Law catches up on ‘Gringo’

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — FUGITIVE ex-senator Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan literally fell into the hands of the law when he was captured early yesterday morning by combined police and military operatives in a posh subdivision in Quezon City.

Accused of involvement in the 2003 short-lived Oakwood mutiny and the foiled February 24 coup plot against the Arroyo government, Honasan tried to escape arrest by jumping from the second floor of a house at the Enclave Town Homes in Green Meadows Subdivision in Q.C. at 2 a.m. shortly after he sensed the presence of officers. The house is reportedly owned by Ingrid Ramos.

“Honasan was arrested after a brief chase from one house to another. In the process, the ex-senator sustained a deep lacerated wound in his right foot sole and a slight fracture in his left foot,” Philippine National Police chief Director General Oscar C. Calderon said.

Honasan required at least 10 stitches, doctors said. He also underwent a physical examination including blood pressure and ECG tests at the PNP General Hospital.

Heavily-armed elements of the elite PNP Special Action Force backed up the CIDG team carrying out Honasan’s arrest.

The coup suspect, who carries a P5 million bounty on his head, was taken to the PNP General Hospital in Camp Crame for treatment under heavy security. “He is now undergoing medical attention which is our primordial concern,” said Calderon.

According to the PNP chief, the ex-senator was captured following a series of police operations in Luzon and the Visayas based on the warrant of arrest for a rebellion case in connection with the July 27, 2003 Oakwood mutiny issued by Judge Cesar Santamaria of the Makati City Regional Trial Court Branch 145 on February 28.

Calderon, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group chief Director Jesus A. Verzosa, Armed Forces vice chief of staff Lt. Gen. Antonio Romero and the head of the arresting team, Senior Supt. Asher A. Dolina presided over a press conference in Camp Crame eight hours after Honasan was arrested.

The PNP chief said agents of the PNP and the Intelligence Service of the AFP had been hot on the trail of Honasan since last February. “We’ve conducted a series of operations in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao to get him,” he said.

Verzosa said they are still tracking down Honasan’s other co-accused including ex-Colonels Felix Turingan and Jake Malajacan. “In fact, we have conducted operations to get Honasan in two areas in Negros Occidental, two areas in Sorsogon, one each in Masbate and Iloilo and others in Metro Manila,” the CIDG chief said.

Verzosa said they will be investigating Ramos, the owner of the house where Honasan was before he was arrested. Both Verzosa and Calderon also denied rumors that Honasan was naked when arrested, was injured when he tried to jump from a car or had given surrender feelers before he was arrested.

“As far as the PNP is concerned, we don’t know of any plan by ex-Sen. Honasan to surrender. As a matter of fact, he is a fugitive,” said Calderon. Lt. Gen. Romero said they also had no information that Honasan was planning to surrender.

“He is one of the principal participants in the Oakwood mutiny and a key player in the foiled February 24 coup. This is a normal police operation to arrest a wanted person accused of coup d ‘etat and rebellion,” said Verzosa.

He said they are looking into the involvement of some personalities including politicians in the effort to hide Honasan. “We’re studying the possible involvement of some but we don’t have concrete evidence to file any charges against them,” he said without elaborating on the identities of the personalities.

Verzosa said Honasan was with his driver, one Jaime Baladan when arrested. Baladan will be arrested for obstruction of justice. He said they will be conducting a background investigation of the other personalities as well as a check of the neighborhood where Honasan was arrested.

“Any person who will be linked in efforts to harbor Honasan will be charged,” Calderon said.

Verzosa also shrugged off insinuations that Honasan’s arrest was related to next year’s local elections. “This operation is not related to the forthcoming political exercise. This is a mere law enforcement job,” he said.

Honasan was transferred late yesterday afternoon to the Asian Hospital in Alabang, Muntinlupa City, Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo V. Puno said.

Honasan will undergo a CT-scan and other tests, he said.

“Our main concern right now is Gringo’s health. It appears that he was seriously hurt, his ankle is swelling and an operation is needed,” Puno said.

Puno said that due to the nature of his case, no visitors except for his immediate family will be allowed in Honasan’s hospital room.

According to Puno, a co-accused of Honasan had sent word he is willing to surrender although he did not identify the suspect. “Greg also told me that he will convince the others to surrender. Right now, he wants to deal with this on the legal framework,” he said.

Puno said Honasan was disturbed by different rumors regarding his arrest. “He is asking the media to avoid speculations,” he said.

The DILG chief said Honasan’s arrest was not sudden since it was a product of a “two-week intelligence operation.” He also confirmed that Honasan and Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro R. Mendoza had previously talked about Honasan’s plan to surrender, “but as far as I know, it did not go anywhere.” He described former Sen. Vicente Sotto III’s claim that the coup suspect was ready to come out of hiding when he was arrested as “slight exaggeration.”

The DILG chief said that the officers who captured Honasan will be recommended for meritorious promotion.