Institutionalized People Power

National Security Modernization

In September 1991, the Philippine Senate in a pivotal turn declined passage of a new Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Security with the United States, which would have allowed the continued operation of Subic Naval Base. This large military installation was the last US military outpost in Southeast Asia. The new Philippine Constitution of 1987 was explicit in its prohibition of both foreign bases on Philippine soil and the use of nuclear weapons. In June 1991, magmatic flows erupted out of Mt. Pinatubo and covered the American Clark Air Force Base in the province of Pampanga. In November 1991, the American flag was lowered for the last time in Clark, and the US receded from its role as security cover for the external defense of the Philippines. In 1992, the US government reduced economic and military aid to the Philippines by sixty percent. For the Armed Forces of  the Philippines (AFP), this was equivalent to the loss of about USD 200 million funding support which covered sixty-seven percent of its allocation for procuring military materiel and for the routine maintenance costs of existing assets.

In his first State of the Nation Address on 27 July 1992, President Ramos underscored the challenge posed by the withdrawal of the US forces:

Our external defense we had implicitly entrusted to the Americans, under a military assistance agreement with the United States. This had enabled us to get away with the smallest defense investment in ASEAN. That agreement has already lapsed.    

Now we must take up the responsibility for our own defense. Most urgently, the capabilities of both our Navy and our Air Force must make a quantum leap.    

And we shall have to accelerate our entire self-reliance program for the Armed Forces.

The withdrawal of the US Forces from the Philippines in 1991 coincided with China effectively seizing eight islands in disputed areas within the South China Sea. This was followed in February 1992 by the passage of a law where China essentially claimed all of the Spratly Islands, traditionally understood to belong to the Philippines. These developments were construed by Philippine security and political sectors as a portent of the threat that China would pose to the Kalayaan Islands, also claimed by the Philippines. Moreover, China increased its forays into waters forming part of the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ).

Within the Philippines, the Ramos administration faced the heightened belligerency of the Muslim Mindanao secessionist movements and, in pockets all over the country, of the New People’s Army. The complex picture of these insurgencies were clear to a president whose previous posts were as AFP Chief of Staff and subsequently Secretary of National Defense. On 14 February 1993, addressing the graduates of the Philippine Military Academy, he asserted a refreshed definition of national security and the AFP’s role:

Your new mission shall be to lead our country to modernization.    

In this day and age, national security must be founded ultimately on our country’s economic strength, its political unity, and its social cohesion.    

And it is these—to our nation’s unity, social cohesion and economic strength—that the Armed Forces, as well as every official institution in this country, must now dedicate itself.    

Our economy can develop only in an atmosphere of political stability.  Of this stability, the Armed Forces is the ultimate guarantor, as the constitutional “protector of the people and the state.”  
“To suit the new needs of our country’s security, I intend to build up—with all deliberate speed—the AFP’s capability—in both men and materiel—to defend our frontiers.  This effort shall include increasing cooperation in security matters with our neighbors in ASEAN.    

My object shall be to build up a modern—and a modernizing—military.  I envision the armed forces as being for our country what the Turkish army was in Kemal Ataturk’s time—the nation’s intelligentsia and its political conscience.

…We should be able to instill [in] our people the sense of loyalty and nationalism that will pull them together—and get them working in concert to lift up the common life and bring self-sustaining development to our country.    

In times of crises, societies in order to cope need to raise from within themselves the very same spirit that enables them to prevail in war.    

A society in crisis—as ours is—must bring out those reserves of national energy that enables a country at war to marshal all its efforts to win the struggle.    

A society in crisis needs to evoke from its citizens prodigies of self-discipline, courage, selflessness, and self-sacrifice—all for national survival and the common good.    

These civic virtues we need are the soldier’s virtues.  The economic and  social  crisis we face is the moral equivalent of war.  The officer corps—the whole of the professional military—must become the model for the civic virtues we Filipinos must learn to cultivate; and leaders in the work we must do together.    

And  there  is one more war we have to fight—the war against poverty, which oppresses so many of our people.  It is a source of shame—a national reproach—that we Filipinos have the worst income distribution in all of Asia.    

As you know, Clausewitz in his classic treatise on strategy, emphasized the psychological factors that mean the difference between victory or defeat in war. Clausewitz extolled the superiority of the human spirit over operational lines and angles.    

These same psychological factors are the crucial factors in the epic struggle for development that we as a people must wage.    

As the object in war is to obtain a better peace—so should our object be to preserve our internal unity and our still-fragile democracy by pulling out the roots of rebellion from the Filipino culture.    
We must pull out these roots of rebellion which lie deep in the poverty that the majority of Filipinos must endure every day of their lives.

President Ramos defined his concept of and approach to AFP modernization in his speech during the Centennial Celebration of the Philippine Navy on 22 May 1998:The modernization of our Armed Forces, therefore implies a broad, strategic perspective, a generational time frame, and a commitment to a comprehensive outcome that would help insure a better future for the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific region.  In other words, instead of preparing to win a war, we should be able to win the future.

