July 30, 2014     Philippines
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May 11, 2013
Juan Edgardo “Sonny” M. Angara

Pnoy team senatorial bet Juan Edgardo “Sonny” M. Angara is one of the youngest candidates running for the Senate this elections.

The young Angara, son of incumbent Senator Edgardo J. Angara, served as representative of Aurora’s lone district for three terms. Angara boasts of a prolific performance as a legislator.

The House of Representatives’ Legislative Information System (LEGIS) shows that Angara is the principal author of 56, 154, and 250 bills and resolutions during the 13th, 14th and 15th Congress, respectively.

Of the 460 bills and resolutions he filed, 64 were related to basic education and culture, 22 on higher and technical education, and 31 on health. Among the bills he filed which became laws were the Magna Carta of Women, Pre-Need Code of the Philippines, Real Estate Investment Trust, Civil Aviation Authority Act, and Personal Equity and Retirement Account (PERA) Act.

According to his website, Angara is running on a platform of “large-scale job creation generated by the tourism, manufacturing/ industry and agriculture sectors.” Citing his rural development bill, Angara said he seeks the full use of one million hectares of idle and underutilized agricultural lands to generate rural jobs.

Aurora people’s perspective

Angara’s record looks excellent but the people of Aurora have a different view.

In a phone interview with Bulatlat.com, Elmer Dayson, vice chairman of the Panlalawigang Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid ng Aurora (Pamana) said that Representative Angara “failed to bring in development to the province.”

“At first, we supported him. He was young and we thought he did not bear the characteristics of traditional politicians,” Dayson said. “Eventually though, with the guidance of his father, he proved no different from the trapos.”

Dayson said the Angaras — Sonny, Senator Angara and senator’s sister, Governor Bellaflor Angara-Castillo — used their power to advance the interest of the clan. Dayson cited as an example the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority (Apeco).

Senator Angara and Sonny authored Republic Act No. 9490 in 2007, which created the Apeco. The law was amended through RA 10083, again sponsored by father and son.

Various groups, including Pamana, have opposed the 12,000-hectare economic zone in Aurora, saying it would displace thousands of farmers, fisherfolk and indigenous peoples.

In a previous Bulatlat.com story, the Resist Apeco! Defend Aurora Movement questioned the on the P2 billion ($47.04 million) funds spent for the project from 2007 to 2010.

The group also accused Sonny Angara and Gov. Bella Angara-Castillo as the ones operating the Apeco. Responding to critics, Senator Angara said in a report that his relatives got their positions on their own merit.

Dayson said however the “political empire of the Angaras do not benefit the people of Aurora.”

“It’s an open secret that the Angaras are into logging,” Dayson said. “They operate through their dummies.”

In recent years, floods and landslides affected Aurora towns. Forests have been denuded.

Dayson said landgrabbing has become rampant. He cited the Food Basket project of the Angaras in Maria Aurora town. “Igorots who cultivated the 320-hectare land are threatened to be driven away,” he said.

Even the eco-tourism projects, Dayson said, dislocated farmers and fisherfolk. He cited that fishermen in Dinadiawan, Dipaculao have been displaced due to the tourism project.

“Tourism generates jobs but these jobs are seasonal and not stable,” Dayson said. “The impact on the farmers and fisherfolk are adverse. They are losing their homes and livelihood.”

Dayson said Apeco, along with other projects of the Angaras in Aurora, are in accordance with the Medium Term Development Plan of the national government. He added that the plan is not for the welfare of residents of Aurora but for the interests of foreign investors and big businesses.

For these reasons, Dayson said his group is campaigning against the Angaras, including Sonny Angara.

The incumbent governor Bella Angara-Castillo is running for Congress. Senator’s brother, Arthur Angara, is running for governor.

Dayson, however, is not that optimistic that Aurora would cease to be an “Angara country.” “They have the money,” he said. “The electoral system remains the same.”

Still, he called on voters not to vote for Sonny Angara as senator. “He would only serve the interest of his family,” Dayson said.

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