12th President of the Philippines

Picture
Fidel  Valdez Ramos (March 18, 1928)

Early life and education:

Fidel Ramos was born on March 18, 1928 in Lingayen, Pangasinan. His father, Narciso Ramos (1900–1986), was a lawyer, journalist and 5-term legislator of the House of Representatives, who eventually rose to the position of Secretary of Foreign Affairs. As such, Narciso Ramos was the Philippine signatory to the ASEAN declaration forged in Bangkok in 1967 and was one of the founding fathers of the Liberal Party. His mother, Angela Valdez-Ramos (1905–1977), was an educator, woman suffragette and daughter of the respected Valdez clan of Batac, Ilocos Norte making him a second degree cousin to Ferdinand Marcos.

Ramos was educated at the United States Military Academy and University of Illinois, where he earned a master's degree in civil engineering. He also holds a master's degree in National Security Administration from the National Defense College of the Philippines and a Master's in Business Administration (MBA) from the Ateneo de Manila University.


Early Military career:

Ramos went to the United States Military Academy at West Point, and he graduated in 1950. Ramos, along with the Philippines' 20th Battalion Combat Team and his fellow West Point graduates of the 1950s, fought in the Korean War. Ramos was one of the heroes of the Battle of Hill Eerie, where he led his platoon to sabotage the enemy in Hill Eerie. He was also present in the Vietnam War as a non-combat civil military engineer and commanding officer of the Philippine Civic Action Group (PHILCAGV). It is during this assignment where he forged his life-long friendship with his junior officer Maj. Jose T. Almonte, who went on to become his National Security Advisor all through out during his administration from 1992-1998.

Ramos has received several military awards including the Philippine Legion of Honor, the Distinguished Conduct Star, Philippine Military Merit Medal, the United States Legion of Merit, the French Legion of Honor and the U.S. Military Academy Distinguished Graduate Award.


Combat record:


When belittled by the press regarding his combat record, Ramos responded with trademark sarcasm (July 31, 1987):

I fought the communists as part of the battalion combat teams, I went up the ladder. Battalion staff officer. Company commander. Task Force commander. Special Forces group commander. Brigade commander. All in different periods in our country. Huk campaign. Korean War campaign. The Vietnam War, and I was the head of the advance party of the PHILCAG (Philippine Civil Action Group to Vietnam) that went to a tiny province at the Cambodian border - the so-called Alligator Jaw - War Zone Z where even Max Soliven said ‘The Viet-Cong will eat us up.’ Of course, we were physically there as non-combat troops. But you try to be a non-combat troop in a combat area - that is the toughest kind of assignment.

Korea - as a platoon leader. Recon leader. What is the job of a recon leader? To recon the front line - no man’s land. And what did we do? I had to assault a fortified position of the Chinese communists and wiped them out. And what is this Special Forces group that we commanded in the Army - '62-'65? That was the only remaining combat unit in the Philippine Army. The rest were training in a division set-up. We were in Luzon. We were in Sulu. And then, during the previous regime, Marawi incident. Who was sent there? Ramos. We defended the camp, being besieged by 400 rebels.

So next time, look at the man’s record, don't just write and write. You said, no combat experience, no combat experience. Look around you who comes from the platoon, who rose to battalion staff, company commander, group commander, which is like a battalion, brigade commander, here and abroad. Abroad, I never had an abroad assignment that was not combat. NO SOFT JOBS FOR RAMOS. Thirty-seven years in the Armed Forces. REMEMBER THAT. You’re only writing about the fringe, but do not allow yourself to destroy the armed forces by those guys. You write about the majority of the Armed Forces who are on the job.

That's why we're here enjoying our freedom, ladies and gentlemen. You are here. If the majority of the Armed Forces did not do their job, I doubt very much if you’d all be here.


Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces and Secretary of National Defense:

After Aquino assumed the Presidency, she appointed Ramos Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and later Secretary of National Defense. During this time, Ramos personally handled the military operations that crushed nine coup attempts against the Aquino government. During Ramos' presidency, the National Unification Commission was created, and its chairman Haydee Yorac, together with Ramos, recommended to President Aquino to grant amnesty to the rebel military officers of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) led by Col. Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan.

