Who is Gregorio Ballesteros Honasan II? #GringoHonasan

Senator Gregorio Ballesteros Honasan II is one of the rare few who found his purpose very early on in life.

Born on March 14, 1948 in Baguio City to Philippine Army Colonel Romeo Honasan and Alice Ballesteros, a teacher from Sorsogon, the young Greg, realized early on that his devotion was to be of service to his fellow man.

“When I was a young kid, I initially thought of becoming a priest because I felt it was the ultimate vocation to live your life serving other people. But as I grew older, I also thought about taking up medicine and being a doctor.”

His elementary years were spent at San Beda College in Manila where, as a consistent honor student, he was accelerated from grade 4 to grade 6. Because his father became military attaché, he spent some more years at the Dominican School in Taipei , Taiwan . He graduated with honors at Don Bosco High School in Mandaluyong and took up Economics at the University of the Philippines.

But saving souls and healing the diseased and wounded was not his fate.

Medicine was a course for the upper class and as the eldest in a brood of five, Greg said becoming a doctor was not an economic possibility for their family.

“There were five of us studying and had I taken up medicine, one of my brothers or sister would have to give up schooling and I would never allow that.”

“My father then asked me what was wrong with having a four-year scholarship and having a 30-year steady job-- assuming you will not do anything spectacularly bad. I asked him what it was, and he took me to the Philippine Military Academy. ”

He topped the Philippine Military Academy entrance exam, and would eventually graduate as “Class Baron,” the institution’s highest leadership award. But in between those four years, Greg faced a lot of challenges and experienced numerous changes that would affect the rest of his life.


“I was a freshman cadet, and at that time “Spaghetti Westerns” featuring Clint Eastwood and Franco Nero were big at the movies. During my initiations, my seniors thought “GREG” was a bit too soft and unglamorous—so they decided to call me “GRINGO” to make me seem tougher." “They would then instruct me to draw imaginary pistols and shoot other upperclassmen which often infuriated them leading to more punishment."

The name stuck and the name Gringo would eventually define Honasan’s tough no nonsense demeanor both in the battlefield and in real life.

To define his first year at the academy as “grueling” would probably be the biggest understatement as he recalled the challenges of having only two hours of sleep every night, long hours of marching practice, and the physical drills that almost broke the spirit of the young Honasan.

“I remember writing to my father asking him if it was okay if I decided not to pursue a military career and quit. I know he felt a bit disappointed but he advised me to just finish my first year and then make the decision.”

But by the end of his freshman year, everything had changed. He was on the top of his class in academics and had learned to endure all the physical training.
Gringo had already fallen in love with everything about the academy.
“The training and all the hardships-- both mental and physical, I came to accept, were all just artificial pressure meant to mold us into tough soldiers who wouldn’t easily quit and succumb to pressure in the battlefield.” 


The once aspiring legionnaire of God, had become a soldier in the truest sense of the word as Gringo found himself fighting with various rebel groups all over the countryside and leading his men to victory in countless missions.

As a solider, he saw action in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao and earned a number of medals, awards, decorations and commendations for gallantry in action including three Distinguished Conduct Stars, Gold Cross medals and Wounded Personnel Medals sustained in combat.

In 1985, he was recognized as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men given by the Philippine Jaycees. In 1986, he was a principal player of the EDSA revolution as one of the leaders of the RAM (Reform the Armed Forces Movement) that broke away from the martial law government. He was awarded the Presidential Commendation Medal for Government Service by then President Corazon C. Aquino.

Honasan found himself fighting for and sometimes with the government, but throughout his reformist years, one thing never changed—his loyalty to the people he swore to protect.

“In some ways, EDSA was even more frightening than the battlefield. When I was marching with then General Fidel Ramos and Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile toward the millions of people who have gathered in EDSA, I didn’t know how they would react to seeing us. Were these people Marcos loyalists who are angry at us for fighting the dictatorship? And the idea of having to fight with these people to protect ourselves was frightening for me.”


