"We Cannot Afford to Do Nothing." —Sen. Edgardo J. Angara

The longest-serving post-EDSA senator, in his own words.
IMAGE International Rice Research Institute via Wikimedia Commons

To commemorate the passing of former senator Edgardo J. Angara, revisit some of his memorable words of wisdom. The following are excerpted from his speeches, addresses, and interviews with various press outfits over the years, as well as his biography, Edgardo J. Angara: In The Grand Manner, by Butch Dalisay.


I don’t think that kind of a one-man, strongman rule is acceptable anymore. What the people can accept is a consultative leader. That doesn’t mean he will not decide, but he will decide on the basis of consultation. It cannot be a one-man rule. [1]

The economy we build must be equitable, just, and fair if we are to realize our individual and collective potential. It must be able to control and rectify the threats, natural and man-made, fueled by greed and neglect. [2]

We cannot afford to do nothing. We cannot allow the chasm of mistrust, the gulf of suspicion to widen between the government and the people it serves. [2]

Sustainably stamping out corruption requires an evolutionary approach, rather than a revolutionary one. [2]

I have worn many hats in my life—lawyer, educator, farmer, banker, patron of the arts—but being a lawmaker allowed me to focus my varied interests and experiences toward making laws of deep meaning to a Filipino. [3]

Good politics is also marked by close collaboration between the branches of government. As Senate President, I challenged our colleagues, and the Executive, to do what seemed to be the harder thing: set aside discord and cooperate on a legislative agenda needed for economic recovery. [3]


The best investment we can make is in our people, our greatest renewable resource. [3]

People in UP were a little naughty; they saw me as the right hand of Enrile. And I was really unknown in the academe. But I soldiered on and, in the end, I think, the whole community accepted me because I effected really, really wide-ranging change in the university. [9]

Information is the currency of power—valuable, coveted, at very high risk. [4]

I think those with hard sciences backgrounds make good legislators and economists make the worst, because they want to look at all aspects; in the end, they commit paralysis by analysis. [9]

Without trust, you can’t do anything. It’s up to the president to convert that trust into good administration. Trust is also transitory, a perishable commodity. You must seize that because it will not be there permanently. [9]

These kids have a different set of values and they are leaving their parents far behind. The thirst for knowledge has even sharpened as a result of the devices and modes of communication that have come out. But the ability to read and write may have been blunted. [9]

My parents were both nurses and dentists. Since they were the first health professionals in Baler, they became the town's doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists all combined into one. That was where all of us got a strong sense of service to people, so that all of us took up service-oriented professions. [5]

Growing up, I had read and heard over and over that the great leaders of our country were great lawyers, so I also wanted to be one. I knew my path and I didn't deviate at all from that direction. [5]

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My interest is wide and varied. My initial, primary focus was on improving education because I came from UP, and so I put together all these educational reforms. That was post-EDSA, the first major overhaul of the educational system. [5]

A leader should always consider how to better everything. Legislation should be comprehensive so that even the surrounding of a person will be made better. [5]

I'm just a curious fellow. If you ask me what my distinctive trait is, it's curiosity. Lagi akong nagtatanong, nagbabasa. I am always eager to learn and to listen. [5]

The younger generation of politicians [has] the power to change things, because of technology. It's also why they are luckier than most of us because we are the generation who had to go to the library and lift hefty books to look up everything we needed to know. So they shouldn't have any excuses today. [5]

No person ever leaves this earth and be able to say that 'I've done everything and achieved everything'. There are always unmet needs and goals that one always leaves, and it is the younger generation that can take on the advocacies that I have started in education, culture and the arts and science. [5]

If you ask me, ‘Are you happy with your life at the end of your career in public service?’ Yes, I will tell you I'm absolutely happy and satisfied, and at peace with myself, with my family, with the world. "When I say, 'If I had more time, I could have done more,' it is an expression of hope for the future—a way of saying that I'm very optimistic for the Philippines. [5]


I can recall, in the past four decades, it’s tit-for-tat type of exchanges, that’s why it really surprises me that we even survived and thrived. The next leader should transcend all past infighting and concentrate on the future, [on] how we can become more progressive and how we can help unleash the people’s creativity. [6]

Ninoy told me the Philippines would be bankrupt in two years’ time. He wanted me to convey a message to President Marcos: That he had no more political ambitions, and that he just wanted to help the country. Of course, he was critical of Mrs. Marcos and of President Marcos himself, but he emphasized that despite all that, he was willing to help and he wanted me to pass on that message. [7]

The title of this book [In The Grand Manner] may sound rather immodest—it draws on Justice Holmes’ admonition for the law to be taught and therefore practiced in the grand manner—but I would like to believe that in the end, this is the only standard we can be measured by, as we seek to reshape society itself and our nation’s future. [8]





[1] Addressing students of the National Defense College of The Philippines

[2] Introductory Address for the GOPAC-SEAPAC Chapter Workshop

[3] Senate Valedictory Speech

[4] Sponsorship Speech for the Data Privacy Act

[5] Interview with the Sunday Times Magazine

[6] Interview with Wilson Flores for The Philippine Star

[7] Interview with Christina Mendez for The Philippine Star

[8] Foreword of his biography, Edgardo J. Angara: In The Grand Manner


[9] Interview with Kap Maceda Aguila for The Philippine Star

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