Sunday Lifestyle

Edgardo Angara on the next president and the need to end the politics of vengeance

WILL SOON FLOURISH - Wilson Lee Flores - The Philippine Star

Just a month before our May 9 elections, one of the best presidents the Philippines never had, former Senate President and former University of the Philippines (UP) president Edgardo J. Angara, had breakfast with media and intellectuals on April 5 at the free-wheeling, non-partisan “Pandesal Forum” held at 77-year-old Kamuning Bakery Café in Quezon City.

The forum was followed by a book launching and book signing of his interesting biography entitled Edgardo J. Angara: In the Grand Manner authored by the great writer and 16-time Palanca literary awardee Prof. Jose “Butch” Y. Dalisay, Jr.

The personalities at the tertulia-inspired Pandesal Forum included such legendary leaders as SGV Group founder, 95-year-old  Washington SyCip; respected National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario (whose penname as poet is “Rio Alma”); ANC host and topnotch writer Atty. Teddyboy Locsin; Philippine STAR  columnist Federico Pascual; PDI columnist Amando Doronilla and others. Angara called SyCip his “mentor,” while Teddyboy Locsin in turn also referred to Angara as his “mentor.”

Ed Angara said that he had visited this very bakery in his youth, because an old customer and neighbor of Kamuning Bakery Cafe was his late cousin, the famous theater artist Zenaida Angara Amador. Angara added that since his fellow Baler native Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon was the visionary behind creating Quezon City in 1939, the latter had invited not a few of his townmates to become original settlers here in Quezon City’s first community — Barangay Kamuning.

Why 2016 is crucial for the Philippines’ future and its leadership

When I asked whom he would vote for president on May 9, Ed Angara replied: “The job interview (for president) is not yet finished, but what I know is that 2016 is a crucial year for the Philippines for two strategic reasons: First, this year is the start of the ASEAN economic community of 620 million consumers, the third largest in the world next to North America and Europe. Our region is projected to be the driver for global economic growth with the highest rates.

“Second, demographically, between Indonesia and the Philippines, we hold one of the highest averages of young people. People who are 24 years old and below make up 54 percent of our population. This represents a huge potential for productivity, for savings, for creativity. Filipinos also have a higher literacy rate. The next leader of the Philippines is critical to our moving forward.”

Here are his other comments:

On whether Charter change on economic provisions is the answer to better economic progress and more foreign investments: “I disagree with some advocates of using Charter change only to solve some investment conundrums, because you cannot really change without changing the political framework… For example, there’s no genuine political party system, no discipline. Also, a president can just control this by adjusting the national budget, so what use is the legislature, Congress? We have a system where one man dominates politics. If one man dictates, that’s why we have a constricted economic space.”

On the need to open up our economy to more foreign investors: “Who could be more nationalistic than the Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese — but they’ve opened up their economies because they want to create jobs. What we have in our society is one percent of extremely rich people and 90 percent extremely poor, the economic elite controls the political elite, so it’s almost hopeless, we need real change.”

On the recent Kidapawan tragedy, wherein hungry and protesting farmers were violently dispersed by police resulting in some deaths: “This highlights the challenges lying ahead for food and water supplies. I don’t think the government has done enough. This El Niño had been predicted two years ago, the hottest and the most devastating (heat wave) yet.

 “It is sad we have not addressed this agrarian issue. Even in this Internet age, 33 percent of Filipinos still depend on agriculture. How can we help farmers make an honest and decent living? There is danger if farmers’ sons and daughters don’t want to work in farms, but prefer to go to the call centers. We should really support our farmers.”

On hackers and money-laundering: “The Philippines was one of the first countries to accept the agreement on anti-money-laundering in Paris… This problem shows us that no one is safe from hacking by modern snoopers. How do we protect privacy? It is important that the next government should be tech savvy.”

One memorable remark by Angara should awaken our leaders. He had just returned a day before from Vietnam where he had attended the meeting of the ASEAN Law Association which he co-founded in 1979, and had this to say: “Vietnam will move faster than us economically. They have the advantage of being one (contiguous) place, (along) the Mekong River; they are resolute and unfaltering.”

Wash SyCip was given the honor of having his copy of the Ed Angara biography autographed first by the legislator. IBC 13 president Lito Cruz followed, requesting both Angara and SyCip to autograph his copy of the book.

During the forum, SyCip cited Angara and the late United Nations Population Fund’s first head, Rafael “Paeng” M. Salas, as two leaders who could have been outstanding presidents of the Philippines. SyCip also mentioned that despite Paeng’s policy disagreement with his former boss, then President Ferdinand E. Marcos, which caused him to leave the country, it was then UP president Angara who arranged for Salas to receive an honorary doctorate degree from the premier state university in 1983.

In reply to SyCip, Angara said: “Paeng deserved to be honored, because he had done so much for the Philippines, so I thank the UP Board of Regents who agreed to confer that honorary doctorate… On whether he would have been a good president, it’s always easy to say after the fact… In our history we have often had some accidental presidents (chuckles), which probably helps explain why our development as a nation is also often accidental.”

A journalist from a foreign newspaper asked about “the upsurge in the popularity of Senator Bongbong Marcos as vice presidential bet, despite government’s attacks.” Angara replied: “I will not be surprised that he has that appeal. We were together in the Senate, when you listen to this young senator, he makes good sense and speaks very elegantly, so he has this appeal.” SyCip added: “Bongbong is attractive to a lot of the young, pretty girls.”

Wash SyCip also made a fearless forecast that Ed Angara’s son Harvard and London School of Economics graduate Senator Sonny Angara “would someday become a good president of the Philippines.” When I, as moderator, half-jokingly commented that Sonny seems “a better version of Ed Angara,” the happy dad replied: “It’s because he took after my wife Gloria. They say kids get 80 percent of their intelligence from their mothers.” I said this was the second time I had heard that figure — the first time was from my paternal second-cousin Ateneo de Manila University educator Dr. Queena Lee Chua.

Angara also urged Philippine politicians to end the “politics of vengeance” and unify the people to move the country forward. He explained: “I can recall, in the past four decades, it’s tit-for-tat type of exchanges, that’s why it really surprises me that we even survived and thrived. The next leader should transcend all past in-fighting and concentrate on the future, how we can become more progressive and how we can help unleash the people’s creativity.”



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