“FVR reminds us that we can be a great country and not the bickering, conflict-driven, and disunited nation that Marcos, Erap, GMA, PNoy, and Digong have given us.”
Last July 31, Fidel V. Ramos (FVR), the 12th president of the country from 1992 to 1998, died from COVID complications. He was 94 years old.
It is interesting that FVR died the day before the country would commemorate the death anniversary of Cory Aquino, the president he succeeded, who died on August 1, 2009.
Cory and FVR were both good presidents of the Philippines but for different reasons.
Cory led the restoration of democracy in the Philippines; Ramos defended that democracy as a soldier and, as president, showed its potential for nation-building.
Contrary to what is portrayed by the movie Maid in Malacanang, Marcos Sr was ousted, driven out by the Filipino people.
I know that for a fact as I was there in the gates of the palace that night the Marcoses left to celebrate our liberation from dictatorship. FVR was instrumental in that happening.
FVR is my hero and, as far as I’m concerned, one of the best Presidents the country has ever had. In fact, I would count only Manuel Quezon as arguably better than FVR.
I am biased of course in saying this because, at 35 years old when I was appointed, I was one of the youngest serving Cabinet Undersecretaries during the FVR administration.
It was in January 1996 that I was appointed to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, thanks to then DENR Secretary Victor O. Ramos who recommended me for the job.
I actually didn’t know both Ramoses personally although VOR knew of my reputation as an environmental activist and climate expert.
VOR would later tell me that FVR immediately approved my appointment, commenting after he saw my curriculum vitae, ”Where did you get this guy?”
During his term as president, FVR navigated the country into still waters as it was buffeted by debilitating crises one after another.
There was the power shortage, the crippling Asian Financial Crisis of 1997 that devastated many Asian countries, and the Flor Contemplacion debacle.
He initiated economic reforms that opened up the economy to foreign investments, literally freed up the skies and the air waves from monopolies, made peace with the Moro National Liberation Front, and advanced negotiations with the National Democratic Front.
I was assigned to assist in both negotiations and can attest the seriousness with which FVR approached the issue of peace in our country.
One of his best policy actions was the repeal of the Anti-Subversion Law. He would have been appalled at red-tagging..
As a young impressionable official of the DENR, it was truly gratifying to see that FVR was genuinely committed to sustainable development.
FVR boasted about us when the DENR disallowed the building of what would have been the largest cement plant for the world in Bolinao, a town in FVR’s home province of Pangasinan.
He liked that the Philippines was described in the international press as The Green Tiger of Asia.
FVR was hands on in the Kyoto climate negotiations and was thrilled when US President Bill Clinton called him to enlist the help of the Philippines in concluding the negotiations in its final days.
He sent me and Secretary Ramos the thank you note of Clinton and congratulated us for our work in Kyoto.
On a personal note, he would bring me to provincial Cabinet meetings and put me on the hot seat to answer questions about mining.
There were insinuations in the press, fed by vested interests, that I was a communist and not to be trusted. But FVR never believed that.
Up to the last time I saw him, just before the pandemic, he would also tell everyone around us that he was very proud of me and the work I continued to do.
As he did when I worked for him, FVR would continue to send me notes sharing his thoughts and ideas about sustainable development.
FVR’s leadership style should be emulated and become a template for future administrations: Complete staff work, a consensus-building and inclusive approach to decision making, a global perspective, a passion for peace, adherence to democratic principles and processes, a total commitment to levelling the playing field, modernization of our economy and government processes, reforming the tax system, and an emphasis on the social reforms, basic decency, peaceful settlement of social conflicts, and, above all, his belief that we can overcome our differences and tribalism and come together as one Team Philippines.
FVR was not only a stabilizer but a unifier as well.
He nurtured unity amidst diversity. Others would exploit those differences or pitted us against each other – even for good causes like national security, social reforms, anti-corruption, and the war vs drugs.
As a pragmatist, Ramos not only acknowledged that there were challenges but at the same time sought to resolve these issues through unity.
FVR’s attitude is one we badly need today as we continue to face the COVID pandemic and the imminent threat of another health emergency—the Monkeypox—dangling over our heads.
FVR reminds us that we can be a great country and not the bickering, conflict-driven, and disunited nation that Marcos, Erap, GMA, PNoy, and Digong have given us.
I can only hope that Marcos Jr would follow the FVR template of governance.
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