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The importance of being an Angara

Aurora province is decidedly the bailiwick of the Angara political family. Eight Angaras have so far sat in various elective positions in the province and in its capital of Baler.

Jul 5, 2024

Antonio J. Montalvan II

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5-minute read

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Just how many of all our provinces are like Aurora province?

More than ten years ago, when a bill was filed in the senate prohibiting political dynasties, 74 out of 80 provinces were ruled by at least one or two political dynasties. “The Philippines is now conceivably the world capital of political dynasties,” the bill, which naturally never passed the dynasty-dominated Congress (77% today), intoned. Today the number of provinces has risen to 82.

Aurora province is decidedly the bailiwick of the Angara political family. Eight Angaras have so far sat in various elective positions in the province and in its capital of Baler. In 2018, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism categorized Aurora as a pond of poverty. Among all Central Luzon provinces, it had the highest poverty incidence at 26.3%. In 2024, the purchasing power of the peso in the province is only 0.78 when its consumer price index is 128.9, which means that a good number of households cannot afford the high prices of consumer goods.

One has to enumerate all Angaras that have sat in political power. In the House of Representatives, Rommel Rico T. Angara currently represents its lone district. Previously, he was acting provincial governor from 2018 to 2019.

Rommel is the son of Joselito J. Angara, the former mayor of Baler and a brother of the late senator Edgardo J. Angara. A third brother of Joselito and Edgardo was Arturo “Arthur” J. Angara, another former mayor of Baler.

Arthur was Baler’s longest serving municipal mayor. He sat in office for 18 years. First elected in 1992, he was reelected in 1995 and again in 1998. He always ran in the party of his brother the senator, the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP). He made a political comeback in 2004, reelected in 2007 and 2010.

On his last term as municipal mayor from 2010 to 2013, Arthur Angara’s vice mayor was his own daughter Karen G. Angara Ularan. She was previously an ex-officio member of the provincial board of Aurora from 2010 to 2013. Then she was elected as vice mayor of Baler under her father.

The only sister of the three elder Angaras is Bellaflor J. Angara Castillo. She was elected to various posts: representative in Congress for three consecutive terms from 1995 to 2004, then as Aurora’s first female governor for three consecutive terms from 2004 to 2013. In the House, she was once the majority floor leader.

The late patriarch of the four elder Angaras was Juan C. Angara who was the first elected lieutenant governor of Aurora when it was yet a sub-province of Quezon. He served from 1952 to 1955. A close relative of the family was President Manuel L. Quezon, who like the Angaras, was also a native of Baler. Quezon had also served as governor of Tayabas province from 1906 to 1907.

Edgardo J. Angara, the former president of the University of the Philippines (1981-1987), was one of the country’s longest sitting senators. He was first elected in 1987 and sat until 1998. He was elected again in 2001 and sat until 2013. In the 2007 senatorial elections, he ran in the ticket of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He sat a total of 23 years as senator. He was senate president from 1993 to 1995.

He twice sat in the cabinet of President Joseph Estrada, as secretary of agriculture from 1999 to 2001, then as Estrada’s short-lived executive secretary from January 6, 2001 until Estrada’s ouster on January 20, 2001. In May 2017, Rodrigo Duterte appointed him as special envoy to the European Union. He died in 2018. Notice all the political colors that Edgardo Angara had woven himself into from one president to another.

He started as a delegate to the 1971 Constitutional Convention. The following year, he was co-founder, together with fraternity brothers and Juan Ponce Enrile, the ACCRA law office. In the 1998 presidential elections, he ran as vice presidential candidate of Joseph Estrada. He lost that race to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

In the controversial 1971 ConCon, Angara was not among those identified as among the resolute anti Marcos delegates. He was not among the 32 delegates jailed by Ferdinand Marcos Sr. to stifle the voice of the progressive faction opposing the conjugal dictators’ perpetuity in power.

Edgardo Angara’s son, Juan Edgardo (Sonny) Angara, succeeded his aunt Bellaflor Angara Castillo as Aurora’s lone district representative in Congress from 2004 to 2013. He was deputy minority leader. He was elected to the senate in 2013 and reelected in 2019, the second Angara to become senator.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has made another political choice in the Department of Education by naming him its next secretary. It is an apparent trade off – with midterm elections next year, the Angara power in Aurora will be certain to deliver votes for Marcos Jr.’s administration candidates, as it will also reciprocally benefit the Angaras who will run for Aurora’s local political seats.

Congressman Rommel Angara is ensured of his next term in the House, another power foothold for the Angara dynasty. That Angara foothold will be essential for the 2028 presidential elections when the Marcoses will attempt to gain power again instead of handing it to the Dutertes.

Sonny Angara’s first statement as presidential appointee was political rather than professional, for a government department mired in scandals and miserable performance under his predecessor. He said he would pursue the accomplishments of Sara Duterte.

That is alarming. Will it mean he won’t work? Will it mean he will ask Congress for hundreds of millions of audit-free confidential funds? Can he turn around the Philippines’ basket case performance in world student assessments? Will he also speak broken Mandarin for Red China’s national day each October 1?

When politicians play politics, education continues to be mired in poverty. That serves dynasts well.

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.

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