AFTER his appointment as an ambassador was blocked, Rep. Antonio Cuenco (Cebu City, south district) was endorsed as secretary-general of the 10-country Asean Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (Aipa).

The appointment, he said, does not need the concurrence of the Commission of Appointments (CA), which earlier denied him the chance to serve as the country’s ambassador to Italy.

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He will serve in the position for three years if the general assembly in September approves his endorsement.

Formed in September 1977, the Aipa (formerly the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Organization) aims to “significantly contribute to the attainment of the goals and aspirations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) through inter-parliamentary cooperation.”

Cuenco said he was glad that although he was denied an ambassadorship to Italy because of objections of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, an “even better” opportunity has been offered to him.

“Ang pagbabag ni Estrada I now consider a great blessing. I don’t even have to resign as a member of Congress,” he told Sun.Star Cebu.

Last December, the CA questioned Cuenco’s appointment as Philippine ambassador to Italy, calling it one of President Gloria Arroyo’s “midnight appointments.”

Senator Estrada threatened to invoke Section 20 of the CA rules, which refers to the veto power of each member.

All CA members must approve of a candidate to the foreign service before the nomination is discussed in the Senate plenary.

Cuenco was among those who pushed for the impeachment of the senator’s father, former president Joseph Estrada.

Cuenco yesterday said “a star dimmed” for him when his ambassadorship hit a snag, but “10 others shone” in its place with his appointment as secretary-general of the Aipa Permanent Secretariat.

The Aipa comprises the parliaments of Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand Vietnam, Brunei Darussalam and Myanmar.

Its dialogue partners are the parliaments of Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Russian Federation and the European Parliament.


Cuenco narrated that when Vietnamese National Assembly officials, led by Committee for External Affairs Chairman Nguyen Van Son, came to the country on Jan. 16 for a two-day working visit, they asked that the country name the Permanent Secretariat secretary-general.

Cuenco said it is the Philippines’ turn to do so.

The Malaysian who held the post died, so Vietnamese Aipa president Nguyen Phu Trong sent Son to the country to ask House Speaker Prospero Nograles to name the country’s official to the Permanent Secretariat.

Nograles, in a letter to Trong dated Jan. 18, appointed Cuenco, House chairman of the committee on foreign affairs.

“Congressman Cuenco is a leading expert of the House of Representatives in Aipa matters. He has been an active Philippine delegate as early as 1988 in the then Aipo General Assemblies,” Nograles said in his letter.

Cuenco, representing the Speaker, has been the country’s head of delegation to the previous Aipo assemblies.

He told Sun.Star Cebu that in holding the position, he will help elevate the country’s stature among its Asean neighbors by doing his job well.

Since the Permanent Secratariat’s office is in Jakarta, Indonesia, Cuenco will be based there during his term.