In 1995, Honasan ended his 17 years as a soldier to run for the Senate and became the first truly independent candidate in Philippine political history to win a national election.  He was re-elected in 2001, 2007 and recently in 2013.

As part of the Philippine Senate, he championed the causes of national security, public safety and the environment, becoming one of the most active legislators of the upper house. Among the most important laws Senator Honasan served as principal author or co-author include:

Republic Act No. 10121 – Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction And Management Act

Republic Act No. 9700 – Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law Extension With Reforms (Carper Law)

Republic Act No. 8749 - Philippine Clean Air Act Of 1999

Republic Act No. 9003 – Ecological Solid Waste Management Act Of 2000

Republic Act No. 10586 - Anti-Drunk And Drugged Driving Act Of 2013

Republic Act No. 10666 – Children’s Safety On Motorcycles Act Of 2015

Republic Act No. 10591 - Comprehensive Firearms And Ammunition Regulation Act

Republic Act No. 9516 – An Act Providing Stiffer Penalties For The Illegal Possession Of Explosives

Republic Act No. 9514 – Revised Fire Code Of 2008

Republic Act No. 8371 - Indigenous Peoples Rights Act Of 1997

REPUBLIC ACT NO. 10640 – Otherwise known as the comprehensive dangerous drugs act of 2002 that seeks to further strengthen the anti-drug campaign of the government.

He is also one of the staunchest advocates of the the Freedom of Information Act which he now refers to as the POGI Bill – People’s Ownership of Government Information Act; as well as Senate Bill No. 63 or the NATIONAL LAND USE POLICY ACT (NALUPA ) OF  2013 and Senate Bill No. 67 or the Act Authorizing The Wiretapping And Recording Of Communications Of Pushers, Manufacturers, Cultivators, Importers & Financiers Of Dangerous Drugs.

As for the situation in Mindanao, Senator Honasan has proposed a Mini-Marshall Plan for Mindanao to help jumpstart economic development, peace and order, and political unity. The proposal will also help end centuries of armed conflict and terrorism.

Currently, Senator Honasan is the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agrarian Reform and the Congressional Oversight Committee on Agrarian Reform (COCAR). He is the Vice-Chairperson of the Committees on Environment and Natural Resources and Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, and also a member of 23 Senate Permanent Committees and 14 Congressional Oversight/ Ad Hoc Committees.

Honasan is also an advocate of the environment, social reforms, national security, good governance, education and public health, youth and sports development recognizing that as a proud sovereign nation our most strategic and precious resource are our children.

“They say the youth are our future, but that is wrong, the Youth are THEIR OWN FUTURE, and it is our duty to entrust them with a better future.”


 “My life is defined by God, country, and family. Without sounding like Heneral Antonio Luna, whenever I was at crossroads and was made to choose between my country and myself, to a fault I would always choose my country, sometimes even at the expense of my family, my career, and even my life."

Honasan is married to Jane Umali of Pagsanjan, Laguna, a medical technologist by vocation and an interior designer by training.  They have five children and five grandchildren.
“I may not have spent as much time with my children as much as I would have wanted to, but they know that everything I have done is all for them--for them to have better lives and live in a much better country. They have grown up to be good people despite my absence, and that is enough to make me very proud.”

And, what does the Senator want to be remembered by?

“One of the best advice my father gave me was ‘When you are in the trenches, or when faced with difficult situations, only two things will keep your head above the water. One is integrity--be true to yourself so you can be true to others; and the other is competence. It does not matter whether you want to become a cigarette vendor, a soldier, or a senator, the only thing that matters is that you become good at what you do and be kind.’

“I have been called a lot of names and received a lot of labels, soldier, rebel, revolutionary, reformist, coup plotter, power grabber, but there is one thing that no one can question about me—My consistency—I have given my life to my country, even more than my family, and my track record will speak for it.”

“I want to be remembered as just an ordinary soldier thrust into extraordinary circumstances and during those moments I’ve responded by showing through actions my love for God country and family--that is my legacy.”

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