26-year Cuenco hold is over: ‘no regrets’-A A +A
Saturday, September 15, 2012
South’s icon concedes end to political career, hopes a clan member will rise someday
1. Since you announced your decision not to run in 2013, when you said you’d return to broadcasting or accept a post at the Asean, have you decided on something concrete and specific?
At the end of my term in 2010, my foremost desire was to become permanent ambassador to the United Nations based in New York. We have no one holding the position, only an officer-in-charge.
If President Noy has another person for the post, I’ll be content with an ambassador’s post in any of the 10 Asean countries. Or I may return to radio as station manager or newscaster. I managed radio station dySS, aside from giving the news and being a deejay, from 1962 to 1965 before I entered politics. It was a lot of fun.
2. What else prompted you to quit politics, aside from the public reason of suffering from vertigo? They speculate here that you might have gotten cold feet.
The principal reason is vertigo, which causes me a lot of discomfort. The ailment may not be life-threatening but when it attacks, I get dizzy and throw up. Vertigo weakens my whole body. My doctor will confirm that.
My wife and other family members are afraid vertigo will aggravate my other medical problems. It could even trigger a heart attack, my doctor at the Heart Center warned. Because of my strong attachment to public service, I had spent very little time with my wife and my children and grandchildren.
I think that at this stage of my life, I should spend more time with my family. Then there’s the matter of logistics. Whatever money I had, most of it I spent for my constituents who come to me for help. I haven’t gotten cold feet. I had fought nine
political battles and never surrendered.
Our courage was tested during the repressive martial law regime and Marcos dictatorship. I fought tyranny and didn’t run away. I have a lot of shortcomings but cowardice isn’t one of them. I was imprisoned three times with Inday Nita Cortes Daluz, Billy Legaspi, and 10 others. In 1985, at the Batasang Pambansa, our opposition group Unido filed an impeachment complaint against Marcos for corruption, acts of tyranny, and culpable violation of the Constitution. The then minority leader Pepito Laurel assigned me, Homobona Adaza, and Celing Fernan to prepare the impeachment complaint. Fifty one opposition members signed and we filed the complaint -- and hell broke loose, including death threats against us.
We fought hard for the trial but Against only 54 opposition votes, close to 150 KBL members voted to kill the complaint. Our first attempt to oust Marcos failed. But a year later, the murder of Ninoy Aquino and his attempt to cheat Cory Aquino of victory in the elections, angered the people who revolted and drove Marcos away from power.
3. I pointed this out to you before: You had served as congressman of Cebu City’s south district for 21 years (1987 to 1998 and 2001 to 2010) and before that for four years representing the then Cebu’s fifth district (1965-1969) and for two years as member of Parliament or Batasang Pambansa (with Marcelo Fernan as Cebu City representatives, 1984-1986). Your wife Nancy filled your seat for one term (1998-2001). In sum, the Cuencos served Cebu City for 26 years, more than a quarter of a century. Now you’re ending all that. Would you have wished there were younger Cuencos to continue your family’s public service?
You’re right. I had spent 26 years of my life in politics -- all of it as legislator in the House of Representatives. And always I had tried to do my very best to serve my constituents with competence, honor, and integrity. But I am now 76 and it’s time for the new generation to take over.
How I wish my sons, either Ronald or James, or my nephews could take over. But if they are not yet ready to do so, I would be delighted to be succeeded by any bright, competent, and idealistic young man as I fade away from Congress.
4. What is the chance of another member of the Cuenco clan who would be another Mariano Jesus Cuenco, the Senate president; Miguel Cuenco, the congressman; Manuel Cuenco, the governor; or Antonio Cuenco, the member Parliament and House of Representatives -- all of whom served long terms in elective offices?
My children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces have the blood of our ancestors in their veins. Who knows sometime in the future, the flame of public service would ignite and glow in some of them? Right now though, it looks like no Cuenco is ready yet for the post.
But I would rejoice if some other young person would carry the torch of genuine public service I have tried to live by. Cebu City Councilor Joey Daluz is a treasure. He is a true and dedicated public servant. If this would be my last wish before I go, I would want Joey to be my successor. He would be an honorable and competent member of Congress.
5. You’re not running next year but you didn’t say you’re totally out of politics. What would be your role in the run-up to the next elections?
Despite my physical handicap, I will do my utmost to help ensure a total victory of Team Rama. Its rivals are bragging they have the elections in the bag. The elections are still eight months away. Just because they spend a lot of money to entice the voters is no guarantee they would win. They can’t bribe and fool the people. I still believe in my slogan, “The South District is not for sale.”
6. Of all the laws you passed and the projects you undertook for Cebu, name some that, to you, stood out. In sum, what would you like to be most remembered for as a politician?
--Local Government Code of 1981 (R.A. 7160) for which as speaker pro-tempore, I headed the House panel in the bicameral conference committee, which met for several months to reconcile the House and Senate versions (then senator Nene Pimentel headed the Senate panel);
-- Establishment of the St. Anthony Mother & Child Hospital in Basak San Nicolas under R.A. 7830;
-- Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 (R.A. 9165) which I defended on the House floor for almost one year;
-- Baseline Law of the Philippines, which increased our territorial waters to 200 nautical miles from our shoreline and an extended economic zone of 800 nautical miles.
-- Led the blocking of the Sugbuak bills that would’ve cut up Cebu Province into four provinces and vigorously opposed the VAT (value added tax) and E-VAT bills. Those are the most memorable but also significant were the laws I authored and pushed for: roads, bridges, seawalls, drainage, markets, sports complexes, barangay halls, multi- purpose buildings, water systems, and many more infrastructure and livelihood projects amounting to almost one billion pesos.
I would like to be remembered by my constituents as their public servant who tried to serve them with sincerity, dedication, and paternal care -- their “Amahan sa Distrito” (Father of the District).
7. What advice can you give to those who’re still serving as House members and those who’d join the House?
To be good at legislation, which is a House member’s primary job, one must have basic knowledge of the Constitution and the House rules and must learn the art of crafting bills. To secure projects, the legislator must have good relations with his colleagues, especially key officers and committee chairmen. Don’t speak on the floor unless you know House rules very well. Be prepared to avoid being embarrassed when you are questioned by your colleagues.
What Tony wished he hadn’t done
NO REGRETS. “It was a fulfilling and rewarding job.”
PROUDEST, HAPPIEST. When he was chosen by “Philippines Free Press” as one of Ten Outstanding Congressmen in 1967, 1968, and 1969 and elected as speaker pro-tempore, which he held from 1987 to 1992
WHAT HE DID and maybe he shouldn’t have done: Exposing in the House in 1997 the police watch-list of suspected drug traffickers (“some of them could have been innocent”)
WHAT RELAX HIM. Occasionally drinking wine with friends and playing mahjong with family members.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 15, 2012.