Greg Honasan – the Man and the Myth

Gregorio Honasan, former Senator and perennial coup plotter, was captured the other day for the nth time. The former Army colonel, on the run due to his alleged involvement is several attempts to force out the Arroyo administration, was nabbed in the early morning hours in vicinity of the house of his rumored mistress. The injured Honasan was taken into custody amid a media frenzy. So goes the continuing saga of Gringo.

Having more than a nodding acquaintance with ex-Senator Honasan, the Warrior Lawyer can attest to the man’s personal magnetism. He will look you in the eye, give you a firm handshake and make you feel that “We’re in this together, Brother”.

Honasan has long-standing ties to U.P., having studied for two years at its Diliman campus. He joined a fraternity and took up engineering before entering the Philippine Military Academy. A younger sibling, Bert, was a well-known campus figure and captain of the football team. Another brother died while undergoing hazing in a fraternity in another college in downtown Manila. It was during this time that the Warrior Lawyer met the charismatic young officer, who was in the staff of then Defense Chief Juan Ponce Enrile.

Greg Honasan was the First Captain of his PMA Class (1971), a distinction given to the cadet officer exemplifying the highest ideals of leadership which the Academy seeks to instill in its graduates. He served with distinction in the Mindanao and was wounded in combat. Soon after, then Secretary of National Defense Enrile took him under his wing as his his aide-de-camp. with Enrile as his mentor, Honason was exposed to the heady political atmosphere and Byzantine intrigues of the Marcos era. He was a key figure in the founding of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM), which sought to overthrow Ferdinand Marcos by force. RAM was instrumental in the series of events which culminated in the EDSA People Power revolt of February 1986 and which brought Corazon Aquino to power.

EDSA also gave Honasan a public persona. Dashing and charismatic, Col. Honasan became The Face of the once-shadowy RAM. A mystique grew around the RAM boys, most profoundly in Honasan, helped along by his flair for showmanship. Stories of his derring-do spread. For example, he was reputed to parachute into the heat of battle with his pet python curled around his torso. He became, in the public eye, a Man of Action or someone who defends the oppressed and uplifts the downtrodden – a stock character in a thousand Philippine movies.

A Man of Action is an agent of change and Gringo lost no time in attempting to change the government. A series of violent, though failed, coup d’etats followed, until the coup attempt of December 1989 almost succeeded in ousting Cory. Gringo went into hiding. He was subsequently captured and detained in a heavily guarded troop ship. Gringo’s charisma was such that he managed to convince his guards to not only set him free but to join him in going underground. President Fidel Ramos granted him and other coup plotters amnesty and paved the way for a successful run for the Senate in 1995.

His stint as Senator was undistinguished and although he was re-elected in 2001, he left when his second term expired in 2004. But old habits die hard. The mindset that served Gringo so well in 1986 was still with him 20 years later. He was implicated in the Oakwood muntiny of 2003 and was allegedly one of the ringleaders of the attempted putsch of February 2006.

It has been said that the myths one creates about oneself- especially those one inherits from the public and allows oneself to believe- are the most addictive and destructive. Greg Honasan bought into his myth – bigtime.

He was caught like any other wayward husband, “with his pants down” (in the words of the Inquirer). His high-flying lifestyle has been exposed, thus debunking his spartan image. He has been abandoned by his RAM comrades, who have accused him as having betrayed their cause. His followers and supporters have dwindled. According to reports, he had been reduced to designing furniture and raising bonsai while in hiding, surely an intolerable situation for a Man of Action. Finally, he snuck out to his mistress’ place and was cornered. Injured by a fall and dazed, sorrounded by his captors, Gringo was fair game for the media waiting for chronicle his unfolding misadventures.

While it might be too early to count Gringo out – as he intends to run again in the upsoming senatorial elections – his story should give those in the public eye some pause. Public life is no bed of roses but it becomes dangerous when one begins to perceive one’s press releases as true. After a while, Greg Honasan began to believe in his own myth, and eventaully became a parody of himself.

2 thoughts on “Greg Honasan – the Man and the Myth”

  1. Greg Honasan as I wrote in my local column at Laguna Courier is a man worthy of admiration. Others may reckon him differently then. However, I believe He was there to bring the necessary changes in one of the most compelling ways only a man like him can do. Many soldiers are there but none so far has exceeded his action that placed him in the middle of admiration and controversy.I met him personally during one of his campaign sortie in San Pablo City and I was amazed that the soldier was eating M&M and sharing this with everyone he met along the way as he kept on walking the perimeter of the plaza.

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