Craving for a statesman: Notes from Senate’s necrological service for former Sen. Edgardo Angara

I interrupted my business story -writing to listen to lawmakers honor a “statesman,” a mark I miss from our leaders.

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I stopped writing business stories for two hours to listen to the livestream of the necrological service at the Philippine Senate for a former lawmaker, Edgardo Angara, 83.

The former Senate President, who died on Sunday, May 13, 2018, has been stamped a “statesman.”

It’s a mark of a leader I’ve been deeply longing for for quite a while, given the strongmen of a leader current President Rodrigo Duterte and, in a similar way, US President Donald Trump are. I am baffled by their brashness and seemingly lack of understanding of the bigger and complicated issues when they push for policies that are a product of knee-jerk feelings.

Yet there is a constant push for a different perspective: There is wisdom, their supporters say, for these policies. Does that mean I’ve been blind and wrong about my convictions on ethics, logic, diplomacy, and fairness all along? The consistent self-doubt has been unhealthy to my core as a person, as a citizen.

The death of a “statesman” — in this case, Angara — has great timing. I listened to his peers and critics remember him.

 

See my notes below. Not complete, but includes highlights of what was shared. Emphasis — via bold texts — are mine.

Former Philippine President JOSEPH ESTRADA:

I bid farewell to my friend and colleague.

We have lost a public servant of the highest integrity, legislator with compassion, intellectual with the hart for the poor, and champion for education. Ed was a lifelong believer in education as a tool to change lives.

He particularly admired the education in London.

I had such high hopes for our team when I chose him as my running mate in the 1998 presidential elections. (Note: Angara lost the VP race)

Former Philippine President GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO

Edgardo Angara was a giant among legal luminaries, an accomplished educator, and a skillful and principled public servant.
He was a young delegate to the Consittuional Convention in 1971 when my father (former Philippine president Diosdado Macapagal) identified him as among those destined for a bright political future. He went on to achieve so much for so many in education, the economy, the farmers, the senior citizens, etc.
He wore many hats.
Here in the Senate, where Ed and I and many of us here, spent 6 fulfilling years together…he was a kind and mild-mannered mentor.
Principle and strategic direction guided his legislation: CHED and TESDA, scholarships, Agriculture, Fisheries and Modernization Act (AFMA) of 1997, Anti-Money Laundering Law, Senior Citizens Act of 2004, Personal Equity and Retirement Account Law (PERA) of 2008.
Dear Ed, the impact of your principled lawmaking is larger than life.

Former Senator RENE SAGUISAG

Ed emailed me recently and flattered me by saying [I’m] his spiritual brother.
His biography in a grand manner was launched in late April 2015, and he was quoted there that his life was far from perfect. It was characteristically self-deprecating, and I agree with Kit Tatad that it was a life well-lived indeed.
The last time we met was last March 23rd, recognizing the 10 pioneer hall of famers in the Fulbright Program.

During the martial law years, Ed and I had very to agree on.
I was invited to have lunch with Ed at Manila Hotel. Ed invited me to be co-founder of ACCRA. I declined, founded San Beda Free Legal Aid Clinic and took a different course.
My perception of him changed in 1985-86, when along with Cora de la Paz, NAMFREL took a position (against the dictator). This impressed President Cory Aquino who then named him as one of her choices to run for the Senate, a race he won handily and there he served for many, many years.
I should add that Ed in this hall voted for conviction (of former and late Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona), and it is very unkind for some people to say that the vote was for toxic pork barrel.
Long before his autobiography was launched, we became fast friends with deep and abiding respect for each other, at times with different views for the motherland.
Quotes William Wordsworth: “That though the radiance which was once so bright be now forever taken from my sight. Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, glory in the flower. We will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind.”

