In his lifetime career as a government official and legislator, former Senate President Edgardo J. Angara has always believed that ‘Every Filipino deserves a fighting chance.’ This was his main dream and aspiration, and he worked hard to make sure all Filipinos achieved theirs, too
By Gelyka Ruth R. Dumaraos
Former Senate President Edgardo Angara Javier believed that every citizen has the right to receive a better quality of life from womb to tomb, and all the laws he had authored were aimed towards the achievement of this primary goal, and all his aspirations for the Filipino people.
The longest serving senator since the Philippines revived its democracy after the EDSA revolution, he had served passionately the best way he could as a lawmaker and public servant.
He was an esteemed lawyer, prolific legislator, and a noble statesman who had a compelling vision for the country and its people. The laws he had authored created great impact on agriculture, education, health, arts and culture, science and technology, good governance, financial reforms and social welfare.
From lawyer to lawmaker
Senator Ed was born on September 24, 1934 in Baler, Aurora to parents—Dr. Juan Angara, a physician; and Juana Javier, a nurse—who were among the first graduates of the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital or UP-PGH.
He finished his Bachelor of Laws at the University of the Philippines in 1958 and completed his Master of Laws at the University of Michigan in 1964.
He was elected as one of the youngest delegates representing the Aurora province during the 1971 Constitutional Convention. In 1972, he founded together with some of his UP law classmates what would become one of the country’s top law firms, the ACCRA Law Firm.
From there, Senator Ed served as president of different law associations including the Philippine Bar Association (PBA), Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), and the ASEAN Law Association (ALA).
Senator Ed also served as president of the University of the Philippines from 1981 to 1987. With him at the helm, UP’s general education program was strengthened in all its colleges. It was also during his term as university president that UP pioneered on a seven year medical curriculum for exemplary students; enhanced the arts and basic science programs, and put in place a multi-campus university organization.
Most will remember his policies at UP defending the state university’s tradition of dissent and freedom of expression, obtaining fiscal autonomy; and establishing rapport with the students, faculty and alumni.
In fact, for UP’s diamond jubilee in 1983, and centenary in 2008, Senator Ed led the fundraising activities for the UP Centennial Commission which aimed to raise funds for faculty-development programs, scholarships, infrastructure projects and student assistance programs.
In honor of his contributions to the university, the UP Board of Regents has established the President Edgardo J. Angara Fellowship, the largest single grant available to UP professors.
It was not only at UP that Senator Ed left an indelible mark for education. When he headed the Congressional Commission on Education (EDCOM), he pushed for the restructuring and instituted wide-ranging reforms in the country’s educational system.
Senator Ed has earned accolades and recognition for education reform and other advocacies and he was personally handpicked by then President Cory Aquino to be one of the candidates of her party for the Senate in 1987.
In 1993, he gained the trust of his peers who elected him to become the Senate President. While holding the third highest position in the country as Senate president, Senator Ed pushed for landmark laws on health, education, social justice, good governance, culture and the arts which make up the framework of the laws we have today.
Among these landmark laws are the Free High School Act, Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and the Technical Education and Skill Development Authority (TESDA), the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA), the Renewable Energy, the Procurement Reform Act, and of course, the National Health Insurance Act or PhilHealth, and the Senior Citizens Act, which enables the elderly to avail of substantial discounts for medicines and public transportation.
His colleagues in the Senate describe Senator Ed’s legislative contributions as “national assets.”
“Because of Ed, Filipinos are born to this world covered with medical insurance, and are sent off to eternal life with discounted services,” said Sen. Ralph Recto in his eulogy.
Senator Ed also stressed the importance of taking care of the health workers. He authored the Magna Carta for Public Health Workers which aims to promote and improve the social and economic well-being of the health workers, their living and working conditions, and terms of employment.
The law further provides for the development of the public health worker’s skills and capabilities so they will be more responsive and better equipped to deliver health services and programs. It encourages those with proper qualifications and experience to join and remain in government service.
The Nursing Act of 1991 was geared towards having a regulating body for the nursing practice while bringing in quality nursing education and practice.
Truly an erudite multifaceted leader, he also authored the Health Worker’s Day which gives due recognition to the important role and contributions of the health workers who provide vital health services to our people and to promote their rights and welfare and enhance their sense of worth and dignity. He also authored the Generics Law, as well as the Rooming-in and Breastfeeding Law.
When he was UP president, he pursued the creation of INTARMED Program in the UP College of Medicine to cut down by two years the pursuit for a medical degree of outstanding and exemplary students. As Department of Agriculture (DA) secretary, he helped in the establishment of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), the making of the DA-Fulbright Scholarship Program, and the Biotechnology Framework that researched and cultivated enhanced agricultural products.
He also advocated for healthy nutrition with Oh My Gulay (OMG!) Program, which encouraged young Filipinos to eat a healthy and inexpensive diet of fruits and vegetables. The program helped partner-schools set up backyard gardens. He also pushed for the School Feeding Program (SFP) to address the problem of malnutrition among school children. This was done in cooperation with the Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), various Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs), National Dairy Authority, National Nutrition Council (NNC), Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI-DOST), various Local Government Units (LGUs), and the Philippine Jaycees.
Described as a real Renaissance man, Senator Ed was also a patron for the culture and the arts. He was the author of the laws creating the National Museum, and the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA). He also pushed for the Natatanging Manlilikha Award which bestows honor on the Filipino folk and traditional artists. He also authored the National Book Publishing Industry Development Act and the National Cultural Heritage Law.
So long, Senator Ed
Many can attest that Senator Ed still looked hale and energetic at age 83. He maintained his enthusiasm at thinking of ways and means to better the lives of his countrymen. He was still on top of his game, and the day before he died, he even had a reunion with his colleagues and coworkers, who were all enthused by the many plans he was still confident of achieving.
Last year, President Rodrigo Duterte designated him as Special Envoy to the European Union. As such, the President himself described him as his ever reliable and outstanding diplomat defender.
It was a life well lived for Senator Ed. He had dedicated several decades and the best years of his life for the country. His accomplishments were bridges that connected every Filipino, enabled them to achieve their dreams and aspirations, and helped improve their lives. Every Filipino will be forever grateful for the benefits they enjoy as a result of many of the landmark laws he has authored. Every Filipino indeed—the young the elderly, every one from different walks of life, every one who had dreams for a better life.
So long, Senator Ed. You will certainly be missed.
June 2018 Health and Lifestyle