MANILA, MAY 5, 2007 (STAR) By Paolo Romero - Former senator Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan, an accused coup plotter who is running for the Senate anew in the May 14 elections, met with President Arroyo the other night – the first time in years he had set foot in the Palace.

A top Malacañang official said Honasan was accompanied by a "mutual friend" at around 9:30 p.m. Thursday.

"The President and Honasan spoke for about 50 minutes to an hour," the official told The STAR without giving further details.

Honasan revealed that the meeting was only about his pending rebellion cases.

"I saw the President upon the advice of (Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile) and former justice Hugo Gutierrez (who urged) me to present a letter explaining my side on the fourth amendment of rebellion cases against me," Honasan said.

The meeting led to speculations that a political reconciliation might be in the offing. But Honasan doused the speculations.

"I had to see the President because that was the advice given to me. But it had no political color. It was purely about my case," he added.

"I met with the President last night and she commented that since I believed I am innocent of the charges then I should go to the legal process," Honasan said.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, whose agency filed rebellion charges, said he was aware that Honasan was going to meet Mrs. Arroyo as the senatorial candidate called him up Thursday morning.

"He called me and said: ‘pasensiya na Manong Raul (pardon me elder Raul), I will be attacking you before the President.’ He was insinuating that his move was necessary for his senatorial campaign," Gonzalez told The STAR.

"I told him that it’s okay but he should attack me based on facts," he said.

He said he received Honasan’s call in the morning and he was in Malacañang at noon to attend the executive committee meeting of the ruling Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats that was presided over by Mrs. Arroyo. Gonzalez said he managed to tell Mrs. Arroyo about his telephone conversation with Honasan that morning.

"Do not let that (attack) happen," Gonzalez quoted the President as telling him.

Gonzalez disputed Honasan’s claim that the charges they filed against him were fabricated and that Honasan was not given a chance to present his side.

Honasan attended yesterday’s hearing on the motion filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to amend the complaint for coup d’ etat filed against him, seeking to charge him as the leader of the Magdalo soldiers who staged the Oakwood mutiny on July 27, 2003.

Makati RTC Branch 148 Judge Oscar Pimentel granted yesterday Honasan’s request to have an additional 15 days to comment on the fourth amended information.

"Early this week, I was informed by my legal counsel of the filing of the fourth amendment, which effectively added new charges against me. This is legally, highly unusual and is unthinkable especially after the court has allowed me to post bail," Honasan said.

Honasan said the filing of the "upgraded charges" was a form of persecution despite his commitment to submit himself to the rule of law.

"This is unthinkable especially now that I am in the middle of the campaign and was maximizing the short campaign window available to me. My case is a highly political case," Honasan said.

Honasan said he also sought the advice of Gutierrez and Enrile regarding the fourth amended complaint filed by DOJ against him.

"Justice Gutierrez and Senator Enrile both said that the amended information defied legal maxim and advised me to seek redress from the legal system," Honasan said.

Gonzalez said State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuño had studied the case for quite some time before filing the charges,

"He (Honasan) had every opportunity to file an appeal to review the case. He should have gone to me to file an appeal. His lawyers are in constant contact with me so I don’t know what he has been doing," he said.

The Makati RTC earlier allowed Honasan to post P200,000 bail for his temporarily liberty on coup d’etat, citing that the prosecution has failed to substantiate its allegations that he instigated, planned and led the takeover of the Oakwood premiere hotel on July 27, 2003.

Honasan said he could not understand the reason behind the move of the DOJ, adding that there could be someone out to scuttle his reelection campaign.

"I don’t know what is the meaning or reason behind this. I should have been in Mindanao today to campaign," Honasan said.

Honasan’s legal counsel, Daniel Gutierrez said Honasan is bound for Davao City and Maguindanao province to continue his campaign and meet with the leaders of his supporters.

He arrived in Davao late in the afternoon and apologized to his supporters.

The DOJ prosecutors maintained that it could always amend the information several times as long as the accused is not yet arraigned and the trial has not yet started.

"This is clearly stated in Section 14 of Rule 110 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedures," State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera said.

"They should just let me campaign in peace," Honasan said.

The former senator refused to say who was behind the new amendment to the rebellion cases against him.

Honasan, now 58, became famous as a coup artist for staging several coup attempts against the Aquino government. – with Jose Rodel Clapano, Edith Regalado

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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