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Friday, May 24, 2019

Former Rep. Cuenco: Edsa uprising missed targets

A LETTER FROM NINOY.  Former Cebu City congressman Antonio Cuenco shows a letter he received in 1983 from Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., in which the former senator talked about his plans upon returning to the Philippines from exile.  (Amper Campaña)

“The Edsa Revolution was only a trigger (for change), but it has not been able to hit the target, which is corruption,” said Antonio Cuenco, former congressman of Cebu City’s south district. “The enemies are corruption, dishonesty, insincerity, and deceit.”

The politician, now 78, was one of the figures in the local opposition during Martial Law and had helped arrange for then-opposition leader Corazon Aquino’s sanctuary when she came to Cebu just days ahead of the uprising.

Cuenco lauded the anti-corruption campaign of Corazon’s son, President Benigno Aquino III, saying it upholds the spirit of the Edsa revolution 29 years ago.

Cuenco, however, described President Aquino’s program as selective, saying the incumbent president is pursuing only his enemies.

He said what seems to missing among the young generation of leaders is “a revolution of the heart.”

“Kinahanglan ilang mga kasingkasing sinsero ug malumo (Their hearts must be sincere and tender),” he said. “Kon ang kasingkasing sa mga leader ug sa mga tawo kay matinud-anon, wa tay mga problema (If the hearts of our leaders and people are sincere and truthful, we would have no problems).”

Cuenco, who served for three consecutive terms in the Lower House shortly after the
first Edsa uprising, said he is disgusted that he still hears news of corruption in the government.

In 2013, the country was rocked by reports that some legislators arranged for the release of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), commonly known as the pork barrel, to non-government organizations (NGOs) such as those allegedly established by Janet Lim Napoles.

Cuenco again denied coursing his PDAF to dubious NGOs.

Ahead of the 29th anniversary of the People Power Revolution tomorrow, Cuenco said that two of the most sincere leaders he has known were the current President’s parents, Corazon and Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.

A letter dated June 27, 1983 from Ninoy is one of the mementos that Cuenco has kept.

It mentioned some tasks for Cuenco and Ninoy’s impending arrival in Manila from Boston.

Ninoy’s assassination last Aug. 21, 1983 triggered the civil unrest that led to the Edsa Revolution, which eventually ended the regime of former president Ferdinand Marcos last Feb. 25, 1986.

Cuenco also preserved Cory’s press statement, issued last Feb. 23, 1986, in which she called for a boycott of the businesses of Marcos’s cronies. On it, she scribbled, “Dear Tony: This is certainly a most memorable time!”

Yet even before Ninoy’s death, the anti-Marcos sentiments and protests started in Cebu as early as Sept. 21, 1980, said Cuenco.

He recalled the “freedom march” from the Mactan Shrine in Lapu-Lapu City to the Plaza Independencia in Cebu City, which brought together personalities like Jovito Salonga, Teofisto Guingona Jr., Joker Arroyo, Eva Estrada Kalaw, Salvador Laurel, Cesar Climaco and Cebuano leaders like Ribomapil Holganza Sr., Eulogio Borres, Valentin Legaspi, Vicente del Rosario and Nenita “Inday Nita” Cortez-Daluz.

Later that the afternoon, some of the protesters carried a coffin, and a member of the now-defunct Philippine Constabulary (PC) asked them who was inside.

After Cuenco’s errand boy replied that Marcos was inside, the PC patrolmen arrested some of the protesters and incarcerated them in a military camp for three months.

They were released after Marcos lifted Martial Law on Jan. 17, 1981.
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