Fidel V. Ramos
| 12th President of the Philippines |
2nd President of the 5th Republic
| June 30, 1992 - June 30, 1998
|Born|| March 18, 1928|
|Parents|| Narciso Ramos,|
Angela Valdez Ramos
Fidel Valdez Ramos was the 12th president of the Philippines. He is a former soldier, chief of the defunct Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police (PC-INP), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff, and secretary of the Department of National Defense (DND). Although one of the architects and implementors of President Ferdinand Marcos' Martial Law proclamation, Ramos was also part of the 1986 People Power Revolution that ended two decades of Marcos rule in the Philippines.
In February 1986, Ramos and then Minister of National Defense Juan Ponce Enrile broke away from the administration of President Marcos. Together with a few hundred soldiers, Ramos and Enrile first went to Camp Aguinaldo then transferred to Camp Crame to make a last stand against the Marcos administration. Jaime Cardinal Sin called on Filipinos to proceed to Camp Crame and help defend the soldiers inside the camp. Thousands of Filipinos responded and what became known as the People Power Revolution changed the course of the country's political history.
President Corazon Aquino – the focal point of the People Power revolution – appointed Ramos as AFP chief of staff and, after retirement from the military, secretary of national defense. He took an active role in the defense of President Aquino's government against a series of coup d'etat launched by rightist soldiers during the late 1980s.
When Ramos became president in 1992, he inherited an economy in disarray, a power crisis that resulted in 10 to 12 hour daily blackouts, and a political and peace and order situation that was dividing the nation. However, his economic, political, and peace programs resulted in the Philippines' political stability and modest growth during his presidency. Ramos is also credited for the relatively low impact of the 1997 Asian financial crisis on the Philippine economy.
Ramos was born in Lingayen, Pangasinan and his parents were Narciso Ramos, a lawyer, journalist, member of the House of Representatives, and secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs; and Angela Valdez-Ramos, an educator and advocate of women's suffrage. His sister, Leticia Ramos-Shahani, is a former senator, undersecretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, and a United Nations (UN) official. Gloria Ramos, her other sister, is also a former diplomat.
Ramos is married to the former Amelita Martinez, more popularly known as Ming Ramos. The two have five children: Angelina Jones, Josephine Samartino, Carolina Sembrano, Christine Jalasco, and Gloria Ramos.
Ramos completed his elementary education at Lingayen Elementary School, graduating as the class valedictorian. For his secondary education, he initially studied at the University of the Philippines Integrated School (UPIS) but graduated from Centro Escolar University Integrated School.
In 1946, a few months after enrolling at the National University (NU) in Manila, Ramos earned a government scholarship to study at the United States Military Academy (more popularly known as West Point) in New York, USA. This opportunity paved the way for Ramos' career as a professional soldier. He graduated from West Point in 1950 with a bachelor's degree in military engineering. The following year, he obtained a master's degree in civil engineering from the University of Illinois, also as a government scholar. He is a licensed civil engineer in the Philippines, passing the board exams in 1953 and finishing in the top 10.
Ramos 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 (ADMU).
Military and Defense Career
Early years in the military
After graduating from West Point, Ramos became a member of the Philippine Constabulary with a rank of second lieutenant. He first gained military recognition during the Korean War in the early 1950s, as a member of the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK). Ramos was the leader of a platoon that fought at Eerie Hill; in the battle that became known as the "Battle of Hill Eerie".
At the height of the Vietnam War from 1966 to 1968, Ramos was part of the Philippine Civic Action Group (PHILCAG), a military contingent sent by the Philippine government to Vietnam. As members of PHILCAG, Ramos and the other Filipino soldiers were given the responsibility to conduct civic and humanitarian services to the war-torn country. Ramos was able to apply his knowledge in civil engineering in the reconstruction and rebuilding of Vietnamese communities.
Ramos is acknowledged as the "father of the Philippine army special forces". He established and commanded an elite army unit – the Philippine Army Special Forces – specializing in various aspects of urban and jungle warfare. At the same time, these soldiers are also skilled in community development and in the conduct of civic action duties. Through time, the special forces have been at the forefront in the fight against insurgents, terrorists, and other criminal elements in the Philippines; as well as in conducting humanitarian and relief operations.
