Philippines’ People Power hero passes as dictator’s son takes over rule

Marking the 1986 People Power uprising
A soldier distributes flowers during the observance of the 30th anniversary in 2016 of the 1986 "People Power" uprising led by General Fidel Ramos. Image: Maria Tan/PIT File

By Diana G. Mendoza in Manila

The Philippine media described him as “Steady Eddie,” a warrior and survivor, and an accidental hero of the world-renowned People Power revolution who later became probably the country’s best president.

But Fidel V. Ramos, or FVR, was also a study of contradictions.

Also called Eddie by his friends, Ramos died on the last day of July, a month after the namesake son of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was ousted in the popular uprising in 1986 that Ramos led, took his oath as the new president in what observers believed was an election that was far from fair due to voting and election irregularities.

The former armed forces chief died at 94 from a heart condition and dementia, unimaginable to his admirers who saw him as “cool,” “steady,” athletic, maintaining his military bearing until his old age.

He was also a multi-tasking workaholic who played golf and jogged regularly while briefing journalists or preparing for his next travel to the communities under a rigorous schedule.

He succeeded Corazon “Cory” Aquino as president of the Philippines from 1992 to 1998 and was instrumental in boosting the Southeast Asian developing country’s growth through economic policies of deregulation, liberalisation and foreign investment, his Social Reform Agenda that reduced poverty and an anti-oligarch and anti-monopoly stance.

The only Protestant president of the predominantly Roman Catholic country was also known for his transition from a military general who fought leftist and right-wing dissidents and entering into peace agreements with Islamic separatist groups and Communist insurgents.

Contrast to ruthless military chief
His commendable turn as president after Aquino was a contrast to his past as a hardline, ruthless Marcos military commander who led a security force that rounded up dissidents and violated human rights.

His leadership also saw the harassment, incarceration and exile of Aquino’s husband Benigno, who was assassinated on his return to the country in 1983.

Philippine General Fidel Ramos
Flashback … Philippine General Fidel Ramos greeting supporters while barnstorming in his home province north of Manila amid the campaign for the national elections that swept him to power in 1992. Image: Romeo Gacad/PIT File/AFP

The confluence of events in the years that followed, until the 1986 uprising, was marked by Ramos’ decision to break away from Marcos and to support Aquino, who was cheated massively in the elections.

He and his military comrades, along with Catholic bishops, called on Filipinos to mount a peaceful revolution, making him a people power hero.

Pulitzer Prize-winning Filipino journalist Manny Mogato, who covered Ramos when he headed the Defence Department and the military, said in a social media post that the late president was “a man of action… he even (did) push-ups with 300 soldiers who took part in an attempt to overthrow Cory Aquino”.

Ramos neutralised rogue soldiers who attempted multiple coups against Aquino during her presidency.

Ramos attended the US military academy at West Point, fought in the Korean War in the 1950s as a platoon leader and led the Philippine contingent in the late 1960s in the Vietnam War.

‘Best president ever’
“Ramos was the best president the country ever had, guarded democracy, broke monopolies and made peace, ending right-wing rebellion, half finishing the Muslim secessionist war and almost reaching a peace deal with Maoist-led rebels,” Mogato said.

“FVR left behind a legacy of peace, stability and prosperity Filipinos now enjoy.”

Anastacio Corpuz, an 80-year-old war veteran, said he was saddened by Ramos’ passing, saying that he should have continued as a vocal authority and statesman.

“Through the years, he was always vocal against corruption in government and abuses by the political elite — including the new government under the dictator’s son,” he lamented.

“He will be greatly missed.”

Diana G. Mendoza filed this report for Pacific Island Times in Guam. Republished with permission.

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