President Ramos defined his concept of and approach to AFP modernization in his speech during the Centennial Celebration of the Philippine Navy on 22 May 1998:

The modernization of our Armed Forces, therefore implies a broad, strategic perspective, a generational time frame, and a commitment to a comprehensive outcome that would help insure a better future for the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific region.  In other words, instead of preparing to win a war, we should be able to win the future.

The AFP modernization program began immediately after the full withdrawal of US military bases from the country in 1992. It was driven by President Ramos’ resolve to establish a strong external defense position, beyond the period of dependency on the US. He met with resistance from the Philippine Congress, particularly in the Senate, which imposed a long and difficult legislative process. But while Congress underwent the processes of debate over the merits and fine points of the modernization program, President Ramos set off on diplomatic missions to secure international support for AFP’s immediate needs. He secured a US government donation of nine aircraft to the Philippine Air Force during his term. Similarly, the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy provided a “goodwill price” of only USD 20 million for three Peacock-class warships that belonged to the Hong Kong Defense Force. These were turned over to the Philippine Navy on 1 July 1993. On 3 July 1993, Prince Charles came to Manila on an official visit to close negotiations pertaining to the sale of the Royal vessels to the AFP.

On 24 May 1994, the Philippine and South Korean governments entered into a Memorandum of Understanding on Logistics and Defense Industry Cooperation. With this instrument, South Korea transferred five Chamsuri-Wildcat class fast attack craft (former ROKN ships) to the Philippine government in August 1995. Another vessel was delivered in 1998. A similar instrument—a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperative Defense—was finalized with the Australian government on 3 August 1995. This agreement, which allowed the training of AFP personnel including members of the Philippine Coast Guard in Australian Defense Facilities, was forged to enhance Philippine maritime defense and counterinsurgency capability.

After three years of discussion, the Philippine Senate passed Republic Act 7898 or the AFP Modernization Act. RA 7898, which was enacted on 23 February 1995 “to develop the AFP into a responsive and effective force with external defense capability and civic and developmental functions to support Philippine development.” Written into law was a program with five components, namely, Force Restructuring and Organizational Development; Capability, Material and Technology Development; Bases/Support System Development; Human Resource Development; and Doctrine Development. This law facilitated the recreation of the Armed Forces into a compact, efficient, and responsive standing force, with the capability for defense and nation-building functions. Its manpower was to be reduced over a ten-year period by as much as twenty percent, or ninety-thousand individuals, to achieve the desired "lean and mean" organization. Reserve forces were construed in relation to a “Total Force” concept, to be built into a responsive and ready formation that will provide for the expansion of the AFP in the event of war or national emergency.

The law gave the Philippines the wherewithal to acquire and upgrade armaments and equipment in synchrony with the phaseout of inefficient and obsolete weapons systems and other military equipment. It also set the momentum towards developing permanent land, air, and naval bases with adequate support systems and facilities. With well-defined human resource development objectives, the AFP was empowered to embark on a sustained capability building track to institutionalize high levels of competence and professionalism among the Officer and Non-Commissioned Officer Corps, and the enlisted and civilian personal. This institutionalization was to be supported by codified ideals to be formulated and evaluated to become doctrine at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels.

The passage of the law in 1995 did not end the difficulties the AFP faced in securing funding for its Modernization Program. Fund allocations still had to be negotiated with the Philippine Congress, a typical post-legislative course. Nevertheless, on 2 December 1996, Joint Resolution No. 28 was passed, providing legislative approval of the program. The declaration imposed further conditions: the submission of an annual report of the AFP’s implementation of the modernization program, along with the “estimated expenditures and proposed appropriation consistent with national security policy” laid down by the Philippine Congress. Furthermore, the total amount of PHP 331.62 billion required for the program over a fifteen-year procurement period and a projected twenty-two year payment period, was divided into two sub-programs due to legislative and financial constraints. Sub-program I, the core program, earmarked a budget of PHP 164 billion, while the ancillary program, Sub-Program II, required PHP 167 billion.

The passage of both the law and the joint resolution was not to lead to an automatic appropriation of funds, which Congress did not immediately allot for the first year of implementation. The onus for providing the initial funds fell on the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA), which provided thirty-five percent from the proceeds of the sale of the Fort Bonifacio Military Reservation to the AFP. This share of the 1995 BCDA sale of the Fort Bonifacio property was PHP 7.8 billion (USD 312 million). This amount was reduced to PHP 5.8 billion, which was supposed to be released in seven tranches over a two year period from 28 February 1995 to 9 December 1997. However, the program’s implementation was delayed by the protracted period of Congressional approval. Administrative procedures also proved overlong, and, combined with the Asian financial crisis which hit the Philippines in 1997, the AFP’s modernization had a challenging beginning.

