EDJA: The man who should have been president
TAKIN' CARE OF BUSINESS By Babe Romualdez
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Senator Edgardo Angara, also known as "EDJA," would have been president in 2001 had he been elected as vice president when he ran with Joseph Estrada in 1998. The other night, he celebrated his birthday which also served as the launching of his UP Fellowship Program. Those who went to the celebration at the Makati Shangri-La were former president Erap Estrada and his colleagues in the Senate like Manny Villar, Migs Zubiri, Joker Arroyo and Loren Legarda. Ed has a lot of friends from business, media, the academe and of course the legal profession who, in one way or another, became part of ACCRA Law which he founded with Senator Juan Ponce Enrile.
Ed is probably the longest-serving senator in the post-EDSA Senate, and over the years, a lot of his legislative work has been geared towards strengthening the country's educational system and giving the poor equal access to education. Not so surprising considering that "EDJA" is a self-made man, born to a middle class family in Baler, Aurora. The late literary great Nick Joaquin, in his book Ed Angara: Seer of Sea and Sierra, described the dense jungles of Baler and the roaring ocean as the "gym and playground" of Baler's favorite son.
No doubt the senator's humble beginnings shaped his strong belief in education being the great equalizer. Even as a boy, he already showed extraordinary intellect, graduating as valedictorian in elementary and high school, putting himself through college in UP where he obtained his law degree. One of Ed Angara's landmark bills was the Free High School Act which made it possible even for the poorest among the poor to finish secondary education, and it was mainly though his efforts that the Commission of Higher Education (CHED) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) were created - both of which have enabled the DepEd to focus on the job of providing basic education for Filipinos.
Ed says he has already put some 5,000 private scholars through college - many of them having finished various courses from UP, CEU, FEU, PUP and other private and state universities all over the country. Since 1994, close to five million poor students have benefited from institutionalized educational assistance programs and scholarships initiated by the senator, including a number of Fulbright scholars.