1992 Presidential Election:


Main article: Philippine presidential election, 1992

In December 1991, Ramos declared his candidacy for President. He however, lost the nomination of the dominant party Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP) to House Speaker Ramon Mitra, Jr. Days later, he bolted LDP and founded the Partido Lakas Tao (People Power Party), inviting Cebu Governor Emilio Mario Osmeña as his Vice President. The party formed a coalition with the National Union of Christian Democrats (NUCD) of Senator Raul Manglapus and the United Muslim Democrats of the Philippines (UMDP) of Ambassador Sanchez Ali. Ramos and Osmeña, together with Congressman (later House Speaker) Jose de Venecia, campaigned for economic reforms and improved national security and unity.

He won the seven-way race on May 11, 1992, narrowly defeating populist Agrarian Reform Secretary Miriam Defensor Santiago. Despite winning, he garnered only 23.58% of the vote, the lowest plurality in the country's history. The election results were marred by allegations of fraud, though cheating on a large scale has not been proven. However, his running mate, Governor Osmeña, lost to Senator Joseph Estrada as Vice President.


Presidency:

Main article: Presidency of Fidel V. Ramos

At the time of his assumption into power, Ramos was the oldest person to become President of the Philippines at the age of 64. He is also the first Protestant President of the country and the only Filipino officer in history to have held every rank in the Philippine military from Second Lieutenant to Commander-in-Chief. The first few years of his administration (1992–1995) were characterized by economic boom, technological development, political stability and efficient delivery of basic needs to the people. During his time, he advocated party platforms as outline and agenda for governance. As in his case, he was the first Christian Democrat to be elected in the country, being the founder of Lakas-CMD (Christian-Muslim Democrats Party). He was the one of the most influential leaders and the unofficial spokesman of liberal democracy in Asia.

Power crisis:

The Philippines then was experiencing widespread brownouts due to huge demand for electricity and antiquity of power plants. During his State of the Nation address on July 27, 1992, he requested that the Congress enact a law that would create an Energy Department that would plan and manage the Philippines' energy demands. Congress not only created an Energy Department but gave him special emergency powers to resolve the power crisis. Using the powers given to him, Ramos issued licenses to independent power producers (IPP) to construct power plants within 24 months. Ramos issued supply contracts that guaranteed the government would buy whatever power the IPPs produced under the contract in U.S. dollars to entice investments in power plants. This became a problem during the East Asian Financial Crisis when the demand for electricity contracted and the Philippine peso lost half of its value.

The country was considered risky by investors due to previous coup attempts by military adventurists led by Gregorio Honasan, and experienced brownouts at an almost daily basis lasting 4–12 hours during the term of President Aquino. The low supply of power and perceived instability had previously held back investments and modernization in the country. Under Ramos, the Philippines was a pioneer in the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) scheme where private investors are invited to build certain government projects (i.e. tollways, powerplants, railways, etc.), make money by charging users, and transfer operation to the government after a set amount of time.


Economic reforms:

During his administration, Ramos began implementing economic reforms intended to open up the once-closed national economy, encourage private enterprise, invite more foreign and domestic investment, and reduce corruption. Ramos was also known as the most-traveled Philippine President compared to his predecessors with numerous foreign trips abroad, generating about US$ 20 billion worth of foreign investments to the Philippines. To ensure a positive financial outlook on the Philippines, Ramos led the 4th Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Summit in the Philippines on November 1996.

Under his administration, the Philippines enjoyed economic growth and stability. The Philippine Stock Exchange in the mid-1990s was one of the best in the world and his visions of 'Philippines 2000' that led the country into a newly industrialized country in the world and the "Tiger Cub Economy in Asia".


Philippines 2000 Five-Point Program:

  • Peace and Stability
  • Economic Growth and Sustainable Development
  • Energy and Power Generation
  • Environmental Protection
  • Streamlined Bureaucracy

Death penalty:

Main article: Capital punishment in the Philippines

While campaigning for the presidency, Fidel Ramos declared his support for reinstating the death penalty. Capital punishment was abolished for all crimes in 1987, making the Philippines the first Asian country to do so. In 1996 Ramos signed a bill that returned capital punishment with the electric chair (method used from 1923 to 1976, making Philippines the only country to do so outside U.S.) "until the gas chamber could be installed". However, no one was electrocuted nor gassed, because the previously-used chair was destroyed earlier and the Philippines adopted the lethal injection. Some people were put to death by this means, until the death penalty was abolished again in 2006.

Peace with separatists:

Ramos, a military general himself, made peace with the rebel panels. He was instrumental in the signing of the final peace agreement between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by Nur Misuari in 1996.

