MANILA, Philippines : Former Philippine President Fidel Ramos, who led a rare era of steady prosperity and peace that earned him the reputation as one of the country’s most effective presidents ever, has died at the age of 94, authorities announced Wednesday.
From 1992 to 1998, he was known as “Steady Eddie” for his calm demeanor despite the country’s numerous upheavals. He was regularly seen eating unlit cigars as he directed the Philippines with a steady hand.
His professorial demeanor contrasted with the theatrical reputation of many Filipino lawmakers. He was a career military officer who had never previously occupied an elective office.
He was also the very first Protestant to become president in the mainly Catholic country, despite church opposition. Later, he launched a vigorous campaign for family planning in order to slow population growth.
However, Ramos, like other prominent officials of his time, had a role in Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship, which saw hundreds killed and thousands more unlawfully imprisoned.
“It is with profound sadness that we learn of the loss of former President Fidel V. Ramos,” Trixie Cruz-Angeles, communications director for President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the late dictator’s son and namesake, stated.
“He leaves a colorful heritage and a secured position in history for his role in our country’s momentous developments, both as a military officer and as its top leader.”
The European Union mission in the Philippines expressed sympathy, calling Ramos as a “committed statesman” and “pillar of democracy.”
Ramos, a graduate of the famed West Point military institution in the United States, had a long military career that included battle against communist guerrillas and deployment in the Korean War as part of the Philippine contingent.
Later, he was head of the paramilitary Philippine Constabulary, which was essential in enforcing the ruthless repression of opposition when Marcos imposed martial law in 1972.
Ramos’ moment of realization came in February 1986, when popular fury over the assassination of opposition politician Benigno Aquino and huge state cheating in a quick election reached a fever pitch.
Sensing Marcos’ fragility, a group of youthful military officers led by secretary of defense Juan Ponce Enrile tried to depose him but were discovered.
Faced with arrest, Enrile and his associates took refuge at the military headquarters in Manila, pleading with the public to defend them from an impending government invasion.
Ramos joined the insurrection, abandoning his allegiance for Marcos and urging many others to do the same.
Millions flocked to the streets in support of the nonviolent “People Power” movement that drove the tyrant into retirement and brought in Corazon Aquino.
‘My penance was revolting.’
In return, Aquino nominated Ramos as military chief and later defense secretary.
He would prove to be an important friend for Aquino when the military rebels seeking to depose Marcos turned their eyes on her.
From 1986 through 1989, he headed the loyalist soldiers that helped put down coup attempts against her.
When elections were held in 1992, Aquino endorsed Ramos, which helped him win the president despite objections from powerful Catholic Church authorities.
As president, Ramos oversaw a devastating power crisis caused by years of underinvestment in energy, as well as the dismantling of cartels in telecommunications, aviation, and shipping, reviving a dormant economy and ushering in a time of renewed prosperity.
He also reached out to communist insurgents, Muslim separatists, and military coup plotters for peace.
Only the last communist refused to make deals with his government in the end.
Ramos was also an early backer of Rodrigo Duterte as he entered national politics with his presidential bid in 2016.
Ramos even acted as the president’s special envoy to Beijing following Duterte’s overwhelming election to ease hostilities over the South China Sea issue.
p class=”root-block-node” data-changed=”false” data-paragraphid=”14″>But the relationship quickly deteriorated, and Obama publicly chastised Duterte for his expletive-laden speeches, his departure from the US alliance, and his anti-drug campaign, which killed thousands of lives.
p class=”root-block-node” data-changed=”false” data-paragraphid=”7″>Ramos was particularly outraged by Duterte’s decision to bury Marcos at the National Heroes’ Cemetery, despite the economic and social harm wrought by his tyranny.
When a Marcos daughter attempted to link Ramos to her father’s rule abuses, Ramos stated that he had previously apologized and made atonement for his involvement.
My atonement was directing the troops and police” in the rebellion that brought Marcos down, he claimed.