Sen. PIA CAYETANO

He was ‘Uncle Ed’ to me. We spent every summer in the beach house in Nasugbu. (Starts to be emotional, voice cracks.)
We were both Regents in UP (University of the Philippines). He would always laugh when I remind him we entered UP together: Me as a freshman, and he as UP president. How he ended up in UP: A friend told him valedictorians could enter UP automatically. He was a valedictorian, so he made his way to Manila (from his home province, Aurora), and the rest is history. He graduated UP Law, and after, like my father, he went to the University of Michigan.
This “provinsyano” boy from Baler who would become UP President, then a Senator, then Senate President who passed landmark legislation, bills on education. These laws are the foundation of our education today. When I asked him a while back what else needs to be done (re education), he said it’s just funding, more funding, to make these policies and dreams a reality.
Also in area of maternal and infant health, he was the author of the “Rooming In Act”, the first bill on Breastfeeding.
When I was pushing to protect heritage sites, the basis was his law, The National Heritage Law. Over the years, it would no longer surprise me that many of the legislation I worked on were also his pet bills. He was so excited that we shared (advocacies) that he invited me in talks with experts in the field. I was excited too, until I realized he starts his meetings at 8am, even at 6am.
We also had long conversations on our Spanish heritage, his Galleon Trade project, and the need to preserve this and to strengthen our relations with Spain.
Others may not know about him is his support for grassroots sports, in particular football. He brought in Real Madrid to train underprivileged children.
He finished his last Senate term 4 years ago, but I met with him often, to chat, to pick his brain, to somehow absorb the wealth of knowledge and experience that he had.
He had so many things going on internationally, and to local ones, especially his beloved Baler.
Filipinos grieve because we have lost a humble and dedicated stateman, a great teacher and a visionary. 
My father named my brother Lino after him. My brother’s name is Lino Edgardo.
Know this: Uncle Ed will live on in the work that we do and that of many others he has mentored in his time.

 

Former Sen. AQUILINO ‘NENE’ PIMENTEL:

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It is said that power generally overwhelms the better instincts of men — not the Ed Angara I knew. 
Despite the enormous powers that he had access to, or that he enjoyed especially during the early Martial Law years, he remained a balanced human perspectives. For instance, he had perks to savor, but he tried to share them with others less-priviledged.
During the Martial Law years, I was in the opposite camp, he tried to share with me the material blessings he enjoyed, which I had to turn down because from my narrower perspectives that I didn’t want “utang na loob” (debt of gratitude) to hamper the cause that I was espousing.
Aside form the enumerable things he has done for friends, acquaintances and supporters, his wholehearted dedication to the cause of education emerges as his unique contribution to the welfare of our people. There, in the field of education, Ed’s track record as a public servant stands out over the heads of his peers.
The creation of CHED and TESDA, the enactment of Free High School Act. And what was the underlying message that Ed wanted us to know about those knowledge-sharing espousals of his? He wanted us to realize that education is the key to upward mobility that would inevitably lead to the expansion of the horizons of anyone’s service and relevance to the nation.
I guess Ed wanted everyone, esp. the poor, the oppressed and marginalized, to realize that to extricate themselves from the clutches of property, they must have access to and make use of education.

For once they are freed from the dehumanizing effect of, that miserable (life) they would then be in the position to help others to have a life befitting of human beings.
May I suggest that differing opinions invariably bedeviled the reputations of public servants. Divergent views are a part of the democratic dialogue this country has to go through. Right or wrong, we just have to bear the contrary views as they come our way, rebut them as best as we can, and let history do the rest.
As for you, Brother Ed, your focus on knowledge-sharing that enables even the deprived sectors of our society to have the means to cut themselves free from the bondage of ignorance has already defined your rightful place in the pages of our history.

Sen. JOEL VILLANUEVA:

Tito Ed (Angara) made me experience his vision and moved me to take action.
Sen. Ed Angara was father of TESDA and champion of tech-vocational education. The waves of change he helped make for us, our country, will live on. Philippians 1:21: “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Tito Ed (Angara) is a statesman, a reformist, a giant wave in the Philippine Senate, and a man behind landmark laws.

