element in the triumph of the historic revolt.
Impatient for the institutional and systemic improvements for which they risked their lives, careers, families and honor, the Reformists did not see any redirection of policies after EDSA to address poverty and social injustice, as well as the reforms they sought in the military. Political patronage and the inequitable distribution of resources still prevailed; the Armed Forces remained factionalized, at the expense of the people, welfare and morale of ordinary soldiers, public and national interest.
Following the initiative for change started in 1986, Honasan led several military revolts against the administration of former President Corazon C. Aquino, and was charged with rebellion. He went underground, was captured by the authorities, and imprisoned alone on a navy ship, but eventually escaped with his Navy Special Warfare (SEAL) Group Guards.
During President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration, he was accused of masterminding the Oakwood mutiny led by a new generation of young reformist officers in the Armed Forces. He was accused of coup d’etat, a charge later dismissed by the courts.
His entry into the Philippine Senate marked Honasan’s evolution from soldier to statesman. He has since been a consistent advocate of a proactively responsive government that would address poverty, homelessness, hunger, ignorance, social injustice, deeper forms of violence, divisive partisan politics, and uphold national sovereignty and national security.
His landmark contributions to legislation include the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, National Security Policy, Disaster Risk Reduction Management, and Solid Waste Management. He is the main proponent of the Freedom of Information or People’s Ownership of Government Information (POGI) Bill, and proposed a Mini Marshall Plan for peace and development in Mindanao.
He has authored and co-authored vital laws passed in the Senate on Strengthening the Dangerous Drugs Act, Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation, Stiffer Penalties for the Illegal Possession of Explosives, Disaster Risk Reduction and Management, Membership in Terrorist Organizations, among others.
Honasan filed several bills in the present Congress focused on National Security, Intelligence Reform, Land Use, Agrarian Reform, Public Order, and Lasting Peace through a Comprehensive Long-Term National Peace Policy.
In the Senate’s Centennial Year, Honasan was elected Assistant Majority Leader, Member of the Commission on Appointments, and Chairman of two major Senate Committees—National Defense and Security, and Peace, Unification, and Reconciliation, and Chairman of the Joint Congressional Intelligence Oversight Committee. Other Chairmanships he held as a four-term senator for 20 years were: the Committees on Energy, Labor, Environment, Agrarian Reform, Sports, Public Information and Mass Media, Public Order and Dangerous Drugs.
Despite an unassuming demeanor, Senator Honasan remains a soldier at heart. He is fiercely loyal to his men, his superiors, equals, and subordinates. He attributes his inner strength, perseverance, and resilience to faith, hope and love for God, Country, and Family.
He has been happily and proudly married for the last 43 years to Jane Umali Honasan with whom he has 5 wonderful children and 5 cute grandchildren.
“Gringo” has been called a rebel, revolutionary, reformist, and destabilizer, among other less flattering labels. But he is, in his own words, “just an ordinary professional soldier thrust into extraordinary circumstances.”
Honasan believes in the ancient definition of heroism: when good people, young and old, rich and poor, men and women, work together, sacrifice, and help build for the next generation. He is convinced that the Philippines is a nation of heroes, and that his purpose in life is to work with others to help make future Filipino citizens and leaders smarter, healthier, spiritually stronger, happier, safer, and more productively competitive with other peace-loving and democratic peoples of the world. And after he has done his duty in this lifetime, he would like history to remember him less as a personality, and more for the brotherhood of men that he was part of and what it stood for. Our legacy, he believes, are our most precious, strategic and renewable resource: our CHILDREN.