Latest Stories

Lessons Sonny Angara learned from his old man


JUAN EDGARDO ANGARA: I’ve been told to sex up issues but that’s not me. I’ve done well if I’ve built on institutions. PHOTO BY EDWIN BACASMAS

In an election campaign dominated by old and familiar names, his is one that easily stands out: Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, son of a political veteran whose family rules the politics of Aurora province.

His name stands out but no one really knows much about him.

Who is this congressman with the boyish good looks, who was supposedly handpicked by President Aquino to join the administration’s senatorial ticket?

This apparently is a major challenge for Angara in his first national campaign: How to introduce himself not just as the son of an accomplished father but as someone who can stand on his own merits.

Angara, 40, has his work cut out for him. Awareness of him among voters is stuck in the region of 80 percent, which is more than 10 points lower than that of the more popular candidates, particularly incumbent senators.

Rep. JV Ejercito, another senatorial aspirant whose candidacy is being propelled by name recall associated with a well-known parent, reportedly does not even bother with “awareness” anymore.

Ejercito is now supposedly focused on the actual votes, as his popularity has reportedly soared after he began using the screen name of his wildly popular ex-movie idol father, deposed President and convicted plunderer Joseph Estrada.

Angara has 90 days to turn things around. But he’s not about to dissociate himself from his father, Sen. Edgardo Angara, whose name has lately been dragged into controversy by the issue of political dynasties and the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (Apeco) project, whose creation was a father-and-son legislative effort.

Angara’s demeanor is not that different from his father’s. Like his old man, he is soft-spoken and reticent.

Unlike his father, however, Angara is the cool type, never raising his voice, sometimes to the point of seeming to be perennially reverential—even apologetic—even to people he doesn’t know. But he says that’s who he is and he is not planning on changing that.

The senior Angara can be combative, confrontational and sarcastic under fire. It showed at the height of the Apeco controversy when Sen. Sergio Osmeña III accused him of conflict of interest.

It was alleged that the father and son legislators had authored the Apeco law so their family could financially benefit from the project, which covers 12,400 hectares of land. The Angaras have denied the allegation, insisting that the ecozone would benefit the poor people of Aurora.

“We stick with what we are comfortable with. I’ve been told many times that I should go on the attack, tackle issues which are sexier. But that’s not me. Maybe some people might be looking for something radically different. They might be disappointed,” the candidate said.

Keeping the status quo would mean no singing or dancing in Angara’s campaign sorties. The entertainment part of the Angara campaign will presumably be handled by pop star Sarah Geronimo, who has been taken on as a celebrity endorser.


No ordinary candidate

If anything, Angara believes that his being his father’s son would work to his advantage during the actual campaign.

“I won’t go out of my way to separate myself from him because I don’t see the need to,” he told Inquirer editors and reporters recently.


He is no ordinary candidate. He comes from a political family long entrenched in Aurora politics. However well-meaning his motivations for running might be, a Senate election victory for him would mean the continuation of the Angara “lineage” in the Senate, much like the already entrenched Pimentels, Cayetanos, Estradas and Enriles.

Does he think he deserves to be elected by virtue of political pedigree?

“By all means, scrutinize the candidates. Don’t give us a free ride, including myself. Make things difficult for us,” he said, confident that his legislative work in the past nine years could stand scrutiny. At the very least, he thinks it has earned him the opportunity to run and succeed his father.

A ‘benign’ dynasty

Angara rejects the idea that “all [political] dynasties are bad.” He says there are “benign” dynasties, counting among the angels the one that his family has erected in Aurora.

In true dynastic fashion, Angara’s aunt, Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, who is on her last term as governor of Aurora, is running for the congressional seat that he is vacating. His father, a last-termer senator, at first indicated that he would run for the gubernatorial seat his sister was vacating. But he withdrew in favor of his younger brother, the outgoing mayor of Baler town. And so it goes.

For years, Aurora has been synonymous with the name Angara, much like Tarlac is with Aquino, Ilocos Norte with Marcos, Ilocos Sur with Singson or San Juan with Estrada.

But Angara pointed out that the family name has also been associated with education, job creation and health care—gut issues that are expected to figure prominently during the campaign.

Angara has no problem with power being concentrated in one family “as long as [the position] is democratically given, there’s no use of force or [they] are not warlords.”

But he admits that the “quality” of public service could also suffer if family members “find it so easy to get into office.”

That’s why voters should not elect candidates “on the basis of name recall” or allow them to “piggyback on a more successful ancestor,” he said.

High-priced education

Angara’s educational background is exceptional: He’s a graduate of both the London School of Economics and Harvard University, where he finished a master’s degree in law. He practiced law for more than a year until the family business beckoned.

He ran for Congress in 2004, his victory virtually assured in the family-dominated Aurora province. By all accounts, he is a hardworking, if quiet, congressman. Among the measures that he has authored are the Universal Kindergarten Act and the “kasambahay” bill, which has yet to be signed into law by President Aquino.


High-profile job

But outside of Angara’s home turf, people generally know his surname in association with his more famous father. Last year, he got something of a break when he became one of the spokespersons of the team of congressmen who prosecuted former Chief Justice Renato Corona in the Senate impeachment trial.

