Fidel Valdez Ramos, who served as the 12th President of the Republic of the Philippines from 1992 to 1998, carved his well-deserved place in history.
He was a professional soldier. A graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, he was an Infantry Reconnaissance platoon leader of the Philippines’ 20th Battalion Combat Team of the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea (PEFTOK) that fought in the Korean War. He also served in the Philippine Civic Action Group (PHILCAG) during the Vietnam War.
He was among the advocates of the transformation of the erstwhile Philippine Constabulary from being one of the major services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to being the core of the Philippine National Police as a uniformed civilian organization primarily responsible for maintaining peace and order at the local government level.
He was one of two leaders of the military uprising that brought on EDSA People Power in 1986 and facilitated the country’s return to democracy after decades of martial law. Serving as Defense secretary, he quashed several coup attempts and paved the way for the first peaceful transition in the country’s presidency since 1965.
Although elected President with the slimmest margin, he quickly built agreement and consensus with erstwhile political rivals. Then he tackled a crippling shortage of electricity supply by reviving the Department of Energy and tapping private sector participation in power generation.
His key legacy in the economic sphere was the dismantling of monopolies in telecommunications, shipping, and domestic air transportation, that, he believed, would establish a foundation for a liberalized economy that would propel the country’s takeoff from the ranks of the Third World. Philippines 2000 embodied his vision for the Philippines’ attainment of Newly Industrialized Country (NIC) status by the start of the 21st century.
Japan Research Institute provides a highly positive assessment of the Philippines’ end-state following Ramos’ presidency:
“The Philippines was more resilient to the Asian crisis compared to its Asian neighbors, since most of the loans went to the productive sectors of the economy, its financial system was more robust, and available credit to businesses did not contract to the same extent as its neighbors. Its export growth is also strong, as it has stronger trading ties with the United States. Finally, it has a large overseas workforce remitting foreign currency that more than covers its present interest payments on public debt.”
His work-ethic as President was legendary. He worked even while riding his official limousine between public appearances. Complete staff work became a watchword. He achieved rapport with media by conducting weekly press conferences and providing broad access to official communication.
Unity, solidarity, teamwork was his mantra for the country. He preached this long after he left office; he was a tireless advocate of the need to bridge differences and build upon common ground.
He passed away without seeing the full fruition of his dream for a unified Team Philippines. Yet his legacy as Democracy Icon, Leader-Statesman, and Filipino Soldier lives on for emulation by future generations.