This blog is more than two weeks delayed. I had three trips after meeting Senator Gringo but none of those helped. I still don't know what to write here. Not that the man isn't interesting. But hearing new details from his very colorful life got me confused on how should I perceived him as a political leader.
The Vice Presidential race is tricky. My family of six voters has one name for President but we are divided in choosing a VP. The "traditional" voters are behind Senator Bongbong while the younger ones like Senator Cayetano. My soft-spoken sister is rooting for Leni Robredo. I thought I am settled with my own choice but things were shaken up after our interview with Senator Honasan.
I have to be honest that I did not vote for this man twice when he was gunning for Senate seats. The first time I was allowed to vote in 2007, I was so excited to complete my list of 12 senators. It didn't include Gringo. He won and ranked 10th, one of the only two independent candidates who won that elections, with 11.6 million votes.
In 2013, I was so disappointed that Dick Gordon did not make it. The Red Cross chief ranked 13th with 12.5 million votes. It was Senator Honasan who bumped him off the winners' list. Gringo was re-elected by 13.2 million Filipinos, placing 12th. All I know about the Senator is that he is a military man but I don't know anything else more politically and socially relevant from his profile. Thus, the Gordon frustration.
Ranking at the bottom tier of winning candidates during the past elections isn't a recipe for considering a higher office. Senator Loren Legarda was top-notcher in several Senate races but she lost in both her Vice-Presidential bids. But Gringo will be a Senator until 2019 anyway. Win or lose, he will still be in the government. This made me doubt.
His partnership with my not-so-favorite and incumbent Vice President Jejomar Binay is also an unlikely alliance. I learned that they were on extreme sides of politics during the Cory administration. Binay, a staunch loyalist of the older Aquino and him, among the plotters of almost all coup d'etats until 1992. When other politicians have turned down the partnership with Binay, Honasan accepting the offer created another whole in his intentions.
During our meet-up together with other bloggers, the atmosphere was light. the 67 year-old alumnus of the Philippine Military Academy talked about how he loves books, strives to spend time with his children and how he struggles with modern gadgets. His mobile phone is the traditional Qwerty non-colored phone. He admitted that he is still to understand social media, specifically the techie stuff that come with it.
What interested me the most is what he said about his wife. "I can't live without her," he shared. For a man who helped overthrow a dictator and fought several armed conflicts in Mindanao, I wasn't expecting this statement. You'd be surprised too that despite the macho mentality of traditional men and with his dashing mestizo looks, he has always been monogamous.
Despite strong opposition from his family, I was finally able to ask Gringo why he is running for VP? Senator Honasan is the Vice President of the United Nationalist Alliance and allowing the standard bearer to run alone isn't fine with him. "I'm a good soldier. If I would allow him (Binay) to run without a running mate, I would end up resigning from the party... that's the honorable thing to do. I don't expect you to embrace this... Ako'y isang mabuting sundalo," he said. Is this reason enough?
"Sila na lang ba ang puwede?", the recipient of the 1986 Presidential Government Medal suddenly asked. "Where were these people when we were fighting for the country sometime 30 years ago? What kind of love do they have for this country to push it forward?" Hearing that is like drinking your favorite refreshment after working under the sun for so long. I am face-to-face with someone who has that genuine concern to lead. That someone, who declines to blab all day about his accomplishments but rather expresses his honest desire to chase for what's best for his countrymen.
So what has he done so far? How then has he showed his love of country outside being a military personnel? He sought for the removal of the penalties of outstanding housing loans under the National Housing Program (RA 8501) saying that this defeats the purpose of housing projects for the poor. He increased the Agrarian Reform Fund to PhP50 billion pesos by sponsoring RA 8532 to speed up the distribution of land to more than 4 million farmers.
Recently, he is the lead author of Senate Bill 3208, or the People's Ownership of Government Information (POGI) Bill which spells out mechanisms for mandatory disclosure of government information and would penalize government officials who deny the public access to information. While his running mate is currently being questioned. this is his way of fighting corruption while seeing his assets and net worth move up by only 1% from PhP20.9 million in 2013 to PhP21.2 million in 2014. He is the 4th poorest Senator.
As campaign season begins on February 9th, let's try to continue knowing more about the candidates. I may still be confused about who my Vice President is but meeting Senator Gringo helped a lot. We all have different reasons for voting for someone but at least we've done an intelligent comparison.
That's the essence of democracy. Senator Gringo himself did not ask me to vote for him when we parted ways. What he said was to continue praying for our country. How then can you not give this man a chance to share his hopes for this country?