Ramos, Marcos' cousin was appointed as the PC Chief during the martial law years. Gen. Espino was the chief of the staff who served as the longest Chief of Staff of Marcos. Ver was the trusted Security of Marcos. While Enrile was the Defense Chief. During the martial law years, thousands of Filipinos were arrested and disappeared. PC was responsible in the arrest of many human rights advocate.
Ramos rose from the ranks of the AFP mainly through his exploits as a field commander and his capability as a staff officer. Eventually, he became part of a group of generals that served as President Marcos' advisory council during his administration. This was the also the same group that helped in the planning and implementation of Martial Law throughout the Philippines.
The highlight of Ramos' pre-EDSA military career came during the administration of President Marcos. He held the following key positions in the AFP at various times during this period:
- Chief, Philippine Constabulary, 1972-1986
- Director-General, Integrated National Police, 1975-1986
- Vice Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines, 1981-1986
- Acting Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines, 1984-1985 (concurrent capacity)
Ramos became acting AFP chief of staff when General Fabian Ver, then AFP chief of staff, took a leave of absence from his post to stand trial. Ver was among the soldiers who were implicated in the assassination of Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. When President Marcos was ousted from power in February 1986, President Corazon Aquino appointed Ramos as AFP chief of staff, a reward for joining the EDSA revolution led by the core group then Col. Honasan and Minister Enrile, and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1988.
Upon retirement from the military, Ramos was appointed secretary of the Department of National Defense and served in the Aquino administration from 1988 to 1991. As defense secretary, Ramos was instrumental in defending the government against several coup d'etat launched by rightist military rebels. He also undertook programs to address various military, defense, and security issues. He took over from Minister Enrile.
The following were some of the programs undertaken by Ramos as secretary of National Defense:
- upgrading of the AFP through a more self-reliant defense posture
- development of the reserve force to augment the regular AFP forces
- enhancement of civilian-military-police teamwork under the umbrella of the Peace and Order Council System
- use of the “total approach” strategy of counter insurgency
- pursuit of legislative programs and budgetary support necessary to promote internal security and stability
Campaign for the Presidency
Ramos was a member of the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP), the dominant political party leading to the the 1992 national elections. He swore to support the presidential candidate of the party but he lost to Mitra and later on jumped ship and formed a new party, LAKAS UMDP. Since he is in control of the government, it was no doubt that he was the choice of President Aquino to be the next president of the Philippines. No military general joined Ramos in his senatorial line-up, instead they joined other parties. However, members of the LDP chose House Speaker Ramon Mitra as the party's presidential candidate; with Marcelo Fernan as candidate for vice president.
With the support of President Aquino, Ramos resigned from the LDP and formed the Partido Lakas Tao, in reference to his association with the 1986 People Power Revolution. His running mate was Cebu Gov. Emilio Osmeña. Ramos' party formed a coalition with the National Union of Christian Democrats (NUCD), headed by Jose de Venecia; and the United Muslim Democrats of the Philippines (UMDP), headed by Simeon Datumanong. Ramos, Osmeña, and the Lakas-NUCD-UMDP coalition focused on their platform of unity, economic reforms, and national security.
Ramos special and close friend Baby Arenas contributed heavily in the Ramos campaign. Though Arenas is close to Ramos, Ming, wife of Ramos were not seen in public together.
Aside from Ramos and Mitra, the other presidential candidates for the May 11, 1992 elections were Miriam Defensor Santiago, Imelda Marcos, Jovito Salonga, Salvador Laurel, and Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr. Santiago, the secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) during the Aquino administration, was the most popular candidate - especially with the youth - even before the start of the campaign period. Ramos used the legacy of the People Power Revolution to advance his candidacy. He was, however, also hounded by issues of human rights violation and his role in the declaration and implementation of Martial Law. Being in power, he was never implicated and even to the death of Ninoy but Laurel insinuated the participation of PC in the arrest and in escorting that fateful day of Sen. Aquino.
Ramos loyalty was questioned, still he won the presidency where massive cheating happened even if he garnered only 23.5% of the total votes cast. Osmeña was, however, defeated by then Senator Joseph Estrada for the vice presidency. Ramos' lead over Santiago was only slightly above half a million votes, making him a plurality president. Santiago would accuse Ramos of cheating and filed an election protest before the Supreme Court, acting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET). Santiago's protest was deemed withdrawn when she ran for senator in 1995. It was perceived and majority of the Filipino youth and young professionals and idealists were convinced that Santiago won the presidency.