Although he battled Communist rebels as a young lieutenant in the 1950s, Ramos made a bold move when he signed into law Republic Act 7636, which repealed the Anti-Subversion Law. With its repeal, membership in the once-outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines became legal.


Spratly Islands:

President Fidel V. Ramos troops the honor guards at the Pentagon with Secretary of Defense William Cohen during a State visit in 1998. In early 1995, the Philippines discovered a primitive Chinese military structure on Mischief Reef in the Spratly Island, one hundred and thirty nautical miles off the coast of Palawan. The Philippine government issued a formal protest over China's occupation of the reef and the Philippine Navy arrested sixty-two Chinese fishermen at Half Moon Shoal, eighty kilometers from Palawan. A week later, following confirmation from surveillance pictures that the structures were of military design, President Fidel Ramos had the military forces in the region strengthened. He ordered the Philippine Air Force to dispatch five F-5 fighters backed by four jet trainers and two helicopters, while the navy sent two additional ships. The People’s Republic of China had claimed that the structures were shelters for fishermen but these small incidents could have triggered a war in the South China Sea.

Migrant Workers Protection:

One of the downturns of his administration was his experience in handling migrant workers protection. On the eve of his 67th birthday on March 17, 1995, Ramos was on a foreign trip when Flor Contemplación was hanged in Singapore. His last minute effort to negotiate with Singapore President Ong Teng Cheong and Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong never succeeded and he was marred with protests after his return to Manila. The protests also caused the resignation of Foreign Affairs Secretary Roberto Romulo and Labor Secretary Nieves Confesor from the Cabinet. He immediately recalled Philippine ambassador to Singapore Alicia Ramos and suspended diplomatic relations to Singapore. He created a special commission to look into the case and to try and rescue his sagging popularity. The commission was led by retired justice Emilio Gancayco.

As also recommended by the Gancayco Commission, Ramos facilitated the enactment of Republic Act 8042, better known as the Magna Carta for Overseas Workers or the Migrant Workers Act. The Migrant Workers Act was signed into law on June 7, 1995. Learning from the lessons of Contemplación case, Ramos immediately ordered UAE Ambassador Roy Señeres to facilitate negotiations after learning the death penalty verdict of Sarah Balabagan on September 1995. Balabagan's sentence was lowered and she was released August 1996. After tensions cooled off, Ramos restored diplomatic relations with Singapore after meeting Goh Chok Tong during the sidelines of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations in New York City.


Asian Financial Crisis:

Main article: Asian Financial Crisis

The 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, which started in Thailand, was a major blow to the Ramos administration. The economy was hit by currency devaluation. The same was true for the Thai baht, Malaysia ringgit and Indonesia rupiah. Growth fell to about -0.6% in 1998 from 5.2% in 1997, but recovered to 3.4% by 1999. It also resulted to the shut down of some businesses, a decline in importation, rise unemployment rate and unstable financial sector.


Charter Change:

Main article: Presidency_of_Fidel_V._Ramos#Controversies

During his final years in office, Ramos tried to amend the country's 1987 constitution; a process popularly known to many Filipinos as Charter ChangeCha-Cha". Widespread protests led by Corazon Aquino and the Catholic Church stopped him from pushing through with the plan. Political analysts were divided as to whether Ramos really wanted to use Cha-Cha to extend his presidency or only to imbalance his opponents, as the next presidential election neared. Ocol testified before a Senate blue ribbon committee that people in the former Clark Air Base during the Centennial Expo preparations desperately tried to produce all ways and money to prevent Estrada from winning in the coming May 1998 elections. or the so-called ".

EDSA II:

In January 2001, Ramos was instrumental in the success of the so-called second EDSA Revolution that deposed the properly elected Philippine president Joseph Estrada and placed then-Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the presidential seat.

Ramos is currently the Chairman Emeritus of the Lakas CMD (Christian-Muslim Democrats) Party, formerly known as Lakas NUCD-UMDP or the Partido Lakas Tao-National Union of Christian Democrats-Union of Muslim Democrats of the Philippines.


Hello Garci Scandal:

At the height of the election-rigging scandal in July 2005, Ramos publicly convinced President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo not to resign from office. Ramos, who was also hounded by charges of electoral fraud during the 1992 elections which were never proven in the Supreme Court, repeatedly stated that the scandal is nowhere as grave as that of People Power Revolutions of 1986 and 2001, citing factors such as the stagnant Philippine economy in the final years of the Marcos regime as well as the allegedly massive corruption of the Estrada administration.