Sen. JUAN MIGUEL ZUBIRI:

While others were busy with conflict and controversy, Senator Angara was standing on this floor busy with important legislation… which are too many to mention. That is the Angara way.

Sen. RICHARD GORDON:

(Ed Angara) thought well, he had vision. The man could see things far ahead and saw a vision of a life better than what was there.
He [Angara] believes that every Filipino should have a fighting chance.
Ed Angara will be remembered for many things, but (he did things) not with force but with constant diplomacy, with smile on his face.
He was a perfect diplomat. When our president (Duterte) curses, (Ed Angara) is in Europe Why? He thinks of his beloved Baler. Ed is in Europe talking with the European Union, calling and telling me, “Ako dito, ikaw doon.” (Context: Angara is Duterte’s special envoy to the European Union)

Sen. LOREN LEGARDA:

No statement, article or eulogy can ever live up to the great man that he (Angara) was.
In the national stage, hIs (Angara’s) absence will be felt long after his body has been laid to rest. The passing of Ed marks the end of an era, but his legacy lives on.

Sen. FRANK DRILON:

I was one of the last people who saw Ed, and enjoyed his company before he quietly (died). He was in his jovial mood, and talked animatedly about his life away from politics.
Summarizing my friendship with Ed (Angara) for almost 50 years is almost impossible. Ed was a jewel of a friend, a man who had my highest respect and admiration. He was a major influence in my professional and political life.
Our friendship transcended political colors. Once, Ed even tried to depose me as Senate President, but the friendship remains.
Leaders and politicians come and go. But only a few would leave deep footprints on the sands of time because of their enormous contribution to nation building and to the betterment of humanity.

Sen. RALPH RECTO:

Calling a politician productive, and it would be dismissed as a hyperbole. But use it to describe Ed Angara, and it comes off as an understatement.
Because of Ed, Filipinos are born to this world covered with medical insurance and are sent off to eternal life, with discounted services.
Ed’s output of laws is encyclopedic, and the records of this institution will bare me out, but such is no exaggeration.
Ed was never a one-issue lawmaker.
He is a workhorse. He plodded on in silence, away from TV camera lights…more concerned with the fineprint of law, fought great causes, spoke calmly and ditched oratory.
He was more concerned about the fine print of the law, than the headlines that he never chased.
Polite and courteous, he fought great causes without uttering curses in public.
He had the courage to defy the wisdom of the crowd with views that may not be popular but right.
At the time when winner takes all is the norm, he conceded when (needed). He knew when to stand ground and seek common ground. That is what the nation will miss the most.
(Edgardo Angara) balances interests and prevent deadlock.
He respect divergence in views, and believes in harnessing contrarian views in improving policy.
I would still bump into him in different places, I would tease him as ‘the elder Angara,’ and refer to his son, Sen. Sonny Angara, as the ‘better Angara.’ He would break into a smile, follow with a glint in his eye, and beam w unmistakable fatherly pride. His children are his greatest work.
You have fought the good fight, rest well, you have been taken in God’s graces. If the 10 Commandments have become 20, is only a handiwork of yours.

Sen. SONNY ANGARA:

(Delivers the response in behalf of the Angara family)

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He was our biggest critic but also our greatest supporter.
He treasured the time he spent here (at the Senate), called it the best times of his life.
Our father wore many hats…But his best was being grandfather. He went to Hong Kong with his 7-year-old grandson, just the two of them. Imagine if something happened to him there?
I think he was in a good place when he passed. He spent his last day on earth with his co-workers, partners and his dearest friends.
He always emphasized the need to give back.
He took an unconditional route to Senate. He was the UP president and NAMFREL chairman when former President Cory Aquino took him on, something he will forever be grateful.
(Remember him) as a reformer, institution builder, a builder of dreams and an enabler of people.
My father is as human as anyone here. If he hurt any of you, we apologize. My father was very impatient.

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