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. This caused the Philippine price of electricity to become the second-highest in Asia, after Japan.
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. During Ramos' term, 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. As there was no literature or previous experience to such a scheme, most early contracts put a large and undue amount of risk on the government in cases of unfavorable changes in the business environment.
At present Filipinos are still paying for the high electricity bills that we are experiencing because of the anomalous deals that the Ramos government entered into in.
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. He also instituted reforms in the tax system which includes a forced increase on VAT (E-VAT law) from 4% to 10% mandated by World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
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".<ref>Gregorio F. Zaide, Sonia M. Zaide, Philippine History and Government, Sixth Edition, All-Nations Publishing Co. (Quezon City), 2004.</ref>
Philippines 2000 Five-Point Program:
- Peace and Stability
- Economic Growth and Sustainable Development
- Energy and Power Generation
- Environmental Protection
- Streamlined Bureaucracy
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".<ref>"Philippines 'restores' death penalty"</ref> 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 reabolished 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. He also ordered the resumption of peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) led by Salamat Hashim and the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front, which operates the New People's Army, led by Jose Maria Sison.
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.<ref>"Moves to revive the Anti-Subversion Law"</ref>
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. The Commission recommended the forced resignation of then Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) head David Corpin and 13 other government officials, including two labor attachés.
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 Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong during the sidelines of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations in New York City.
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.<ref>Tuaño, Philip Arnold P. (January 2002). "The Effects of the Asian Financial Crisis on the Philippines Labor Market". Regional Project on the Social Impact of the Asian Financial Crisis. Retrieved on July 19, 2009. </ref> The same was true for the Thai bhat, 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.
Clark Centennial Expo Scandal
Supposedly, one of his notable contributions to the Philippines was the revival of nationalistic spirit by embarking on a massive promotion campaign for the centennial of Philippine Independence celebrated on June 12, 1998. However, charges of alleged massive corruption or misuse of funds blemished the resulting programs and various projects, one of which was the Centennial Expo and Amphitheater at the former Clark Air Base in Angeles City, Pampanga, supposedly Ramos' pet project. The commemorative projects, particularly those undertaken at the former Clark Air Base, were hounded by illegal electioneering and corruption controversies even years after the Centennial celebrations. A special report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) showed how the projects relating to the Expo site not only revealed the extravagance and inefficiency of the administration, but also served as convenient vehicle to effect election fund-raising for the LAKAS political party of Ramos at the expense of the tax-paying Filipinos and in violation of the Election Code. The Centennial Expo Pilipino project, intended to be the centerpiece for the celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the country's independence from Spain, also earned extensive criticisms for being an expensive white elephant project that disadvantaged the government at the cost of P9 billion, or 1.7 percent of the country's 1998 national budget.<ref> "Centennial Expo: Convenient Cover for Election Fundraising"</ref> Six ranking Ramos cabinet members and officials, headed by Chairman Salvador Laurel (former Vice-President) of the Centennial Commission were cleared by the Ombudsman and Sandigan Bayan (People's Court). Ramos appeared before a Congressional Committee in October 1998 to help exonerate said officials of any wrong-doing.
President Fidel Ramos was accused of corruption in the PEA-Amari deal. The controversial deal involved the acquisition of 158 hectares of reclaimed land on Manila Bay that was to be converted into so-called Freedom Islands. The deal was forged in April 1995 as part of the Ramos administration's Manila Bay Master Development Plan (MBMDP).
The PEA-Amari deal – in addition to other projects in Manila Bay - displaced over 3,000 fishing and coastal families in Manila Bay just to give way to what fisherfolk activists from Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) described as “an immoral, illegal and grossly unconstitutional state venture". The Ramos administration was accused of selling out the government's interests by favoring Amari Coastal Bay Resources and Filinvest Development—topping off a growing list of other corporate beneficiaries—over higher bidders in various lucrative real estate development schemes. Data obtained from Public Estate Authority (PEA) revealed that the property was sold to Amari for P1.9 billion or P 1,200 pesos per square meter although the value of properties in adjacent areas were pegged at P90,000 per square meter. The Senate in its inquiry in 1998 found a paper trail representing commissions paid to certain PEA officials amounting to P1.7 billion.
Ramos denied accusations that the PEA-Amari deal was clinched to benefit members of the ruling Lakas-NUCD as alleged by opposition groups. However, ex- solicitor general Franciso Chavez filed a petition to nullify the PEA-Amari deal because the government stood to lose billions of pesos in the sale of reclaimed lands to Amari.
On April 25, 1995, PEA entered into a joint venture with Amari to develop Freedom Islands and on June 8 of the same year, Ramos okayed deal. On November 29, 1996, then-Senate President Ernesto Maceda delivered a privilege speech assailing the deal as the "grandmother of all scams".<ref>PEA scandal</ref>
During his final years in office, Ramos tried to amend the country's 1987 constitution; a process popularly known to many Filipinos as Charter Change or the so-called "Cha-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 merely to imbalance his opponents, as the next presidential election neared.<ref>"Manila Journal; People Power 2: A Sleeping Giant Is Awakened." The New York Times (September 22, 1997). Retrieved on August 24, 2008</ref> 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. Estrada served as mayor for many years before being elected senator, and then as vice-president; Ramo was a military man his whole life before Corazon Aquino supported his presidential candidacy, in gratitude for helping thwart coup attempts against her administration.
After his presidency, Ramos remained an influential political leader in the Philippines, although he has always been rumored to be involved in attempts to grab power from the government. His objective of continuing to serve the Filipinos became his basis of establishing the Ramos Foundation for Peace and Development (RPDEV). As of November 2007, he is the chairman emiritus of Lakas-CMD (Lakas-Christian-Muslim Democrats) Party. He also served as Carlyle Group Asia Advisor board member until its disbandment in February 2004. In January 2001, Ramos joined members of the opposition and civil society groups in ousting President Joseph Estrada from power through People Power II or EDSA 2.
Expressing his belief in continued economic progress, good governance, and stability, Ramos successfully convinced President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo not to resign from office at the height of the election-rigging scandal in July 2005. He repeatedly stated that the scandal is nowhere as grave as the stagnant Philippine economy in the final years of the Marcos regime and the allegedly massive corruption of the Estrada administration. However, Ramos recommended that Arroyo clear all issues regarding her alleged involvement in the wiretapped conversation with an election official.
Ramos also reiterated his proposals for constitutional change, citing the need for the Philippines to be more economically competitive, globalized, and properly governed. He suggested that Arroyo 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-unitarian government system into a parliamentary-federal form. However, as of November 2007, Ramos' proposed charter change has not taken place due to strong opposition from various sectors and the silent majority. This proved that Ramos was not the choice of the Filipino people.
Other Information Related to Fidel V. Ramos
- Fidel V. Ramos is the oldest Filipino to become president. He was 64 when he assumed the presidency on June 30, 1992.
- As of the 2004 presidential elections, Ramos is the only non-Catholic – he is a Christian Methodist – to be elected president of the Philippines.
- His father, Narciso, was the Philippines' signatory to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) declaration that established the regional group in 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand.
- His sister, Leticia Ramos-Shahani, is the first Filipina Senate President Pro Tempore.
- Ferdinand E. Marcos was Ramos' second cousin, as both are members of the Valdez clan of Batac, Ilocos Norte.
- Ramos is the only soldier in Philippine military history to hold every rank from second lieutenant to commander-in-chief (in his capacity as president of the Philippines).
- Crisostomo, Isabelo T. Fidel Valdez Ramos: Builder, Reformer, Peacemaker. Isabelo T. Crisostomo and J. Kriz Publishing, 1997.
- Lazaro, Isagani L. Mga Dakilang Lider na Pilipino, 5th edition. National Book Store, 2004.
- Biographical Information on Fidel V. Ramos. The Philippine Presidency Project Website. (Accessed on October 2, 2007)
- Short Biography of Fidel V. Ramos. Malacañang Museum Website. (Accessed on October 2, 2007).
- Fidel V. Ramos Curriculum Vitae. Ramos Peace and Development Foundation, Inc. Website. (Accessed on October 2, 2007).