Advocacies:


Ramos also unveiled his proposals for constitutional change of the country. Citing the need to be more economically competitive in the midst of globalization and the need to improve governance for all Filipinos, Ramos suggested that government should start the process of Charter Change with a set deadline in 2007 (by which time the new charter and new government will take effect). Ramos supports the transformation of the country's political system from the Philippine presidential-bicameral-system into a unicameral parliament in transition to a federal form.

He is currently representing the Philippines in the ASEAN Eminent Persons Group, tasked to draft the Charter of the Association of South East Asian NationsBoao Forum for Asia (also one of the co-founders of BFA) and Co-Chairman of the Global Meeting of the Emerging Markets Forum (EMF). Ramos was heavily recommended for the position of the United Nations envoy to Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) in June 2006. He is a Member of the Global Leadership Foundation, an organization which works to promote good governance around the world.

He served as the Carlyle Group Asia Advisor Board Member until the board was disbanded in February 2004. At present, as a private citizen, Ramos is engaged in various private sector advocacies where he plays prominent roles. These include: Chairman, Ramos Peace and Development Foundation; Chairman, Boao Forum for Asia; Trustee, International Crisis Group (ICG); Member, Advisory Group, UN University for Peace; Honorary Director, General Douglas MacArthur Foundation; Founding Member, Policy Advisory Commission, World Intellectual Property Organization (PAC-WIPO); Honorary Member, World Commission on Water for the 21st Century; Member, International Advisory Council, Asia House; Patron, Opportunity International (Philippines); Global Advisor, University of Winnipeg; Honorary Chairman, Yuchengco Center, De La Salle University; Member, Advisory Board, Metrobank; Honorary President, Human Development Network (HDN) Philippines; Lifetime Honorary President, Christian Democrats International (CDI); and Chairman Emeritus, Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) Party. (ASEAN). He was also a member of numerous international groups and fora, and is currently the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the


Ramos Peace and Development Foundation:

He founded the Ramos Foundation for Peace and Development (RPDEV) with offices located in the Urban Bank Building (now ExportBank Plaza). The Ramos Peace and Development Foundation, Inc. (RPDEV) is a non-partisan, nonprofit, non-stock organization dedicated to the promotion of peace and development in the Philippines and in the larger Asia-Pacific region. RPDEV supports Philippine national interests and people empowerment. Operating as a network of individuals and institutions inside and outside the country, it will serve as a catalyst of constructive change, a medium for fostering unity, stability and progress, and a force for mutual understanding.

Criticisms:

Ramos in 2004 Ramos was accused of human rights violations for his role in the declaration of martial law during the Marcos era; he was the commanding officer of the Philippine Constabulary during Marcos time.

Like many presidents in the Philippines, Ramos was also accused of corruption. The PEA-AMARI Manila Bay reclamation deal, the conversion of the military base in Fort Bonifacio for private development, the Centennial Expo project and the Benpres-North Luzon Expressway have been tainted with alleged corruption. An inquiry by the Senate later produced testimonies showing how P1.7 billion in bribe money sealed the Amari deal with the Public Estates Authority and Malacañang under Ramos. Accusations were not proven to the level of Ramos but the Supreme Court ultimately voided the PEA-AMARI sale for being unconstitutional, and in early August 2008, the Sandiganbayan suspended four government auditors and five PEA officials for their role in the anomalous deal. In February 1999, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee of the 11th Congress recommended the prosecution of ex-President Ramos and eight others for “technical malversation or misapplication of public funds” in connection with Centennial Expo scam, a recommendation not approved by the Senate, but pursued in the Sandigan Bayan against 6 of his high-ranking officials who were eventually exonerated. Ramos was eventually cleared by Ombudsman Aniano Desierto, a Ramos appointee who refused to inhibit himself from hearing the high-profile case.

Leftist groups have also criticized Ramos for his economic reforms such as privatization, deregulation and trade liberalization, claiming that the economic growth posted during his presidency was "artificial." They blamed him for the slowdown of the Philippine economy during the 1997 East Asian financial crisis. The sale of 40% of Petron to Aramco is specifically criticized for resulting to the lost of the government's effective leverage on domestic oil prices. A longstanding criticism of Ramos was whether his role in the Estrada ouster was motivated by his fear of being prosecuted in connection with the Centennial Expo and other scams.


General:


External links: