“Average income of the Filipino family grew more during (FVR’s) administration than in the preceding two decades (and) pushed for the deregulation of key industries and the liberalization of the economy”
Fidel Valdez Ramos is best remembered for his ability to lead and his willingness to be led – not by astute advisors and political strategists, but by the people whom he served, and served well.
He was one of the country’s best presidents, if not the best, ever.
FVR – his nickname – died in the afternoon of Sunday, July 31, 2022 at the Makati Medical Center due to COVID complications. He had had a heart problem and signs of dementia. Born March 18, 1918, he was 94.
The cigar-chomping taciturn West Point-trained general won a narrow victory in the tightly contested May 1992 presidential election to serve as the 12th president of the Philippines, from June 30, 1992 to June 30, 1998.
He was a veteran of two major wars, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He helped win People Power I in 1986.
At 64 in 1992, Ramos was the oldest Filipino president when he defeated six other aspirants with less than 24 percent of the votes cast.
His rivals included the former First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos, a former vice president, a former Senate president, a former speaker of the House, a feisty former immigration chief, and the country’s then richest tycoon.
President FVR went on to restore peace in the land, unify the country, attract record levels of foreign investments, and free the economy by breaking up monopolies in telecommunications, power, shipping, and water systems.
He rescued the Philippines from a recession and the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Recession came back in the last semester of his six-year presidency.
Ramos was a soldier, warrior, diplomat, author, strategist, peace advocate, nation builder, and statesman. His public service spanned a total 51 years.
Steadfastly and faithfully, Ramos promoted the principles of people empowerment and a culture of excellence. Both led to global competitiveness during his term as President from June 30, 1992 to June 30, 1998.
History appreciates FVR for eight things:
1) For believing that democracy and development go together. There is no need for strongman rule to achieve progress. Ramos having been a four-star and enforcer of 14 years of martial law — that is a remarkable posture to adopt.
2) Helping depose his own second cousin, Ferdinand EdralinMarcos after 20 years in power in which he helped pursue Marcos’ authoritarian objectives;
3) Saving Corazon Cojuangco Aquino from eight coup attempts during her presidency, from February 1986 to June 30, 1992. The coups weakened her presidency and made her a captive of the military;
4) Quickly restoring power to a nation besieged by 12 to 18-hour blackouts at the peak of the power crisis during Corazon Aquino’s time;
As a peacemaker. He reached out to all kinds of rebels – the military coup plotters led by army Col. Gregorio Honasan, the Muslim rebels led by Nur Misuari, and the guerillas of the New People’s Army of the Communist Party of the Philippines whose armed strength had grown to 35,000 regulars.
The effort brought peace, enabled FVR to attract record levels of investments, and saved the country from recession and the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.
6) Breaking up the telco, power, and water utilities monopolies;
7) Visioning a newly industrialized country status for the Philippines by making it a tiger economy; and
8) His work ethic (he was the most hardworking president) and dictum of CSM – complete staff work, sometimes referred to as control system management.
Since 1969, the Philippines had harbored the world’s longest communist insurgency, and since 1972, the world’s longest Muslim separatist insurgency.
While communist insurgency dwindled to historic lows, Ramos achieved a peace agreement with military rebels (RAM, ALTAS, YOU) in October 1995 and the MNLF southern secessionists in September 1996 which won for him (together with Chairman Nur Misuari) and the Philippines the coveted 1997 UNESCO Peace Prize – the first for Asians.
He also worked out a modus vivendi with Congress whose members quickly joined his Rainbow Coalition.
The deals brought peace to the land and enabled Ramos to attract foreign investments and legislate the most far-reaching social and economic reforms through the passage of major pieces of legislation.
Ramos then pursued programs to fight poverty in accordance with the will of the Filipino people expressed by 229 structural/reform laws enacted by Congress from 1992 to 1998.
Ramos exemplified the leader who always looked toward the strategic future and whose thumbs-up optimism – captured in descriptive phrases like “Caring, Sharing and Daring,” “Philippines 1500” and “Pole-vaulting” – propelled the economy and social welfare.
He exuded positive energy that seems to burst from his cool and at times steely demeanor.
During the years 1993-1997, the Philippine economy recovered dramatically and a comprehensive Social Reform Agenda was implemented that addressed long-standing problems regarding poverty, health, education and skills training, housing, environmental protection, children and the youth, the elderly and the handicapped, jobs and livelihood, agrarian reform and access to equal opportunity.
Gross National Product growth averaged 5 percent annually. The total inflow of foreign exchange into the country outpaced forex inflows of the combined periods of rule of both Presidents Ferdinand Marcos and Cory Aquino.
Average income of the Filipino family grew more during his administration than in the preceding two decades. He pushed for the deregulation of key industries and the liberalization of the economy.
FVR encouraged the privatization of public entities, to include the modernization of public infrastructure through the expanded Build-Operate-Transfer law.
Ramos also served as secretary of national defense (1988-1991) and chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (1986-1988) with the rank of general (4 Stars).
His military/law enforcement service of more than 40 years was capped by the peaceful, non-violent People Power Revolution at EDSA in February 1986 which threw out a dictatorial regime.
In retirement, the genial general was always on the go throughout the Philippines, mobilizing the citizenry and pushing the “best practices” of Unity of Purpose, Solidarity in Values and Teamwork in Nation-building at every opportunity.
In 1993 I wrote an editorial in Asiaweek magazine which said:
“Ninety-eight percent of Filipinos are waiting for a telephone; the remaining two percent are waiting for a dial tone.”
Lee Kuan Yew was invited to Manila to make a major speech. He quoted my editorial, with exuberant derision.
Newspapers local and foreign quoted LKY.
Aghast, FVR ordered the breakup of the 70-year old PLDT monopoly.
He did it thru an executive order dividing the country into 7 telephone franchises.
Today, however, the business has become a duopoly with a third player trying mightily to break up the stranglehold of PLDT-Smart and Globe, to little effect.