It was a high-profile job that he shared with Representatives Miro Quimbo and Erin Tañada. But he admits having been upstaged by his colleagues, particularly Quimbo with his boy-band haircut and bombast.

Whether his exposure throughout the Corona impeachment raised his public profile, it did not show in the survey that came right after the trial, according to the younger Angara. If anything, he saw his ratings dip, which he said was because the mass of Filipinos, who comprise the majority of voters, were not the trial’s main audience.

But his involvement in the Corona impeachment did bring a salutary effect. It provided a “separation from my father—people knew that there was a Congressman Angara,” he said.

More importantly, he said it brought him to “the attention of the powers-that-be, the President,” who was in the process of putting together the administration’s senatorial ticket for the May 2013 elections.

The “separation” from the father could be short-lived, however, as for the next three months, the senior Angara will be his son’s campaign manager on the principle that there’s so much to learn from a grizzled veteran who still values “personal contact” in a campaign.


Institution building

Behind the scenes, however, is the more important aspect of legislative work, that of “institution-building,” as Angara put it.

“My viewpoint is I’ve done well if I’ve built on institutions, if I’ve made things better, as opposed to someone who has not done anything or maybe just warmed his seat,” he said.

“Rather than reinvent the wheel, you just ask what’s there and ask yourself how you can make things better,” he said, citing his father’s work in the area of education.

From his old man, Angara said he got a lesson on what constitutes real achievement.

“He’s from the school [of thought] that believes that achievements would speak for themselves, which may or may not be true,” he said.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: 2013 midterm elections , Aurora province , Juan Edgardo Angara , Philippine politics , Philippine Senate , Sonny Angara

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  2. Opinions split on Napoles turning state witness
  3. Delfin Lee: Blame Pag-Ibig, not me
  4. Plunder complaint filed vs PNP chief, firearms office head over license delivery deal
  5. Cedric Lee’s cohort flies out of PH despite look-out order – De Lima
  6. San Juan cops fail to arrest Cedric Lee
  7. More ‘Yolanda’ bodies found
  8. Gigi Reyes pins blame on aide
  9. Lawyer: Napoles ‘will tell all’
  10. Boy ‘sexually assaulted’ at Indonesia international school
  1. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  2. Estrada: Gigi Reyes won’t testify vs JPE
  3. Gigi Reyes pins blame on aide
  4. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  5. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  6. Bernice Lee arrested by NBI team
  7. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  8. Suspect in Vhong Navarro’s mauling wants to turn state witness – De Lima
  9. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  10. ‘Mom, I love you,’ says text from student on sinking ferry
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  4. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  5. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  6. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  7. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  8. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  9. Hammer-wielding robbers cause chaos at Philippines’ Mall of Asia
  10. Ex-PBA player Bryan Gahol dies in road mishap


  • Napoles tags over 100 officials in pork scam – Lacson
  • Vitangcol to sue Czech envoy
  • Senator’s kickback from pork bigger than those of Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – Lacson
  • 43 out of 414 Etihad passengers yet to be found, tested for MERS-CoV – Palace
  • Sandigan junks Marcos family claim to Paoay property
  • Sports

  • Caguioa blasts ‘no heart, soft’ Ginebra on Twitter
  • San Mig Coffee grinds out win over Alaska to force decider
  • UP nips St. Benilde; Adamson blasts RTU in Filoil women’s caging
  • Kevin Garnett responds to Raptors’ GM F word
  • Albert Pujols hits 500th HR of major league career
  • Lifestyle

  • Entering the monkhood a rite of passage
  • Haneda International Airport: A destination on its own
  • Wanted: Beauty queen with a heart that beats for the environment
  • Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  • Life lessons I want to teach my son
  • Entertainment

  • Bollywood Oscars, film stars come to Florida
  • Ex-Fox exec denies allegations in sex abuse suit
  • Kris Aquino backtracks, says Herbert Bautista and her are ‘best friends’
  • Summer preview: Chris Pratt enters a new ‘Galaxy’
  • Bon Jovi helps open low-income housing in US
  • Business

  • SM to rebuild Tacloban hospital
  • PSEi slips after 4-day rally
  • Toyota sells 2.58 million vehicles, outselling GM
  • McDonald’s 1Q profit slips as US sales decline
  • SEC approves SM’s P15B retail bond offer
  • Technology

  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Engineers create a world of difference
  • Bam Aquino becomes Master Splinter’s son after Wiki hack
  • Mark Caguioa lambasts Ginebra teammates on Twitter
  • Opinion

  • One-dimensional diplomacy: A cost-benefit analysis of Manila’s security deal with Washington
  • No ordinary illness
  • Reforest mountains with fire trees and their kind
  • Day of the Earth
  • When will Chinese firm deliver new coaches?
  • Global Nation

  • 19 Ukrainians, Russians, Filipinas rescued in bar raid
  • Filipinos coming home from Mideast must obtain MERS clearance – DOH
  • US Secret Service in Manila ahead of Obama visit
  • Palace thanks Estrada for successful HK mission
  • Hong Kong accepts PH apology; sanctions also lifted
  • Marketplace