DIABETEASE February - March 2007
Senator Edgardo Angara:
A Champion of Public Health Laws
By Sheila R. Jambalos
Photos by Ruben Dela Cruz
It was a gloomy December morning, with a slight drizzle and a possible storm brewing, when the DiabetEASE team arrived at the location of the shoot.
It was a Sunday and we had an 8am appointment for an interview and photo shoot with one of the country's most prominent politicians - Senator Edgardo J. Angara.
Much has been written and heard about Senator Angara's various interests - be it personal or political - his love for the arts, his being a farmer at heart, his zeal for education, and the various significant legislations he has authored.
But on that morning, storm brewing or not, we were determined to probe the man whose generous mind and heart were able to conceive some of the most noteworthy health legislations of our time.
Senator Edong's health advocacies
Senator Angara, more popularly known as Edong to his political supporters, has gained recognition for legislations that he authored including important laws on education, the arts, culture social welfare, agriculture and health. To mention a few, Senator Angara is the author of the Free High School Act, granting free high school education to the Filipino youth; he was responsible for the creation of the new National Museum and the National Commission on Culture and the Arts; and he is the mind behind the Senior Citizens Act, now known as the Angara Law.
With all other significant legislations Senator Angara ushered in Congress, it would be worth noting that some of the most basic health benefits we Filipinos enjoy are a brainchild of this man. Indeed, we should all be thankful to the Senator for creating bills that protect and care for our health and millions of other Filipinos.
Asked about health legislations he has authored, the senator's face lit up as he ticked off each piece of legislation's importance to public health.
The Magna Carta for Public Health Workers has granted additional benefits to public health workers, including an increase in their salaries. The law also stipulates important measures for the welfare of public health workers such as security of tenure, regulations concerning the normal hours of work, overtime work, work during rest days and night-shift, and leave benefits.
Breastfeeding Act, which capitalized on the importance and health benefits of breastfeeding for both mothers and infants, was also Senator Angara's idea. He says the breastfeeding law was important because of its preventive implications for the mothers' and babies' health.
The Generic Drugs Law, meanwhile, was created to lower the prices of medicines and to make medicines accessible for more Filipinos; while the Senior Citizens Act, benefits the country's senior citizens with discounts in transportation, restaurants and drugstores, among others.
But what the senator considers his most important piece of health legislation is the law that created PHILHEALTH, the national healthcare program for Filipinos. According to the senator, PHILHEALTH in terms of utility and scope, with 57 percent of the 85 million Filipinos benefiting from it, "can really provide genuine health assistance to people, especially indigents."
With all these important health laws, we couldn't help but ask why the senator had huge interest in health. "I grew up in a health-conscious family, both my parents were health-conscious," he says. He relates that as children, he and his siblings were trained to eat vegetables, having brought up in the small town of Baler in the province of Aurora. Exposure to a healthy lifestyle is what he attributes as the possible reason why all ten of them in the family, with him being child number six, are still alive.