BizNews Asia/December 13 – December 20, 2004

Angara’s Enduring Legacy: The BSP, Free High School, CHED, TESDA, PhilHealth, Senior Citizens
By Michelle Therese Orosa

Edgardo AngaraAsk Edgardo Angara the most important reform measures he authored or shepherded in the Senate and he readily ticks off a number of them. These include: the Bangko Sentral Law that established the new central bank; free high school, the removal of the negative list to open up existing industries to new players, education reform, mass health insurance through PhilHealth, and the Senior Citizens Law.

The establishment of the Bango Sentral ng Pilipinas has so far led to a long period of monetary stability and low inflation and opened up the banking system to new investors.

Free high school enabled millions to get secondary education without them spending a centavo.

The trashing of negative list for industries led to the expansion of existing businesses and the inflow of new investments.

Educational reforms led to the establishment of the Commission on Higher Education to administer quality education for university students and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to prepare the young for vocational education and skills training so that non-university students become employable. PhilHealth democratized health insurance in ways never before imagined.

The law on senior citizens recognized their contribution to and role in society and accordingly gives them benefits never before extended them.

Educator, legislator, lawyer, farmer, banker, art patron, former secretary of Agriculture and former Executive Secretary, Edong Angara has come a long way from his humble beginnings in far away Baler, province of Aurora.

He has stood out and made his mark in law, education, and public service, among other fields.

He finished law (1958) at the University of the Philippines, and master of laws at the University of Michigan, as a DeWitt fellow.

When martial law came, he set up the Angara, Concepcion, Cruz, Regala and Abello (ACCRA Law) which became the largest and most prestigious law firm in the country.

“He’s an institution builder,” remarks Congressman Juan Edgardo Angara, Sen. Angara’s second child and only son.

In education, he set a sterling record as president of the University of the Philippines from 1981 to 1987. He defended the university’s academic freedom and significantly improved its financial and human resources by tapping its huge pool of alumni donors, in the process raising the then unheard amount of P100 million.

U.P. Vice President Martin Gregorio, who was then the University Secretary, enthuses, “He’s a very, very good manager and very, very fast worker. He contributed a great deal to the University, not just in academic programs, but also in salary.”

With the money, he raises salaries of the deserving UP faculty and staff and upgraded all the facilities making it a world class University.

VP Gregorio relates, “They thought (he wouldn’t be able to handle being president), but he proved everybody wrong because (his knowledge was so vast).”

He reformed the educational system by providing focus for each level of training – elementary and high schools under the Department of Education, college or university under the CHED, and TESDA for those who cannot enter college but still need the skills to become employable, here and abroad.

Angara place 5 th in the senatorial election in 1987, the first free election after martial law, and was named “the No.1 senator” of the 8 th Congress by the UP Institute of Strategic and Development Studies.

Senator Richard Gordon opines, “He’s got vision for the country, and tremendous experience. As a senator, he is excellent.”

Congressman Roilo Golez agrees, “In my dealings with him, he has impressed me as a decent, circumspect political figure.”

In the 1992 senatorial elections, Angara placed third. From 1993 to 1995 served as Senate President, the third highest post in the land. It was in that capacity that he helped President Fidel V. Ramos implement wide-ranging reforms.

During his term as President, the Senate was an activist and reformist institution, enabling the passage of over 100 laws that turned the economy around and created the environment for economic dynamism and growth.

As a legislator, Angara authored and sponsored many landmark laws in education, health, the arts, culture, social welfare and agriculture.

“Senator Angara is one of the most respected and admired members of the Congress,” Senate President Franklin Drilon says. “His long experience in the government and the corporate sector, his sterling record as a legislator, and his known dedication to the public service make him stand out as one of the country’s top public leaders and intellectuals.”

Angara also authored another landmark law in education, the GASTPE or Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education.

Angara, known as “Mr. Education”, also headed the Congressional Commission on Education that restructured and instituted major reforms in the country’s educational system.

For the welfare of the elderly, he authored the Senior Citizens Act, known as The Angara Law, which benefits for the country’s more than seven million senior citizens, such as discounts in drugstores, restaurants, transportation, and even in movie houses.

Angara has also authored the Generics Drug Law, the Magna Carta for Public Health Workers, the Breast Feeding Act and the law that created PhilHealth, the national health insurance program.

An art patron, Angara was responsible for the creation of the new National Museum and the National Commission on Culture and the Arts. The law on the country’s National Living Treasures, also authored by him, bestows great honor on the Filipino folk and traditional artists.

Recently, the Government Procurement Reform Act, principally authored and sponsored by Angara, was signed into law. The country’s biggest anti-corruption measure in history, this law will save the government about 22 billion pesos a year, which can be used to build more classrooms and other infrastructure.

And as Chairman of the Committee of Constitutional Amendments, he has shepherded the landmark Absentee Voting Law.

Senator Gordon remarks, “He gives consensus, he is able to make parties talk together.”

Angara once again proved to be an excellent leader when he became the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture. Under his stewardship, the agricultural sector made dramatic strides as the government, after years of neglect, made agriculture the number on priority for development.

Food security, research and development, seed and crop production became the hallmarks of his program. Angara fought hard for the welfare of the country’s farmers and fisherfolk and ardently pushed the entry of Philippine agricultural products in international markets.

Even today, under the present administration, the strides recently achieved by the agricultural sector of the country’s economy are largely attributed to Angara’s leadership.

“The leaders and the people have mediocriticized themselves. We need someone who’s going to steer discussions to a higher plane, based on the appreciation of issues that are supported by his experience, knowledge, and pragmatism,” Senator Gordon says.

Now Angara wants a total log ban enforced.

His son reveals, “His next target is the reform of the political parties in the Philippines.”

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