A lasting legacy of laws

ON MONDAY, Sept. 24, was the birth anniversary of my father, former Senate President Ed Angara. He would have turned 84.

My father wore many hats. He was a state university president, an educator, a cabinet member, an agriculturist and farmer, a banker, diplomat, lawyer and law professor, constitution drafter, NAMFREL chairman, hotelier, patron of the arts (as a former chair of the Metropolitan Museum and the Philippine Philharmonic), sports supporter, book writer and publisher, newspaper columnist (mostly for the Manila Bulletin since 1980!), husband, father and grandfather.

Of the many roles he played, his time as Senator of the Republic was his most treasured — next only to being a doting lolo to his grand kids.  Indeed, he was arguably the longest-serving Senator in the post-EDSA Senate. He called them the best years of his life.  The relationships and bonds he formed there were perhaps among his most enduring.

He understood the important role the Senate played in the nation’s evolution and the improvement of its people’s lives. And that’s why he worked so diligently — albeit quietly — on numerous landmark legislations that even current generations are enjoying.

To safeguard the youth’s future, he championed their education, instituting reforms like the Early Years Act which strengthened early childhood care and development; the K+12 or the Enhanced Basic Education Act; the Free High School Act; and the laws which created the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Technical Education and Skill Development Authority (TESDA). He also conceived the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE), which by far is the biggest government scholarship program in the country.

To provide millions of Filipinos access to proper healthcare, he authored the PhilHealth Law, the Nursing Act of 1991, the Generics Law of 1988, and the Magna Carta for Public Health Workers, among many others.

He shepherded numerous agriculture laws including the Magna Carta of Small Farmers, the Rural Banks Act and the Agricultural Tariffication Act.  From 1999 to 2001, he served as Agriculture Secretary, gaining the rare opportunity to implement a law he conceived—the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA).

He introduced significant banking reforms including the Personal Equity and Retirement Account (PERA) Act, and the Credit Information System Act (CISA).  He helped small and large businesses through the Cooperative Code of the Philippines, and the Magna Carta for Small Enterprises, among many others.  He helped ensure that our government remained upright, transparent and corruption-free by establishing the Office of the Ombudsman and introducing the Procurement Reform Act.

OFWs can now vote because he authored the Overseas Absentee Voting Act. Our grandfathers and grandmothers enjoy discounts on food, medicine, public transport and other essentials because he authored the Senior Citizens Law.

Throughout his career, my father always acted on an urge to give back. He pushed for all forms of government support and assistance because he himself wouldn’t have reached far and achieved much in life if he didn’t receive a leg-up from others.

He used to say that not once did he have to pay for his education, from Baler Elementary School to the University of Michigan, because of the scholarships granted to him.  If it weren’t for such educational support, he may not have gone on to establish one of the most recognized and sought-after law firms in the country, become UP President, get elected to the Senate, serve as Agriculture Secretary, or represent our nation’s interests on the world stage.  Perhaps that’s why he worked so hard to make sure that our government worked to give every Filipino a fighting chance in life. Indeed, like I said during my eulogy for him at the Senate, my father was a boy from Baler who made good and who gave back.

I am certain he enjoyed every minute he devoted his time and energy for the nation’s betterment. And so as we celebrate his first birth anniversary since his passing, we give him proper tribute by remembering the lasting legacy of laws he has left us with.

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Sen. Sonny Angara was elected in 2013, and now chairs the Senate committees on local government, and ways and means. (Email: [email protected]| Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: @sonnyangara)/PN

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