Former congressman Antonio Cuenco, 80, announced that he is retiring from politics for health reasons.
In a letter read by his son James Cuenco yesterday, the former Deputy Speaker said he suffered vertigo during a recent sortie in the south.
“A check with my doctors the following day confirmed that my vertigo problem started to recur. I was then advised (by my doctor) to refrain from further exposing myself to strenuous activities,” he said during a press conference in the mayor’s office. (See related story on Page 2).
Cuenco, who last served as Cebu City south district congressman in 2010, said he fears his condition – which involves severe dizzy spells — wuld worsen if he continues with a campaign.
Cuenco endorsed Cebu City Councilor Jose Daluz III as his replacement.
However, the younger lawyer said he was just a “temporary replacement” till the matter is discussed with partymates when Mayor Michael Rama returns from China next week.
“But I am ready in case the group would ask me to run,” said Daluz.
Opponents in the administration Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BO-PK) party said Cuenco’s exit was expected.
BO-PK founder and Rep. Tomas Osmeña of Cebu City’s south district, said Cuenco’s exit was a sign that the “boat is sinking” for Team Rama.
“Even in the north district, they had to pick a Manila-based relative to run,” he said.
Osmeña referred to talent manger Anabelle Rama, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama’s cousin, who joined Team Rama sorties in recent days and declared her intention to run for Cebu City’s north district.
In the same signed letter, Cuenco said he will retain his work as Secretary General of the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA).
Some doubts were raised about Cuenco’s letter when his point man, former Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) chairman Paul Clarence Oaminal pointed to an entry in Cuenco’s Facebook account.
“I AM PUSHING THRU WITH MY CANDIDACY… and to those who created the rumor? I’ll lift you all up to the Lord Almighty for making up those lies and that at the end of the day may you sleep PEACEFULLY at night”, the post rea..
No e-mail address
Oaminal asked the media to wait for Cuenco’s return from Indonesia later this month.
However Cuenco issued an official statement last night through his staff in Jakarta.
James said his father didn’t post the Facebook message because he didn’t even have an email address.
“Definitely it’s not my father,” he told reporters.
Daluz said there was an incident which happened two weeks during a meeting between Cuenco and some barangay captains in his Guadalupe residence.
He said Cuenco’s son James managed to catch his father before he fell to the floor.
“My family, whom I love dearly, has been incessantly begging me to grant them the gift which they say they value the most, my time. Therefore today, I’m setting aside my political aspirations so I can focus on my retirement,” Cuenco said.
Cuenco said he’s “passing the torch to a younger generation in Team Rama, particularly Daluz to continue “his legacy” in the city’s south district.
A copy of Cuenco’s Sept. 1 letter was sent to Rama before his departure to Jakarta, Indonesia the following day.
James said his father’s vertigo problem occurred during the last barangay elections in 2010.
He said his father was in the US during the barangay elections which caused then Cebu City Mayor Osmeña to accuse him of abandoning the barangay captains in the south district.
James confirmed Daluz’s account that his father had another vertigo episode at his Guadalupe home two weeks ago.
He said his father’s doctor Dr. Manuel Lim advised against strenous campaigning but said Cuenco can still work in Indonesia because he usually stays in an office.
Cuenco’s stint as AIPA secretary general ends in February next year.
James said the family held a meeting and made the decision.
“I composed the letter with instructions from my father and consent of my mother and Ronald my brother. My family is happy that after decades of public service he will have time for us,” James said.
Daluz said he was “honored” by Cuenco’s endorsement. “I’m ready to run, but this is not my decision alone…I need to consult my family and friends,” Daluz said.
Whoever will become Team Rama’s south congressional bet will face Councilor Rodrigo “Bebot” Abellanosa.
Osmeña said Cuenco’s retirement only showed that he was conceding to the fact that he will lose in next year’s elections.
“Pure excuses. He can say whatever he wants. My interpretation is that they know they are going to lose,” he said.
Osmeña added that he is confident that Abellanosa will win over Daluz.
“The fact is that Daluz is a substitute. If he’s a strong opponent, why is he a substitute? It’s easy to judge the results because they (Daluz and Abellanosa) always ran together and Bebot is always number one,” he said.
Councilor Abellanosa welcomed Cuenco’s retirement.
“Tony’s health has been a concern of his family. It’s good this consideration has prevailed over Mike’s urgent need to keep him in his team,” he said.
Abellanosa said he could only wish that no one else from among Team Rama would leave the group even before they could file their certificates of candidacy.With Correspondents Sean Timothy Salvador and Jose Santino S. Bunachita