Portrait of a statesman

Francisco Ed. Lim

On May 13, 2018, the nation mourned the loss of one of the greatest statesmen to have served the country: Sen. Edgardo J. Angara.

Angara, fondly known as “Ed,” “Edong,” “SEJA,” PEJA or “EJA,” lived a full and robust life. In his long career, he has been credited as an educator, lawyer, legislator, leader and reformer.

In the private sector, EJA, together with his friends Manuel G. Abello, Teodoro D. Regala, Jose C. Concepcion and Avelino V. Cruz, founded ACCRALAW in 1972 when the legal landscape was dominated by larger and more established firms primarily designed to serve multinational corporations. EJA, together with Ave, Joe, Manny and Teddy, envisioned ACCRALAW to cater primarily to the legal needs of domestic business. ACCRALAW is now one of the country’s biggest and most decorated law firms.

SEJA’s eminence as visionary and trailblazer extended well into his public career. As a senator, SEJA shunned grandstanding and focused on groundbreaking and high-impact legislation such as the Free High School Act, Senior Citizens Act, National Health Insurance Act, Generics Act, Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act, Legal Education Reform Act, National Cultural Heritage Act, Government Procurement Act, and the Tesda law.

Unknown to many, SEJA principally authored revolutionary economic legislation such as the Credit Information System Act, Electric Power Industry Reform Act, Financial Rehabilitation and Insolvency Act, Personal Equity Retirement Account Act, Pre-need Code, and Real Estate Investment Act. The Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council, which serves as a consultative and advisory body to the President to identify and fast-track the passage of key legislation for the country, was also the brainchild of SEJA during his stint as Senate President. SEJA’s innovative advocacies shaped our local legislation to steer the country toward a global future.

Although SEJA was primarily known as senator and Senate President, he served in numerous capacities as a public servant—as a delegate to the 1971 Constitutional Convention, president of UP, chair of PNB, secretary of agriculture, executive secretary, and special envoy to the EU. In private practice, he was president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the first president of the Asean Law Association.

Outside the Senate, EJA played a key role in defining the nation’s political landscape. In early 2001, during the final days of President Estrada, Ed accepted the role of executive secretary. He was instrumental in the peaceful and orderly transfer of power to the GMA administration.

Public figure aside, Ed is a man with steadfast beliefs and a loyal heart. He is a fiercely loyal man who one can be proud to call a true friend. In the wake of his passing, there has been an abundance of anecdotes from his colleagues, peers and friends, reminiscing how Ed, Edong, SEJA, PEJA or EJA—regardless of power, status or political climate—never abandoned those dear to him in their hour of need.

It is thus with a heavy heart that a grateful nation mourns the loss of the man who was the president our country needed, and more importantly, who the Filipino people deserved.

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