From Soldier to Commander-in-Chief
Fidel Ramos passed away on July 31, 2022. He was the second President of the Fifth Republic and also the 12th overall.
Ramos was also a decorated soldier. First, he was the Chief of the Philippine Constabulary during the Martial Law period. And he served as Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces and Secretary of National Defense under President Corazon Aquino.
Ramos was an ambitious reformer. He envisioned the Philippines as a newly industrialized country status by 2000. This was “Philippines 2000”.
He sold Philippine Airlines, privatized water provision in Metro Manila, forced interconnection in telecommunication, and solved the power crisis. Congressman Ralph Recto summarized President Ramos’ record in a privilege speech:
“In many places, when you open the taps, there was no water. You try to catch a plane, there was none. You lift the phone, you get a busy signal. You switch on the lights, there was no power. FVR ended the people’s misery by dismantling the protections which coddled monopolies, injected efficiency by bringing in competition, gave the consumer better and cheaper options, and levelled the playing field.”Congressman raplh recto
Ramos also pursued policies towards peace and stability. His leadership led to the signing of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front. In addition, he repealed the Anti-Subversion Law.
The Ramos Economic Boom
President Ramos’ reforms led to an economic boom. Specifically, the Philippine economy grew by around 3% during his term. Foreign investors poured capital into the country. Dr. Cielito Habito, who was Ramos’ NEDA Secretary, said:
“This was opening up our economy, removing all the regulations and strictures that inhibited business. And that’s the reason why he unleashed a whole lot of new investments both by domestic investors and foreign investors alike. And so, there was a really renewed interest in the Philippine economy during the 1990s.”Cielito habito, ramos’ neda secretary.
Fidel Ramos and The Limits of EDSA
It is fitting that Ramos passed away a day before Corazon Aquino’s death anniversary. No two political figures were as central to the promise of the EDSA Revolution. And no two figures illustrated its limits.
Ramos started on shaky ground. He won the Presidency with only 23.58% of the popular vote. And his election was marred by allegations of fraud. His policies and politics did not sustain his popularity.
Ramos relied on transactional politics on pass laws. He relied heavily on pork-barrel allocations under the Countrywide Development Fund. His solution to the power crisis were called “sweetheart deals”. And his name was besmirched by the Clark Centennial Expo and PEA-AMARI scandals.
Ramos’ ties to Ferdinand Marcos haunted him. On one hand, Ramos was instrumental in Marcos’ exit in 1986. But he also encouraged the signing of a “compromise agreement” with the Marcos family. The Supreme Court struck down the agreement.
All of these scandals reduced Ramos’ moral authority to lead. The Filipino people refused to vote his anointed successor. Instead, they chose Joseph “Erap” Estrada. His campaign rode a wave of mass discontent and the ascendant mass media.
President Estrada would fall by 2001. Former President Aquino and Ramos provided a moral voice in the rallies. However, Estrada’s successor- Gloria Macapagal Arroyo- was similarly battered by scandals. Aquino and Ramos soon parted ways. Aquino wanted Arroyo to step down. Ramos wanted Arroyo to hold or or have a “graceful exit”.
“EDSA Fatigue” began to sink in around this time. It was this fatigue which eventually led to the election of Rodrigo Duterte in 2016. It also provided the Marcoses with the leverage to ascend to