By Camille A. Aguinaldo
FORMER Senate president Edgardo J. Angara has passed away at the age of 83, his son Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara announced on Sunday.
“Sad to say my father, former Senator Edgardo Javier Angara, passed on from this life this morning at the age of 83, from an apparent heart attack,” the younger Mr. Angara said in a statement. “We ask for prayers for the repose of his soul,” he added.
The older Mr. Angara was appointed special envoy to the European Union (EU) in 2017 by President Rodrigo R. Duterte amid the EU’s criticism of the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign. He was also chosen as chairman of the New Clark City.
Mr. Angara, who hails from Baler, Aurora, obtained his law degree from the University of the Philippines, an institution he would later serve as president, and master of laws from the University of Michigan.
His political career started when he was elected one of the youngest delegates to the 1971 Constitutional Convention. He later co-founded top law firm Angara Abello Concepcion Regala and Cruz Law Offices (ACCRA Law) in 1972.
After the 1983 Aquino assassination, Mr. Angara was also among the leading figures in the National Movement for Free Elections during the crucial parliamentary elections of 1984 and snap presidential election of 1986.
He was thereafter elected to the Senate in 1987 and served in that institution until 1998 and from 2001 to 2013. He became Senate President from 1993 to 1995.
At the Senate, he pushed for the passage of that chamber’s more significant laws, including the Free High School Act, laws establishing the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) and the Technical Education and Skill Development Authority (TESDA), the National Health Insurance Act (Philhealth), Senior Citizens Act, the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act, Renewable Energy Act, and the Procurement Reform Act.
After losing the vice-presidential bid in 1998, Mr. Angara was appointed Agriculture Secretary under the administration of President Joseph Ejercito Estrada from 1999 to 2001. He also had a brief stint as Executive Secretary in 2001 amid the ongoing impeachment trial against Mr. Estrada that led to the Second People Power uprising.
He also became president of the Philippine Bar Association in 1975, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in 1979, chairman of the Philippine National Bank (PNB) from 1998 to 1999, and charter president of the Southeast Asia Parliamentarians Against Corruption (SEAPAC) in 2005.
He was chosen as founding president of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Law Association in 1980. He also rekindled the Philippines’ historic ties with Spain and Mexico, which led to the institutionalization of the Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day Act. He was also the official representative to the Union Latina, an organization consisting of 37 member-nations of the neo-latin languages.
He was awarded the Cordon of the Rising Sun by the Emperor of Japan for his contributions to the Philippine-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (PJEPA), a bilateral trade agreement enforced in 2008.
In his statement Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. called Mr. Angara “one of our great leaders and statesmen.”
“Mr. Angara’s contribution to nation-building was immense and his name will always be prominent in the pages of our country’s modern political history. He will be missed,” Mr. Roque also said.
Incumbent senators also paid tribute to Mr. Angara as of this reporting, with Senator Francis N. Pangilinan saying in part that Mr. Angara “was one of the senior legislators we looked up to in the Senate.”
Privacy Commissioner Raymund E. Liboro in his statement said Mr. Angara “had binoculars trained to the future and throughout his lifetime championed the country’s competitiveness in: education, agriculture, health, science and technology and the protection of the Filipinos’ well-being in today’s digital age.”
“Millennials owe Senator Ed Angara a debt of gratitude for ensuring them a more protected future through his authorship of 21st Century laws like the Cybercrime Prevention Act and the Data Privacy Act. He was a visionary and he will be missed,” Mr. Liboro also said.
Senator Loren B. Legarda in her statement said in part, “We lost a great man, a visionary, an indefatigable worker, esteemed public servant, a deep thinker, one of the Philippines’ most brilliant minds, a dear friend.”
“Ed was a great Filipino statesman and leader whom I had the privilege and honor of working closely with for causes bigger than ourselves,” Ms. Legarda also said.
In his statement, Senator Paolo Benigno A. Aquino IV said, “We always appreciated Tito Ed’s ready advice and guidance for us younger public servants.”
“We will do our best to continue his reforms for the education sector,” Mr. Aquino also said.
EU Ambassador Franz Jessen called Mr. Angara “a great patriot and a true friend of the EU.”
Vigil for the late Senate leader begins Monday, May 14, at Chapels 6 to 9 at the Heritage Memorial Park in Taguig City.
By Camille A. Aguinaldo