The old against the new-A A +A
Thursday, August 23, 2012
FORMER congressman Antonio Cuenco has been doing this for years: remember.
One can attach ill-motive to this ritual done, I reckon, two times every year the first on February, during the anniversary of the Edsa people power uprising and the second in August, during the commemoration of the death of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. As a politician, he can be accused of using those two historic events to raise his political stock.
But I prefer to consider the other angle: honest intention. Cuenco was among those who dared to fight a dictatorship, and he was close to the major players of the uprising that eventually toppled it. “Freedom fighters” don’t want the memory of those times to fade from the consciousness of the next generations of Filipinos. That wouldn’t be in keeping with their message, “Never again!”
Cuenco visited the Sun.Star office last Monday to show to Sun.Star columnist/editor Januar Yap some of the mementoes of the old days, including a letter Ninoy sent to him.
I talked with him briefly and asked a few questions. I know he wants to reclaim his seat as south district congressman in May next year, but I didn’t want that to muddle the appreciation of the two historic events in the ‘80s—Ninoy’s assassination and the 1986 Edsa people power uprising.
His was a generation of politicians that is fading from the country’s political scene, Cuenco acknowledged that. But what a generation it was, especially for the Cebuano leaders who were in it.
“Wa gyod ko’y kwarta,” Cuenco said of the coming campaign for the May 2013 elections.
Cuenco is currently secretary general of the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (Aipa). The pay for that is in dollars, but I could not say if it could fill a “war chest” that would be up against those of his prospective opponents in the May 2013 polls.
It’s an interesting battle for the post of congressman in Cebu City’s south district.
The prospective opponents of the foxy Old Guard, who now styles himself as “Amahan sa Distrito,” are the young upstarts Rodrigo “Bebot” Abellanosa of the Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) and lawyer Aristotle “Totol” Batuhan, likely an independent.
Unlike Abellanosa and Batuhan, who have better control of their daily schedules, Cuenco is still tied to his Aipa job, a setup that is being tested by the early campaigning currently unfurling in the city. Both Abellanosa and Batuhan have become more visible in the city’s sitios even as Cuenco has to juggle his time between Jakarta, Indonesia where the Aipa secretariat is based and Cebu City.
On the struggle between the old and the new, the new therefore seems to be finally getting the upperhand. Cuenco is no longer the formidable incumbent; the post of south district congressman is now being held by BOPK chief Tomas Osmeña, who is supporting Abellanosa’s bid. Batuhan, meanwhile, is with the Liberal Party of President Noynoy Aquino.
But the veteran, who belongs to a “vanishing generation” of politicians, has sent a message that there’s still a lot left in his tank and that it’s not time yet to “fade away” like Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s old soldier. I say this could be Cuenco’s last hurrah. But whether he wins or loses next year, the fact remains that he is among the Cebuanos who made good account of themselves in the country’s politics.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 24, 2012.