Remembering Tony Cuenco

CEBU City Councilor James Anthony Cuenco has urged the younger generation to learn history and be vigilant against human rights abuses.This as the nation commemorated the 50th anniversary of the declaration of martial law on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022.James, son of the late Cebuano politician Antonio “Tony” Cuenco, recalled the struggles of his father during the regime of President Ferdinand Marcos Sr.In an interview with SunStar Cebu on Thursday, Sept. 22, the younger Cuenco recalled his father was arrested for joining rallies and airing out the abuses committed during the administration of Marcos Sr.“In one rally, firemen turned their hoses on demonstrators who were simulating the death of democracy with a coffin. That must have enraged the police. The demonstrators were arrested two or three days later,” James said in Cebuano.James was only a teenager when he witnessed his father being picked up by authorities inside their house.His father also helped then opposition leader Corazon Aquino find refuge in Cebu days before the 1986 Edsa Revolution.Cuenco’s rootsBorn on March 26, 1936, Tony was the son of former Cebu governor Manuel Cuenco and Milagros Veloso-Cuenco.He was the grandnephew of former representative Miguel Cuenco and the grandson of former Senate president Mariano Jesus Cuenco.He finished his Bachelor of Arts in 1956 and his Bachelor of Laws in 1960 at the Ateneo de Manila University.Four years after passing the bar, the 29-year-old Tony was elected to the 6th Congress in 1965 and served until 1969.He became a member of the Batasang Pambansa from 1984 to 1986.He was elected again in the 8th, 9th and 10th Congresses from 1987 to 1998.Before succumbing to the coronavirus disease in 2020, Tony had been elected councilor of Cebu City’s south district in 2019.Upholding the principleJames vowed to always uphold the principles of his father, especially now that he has himself become a public servant.“I kept it to heart. It will help me in the long run here in public service. Dili gyud ta magpaulipon bisan kinsa pa na nga (We should not allow ourselves to be enslaved by a) leader. Dapat gyud nga i-uphold nato ang (We need to uphold our) democracy. Dili na pwede ang diktador (We cannot have another dictator),” James said.The councilor encouraged the youth to be aware of what happened in the past and to open their eyes to abuses, especially those that may be committed by the government.“We do not want to experience what we had experienced before during martial law wherein our liberties were derailed… It was a horrible experience,” he said.James said so far, the incumbent President and namesake of the late dictator has been “doing the right things.”“I just hope that no one will try to influence him like what happened during his father’s time… I think the present President is trying to redeem himself from the sins of the past. I am very optimistic that the country will not be placed under martial law again,” he added.