These legal and financial dynamics were, however, mitigated by the Philippine leadership’s appreciation of the level of threat posed by China—especially after the sighting of the Chinese flag flying over Mischief Reef. Known in the Philippines as Panganiban Reef, it is part of the Kalayaan Island Group, which is under the jurisdiction of Palawan, Philippines. The appearance on it of the Chinese standard and eight Chinese ships patrolling its waters set off alarms of a “creeping” invasion of the South China Sea, which is a vital international sea lane linking the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Protection of the South China Sea from Chinese encroachment began to be a matter of critical concern, not only to the claimant nations, but to American and European trade, commerce, and security interests as well. For the claimant-nations over various islands and atolls in the area—Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, and Taiwan—the Chinese incursion posed a threat to their “ownership” of the gas and oil reserves in this sea, as well as to the abundant fish supply upon which these nations’ populations have been reliant for centuries.

In response to the incursion, the Philippine government issued a formal protest with the Chinese government. In turn, they explained that the structures were fisherfolk shelters; the obvious military design that showed up in surveillance pictures belied this claim. President Ramos ordered the heightened visibility and strengthening of Philippine military presence in the area. The Philippine Air Force dispatched five F5-fighters, four jet trainers and two helicopters, while the Philippine Navy deployed two additional ships to patrol the area. President Ramos initiated the ASEAN Ministerial Conference early in his administration. The resulting 2 July 1992 Manila Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea asserted prior claim over the maritime territory for the involved ASEAN nations. It articulated the intent of the ASEAN member nations to “resolve all sovereignty and jurisdictional issues pertaining to the South China Sea by peaceful means, without resort to force.”

President Ramos was to lobby further for a code of conduct on the South China Sea for both the ASEAN and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). He considered these amplifying moves on behalf of the Philippines necessary in light of China’s escalating aggression. The ARF was organized on July 1994, expanding the participants to eighteen countries to include ASEAN Member countries plus Australia, Canada, China, European Union, Japan, Laos, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Russia, South Korea and, the US. As a result of the Philippine lobby, the South China Sea issue was included in the agenda at the April 1995 ASEAN-China two-day Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) held in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. While ASEAN’s senior officials assumed a united position, China refused to discuss and instead called for the joint development of assets in the area. At an ASEAN-EU Meeting (ASEM) on the same month in Phuket, European Union delegates expressed concern about the South China Sea conflict affecting shipping in this sea lane. The ASEAN delegates, excluding the Philippines, persuaded their EU counterparts to take down their concerns a notch. Meanwhile, on 16 April 1995, a Philippine patrol in the Kalayaan arrested sixty Chinese fishermen in possession of a hoard of sea turtles, a protected species. The Philippine contingent also destroyed Chinese markers found in the area. At this juncture, President Ramos met with Chinese Premier Jiang Zemin, and they agreed to settle the South China dispute peacefully.

At the ARF Senior Officials Meeting on May 1995, the ASEAN member states rejected the Philippines’ request to collectively raise the South China Sea issue, particularly the Mischief Reef incident. China insisted on bilateral talks, rejecting multilateral negotiations as, in its view, inappropriate for the South China Sea disputes. China benefited from its strong position. The second ARF meeting held in Brunei on 1 August 1995 merely issued a statement of encouragement, with no further comment, for “all claimants to reaffirm their commitment to the principles contained in the relevant international laws and convention, and the ASEAN’s 1992 Declaration on the South China Sea.” A similar position was adopted during the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in July 1995, a communiqué from which said that the ministers expressed “concern” over the South China Sea and called on all parties to “refrain from taking actions that could destabilize the region.” The ministers also endorsed the idea of a “code of conduct” for “long-term stability” in the area to “foster understanding among the claimant countries.”

Representatives of China and the Philippines entered into dialogue on the basis of China’s preference for exclusively bilateral talks. In a meeting on 9 and 10 August 1995, the parties’ output was a “Joint Statement on RP-PRC Consultations on the South China Sea and on Other Areas of Cooperation.” The document approached the character of a Code of Conduct between the Philippines and China on the matter of the South China Sea, with both parties pledging to resolve the territorial disputes peacefully, without the use or threat of force. An agreement was also reached to cooperate—bilaterally and eventually with other claimants—to protect the marine environment, engage in anti-piracy, marine research, search and rescue operations, and other activities that would build confidence among the claimant countries and advance the welfare of their peoples. It was also a commitment of both parties to conserve marine resources, and a guarantee of freedom of safety and navigation. Finally, the agreement provided for convening expert meetings to discuss the legal bases of the respective claims, and the exploration of the modes of cooperation in fisheries and other productive endeavors.

The Philippines and Vietnam signed a similar agreement on November 1995. Over the next few years, the dispute between the Philippines and China faded into the background until it resurfaced in May 1997 in relation to the Scarborough Shoal, prompting President Ramos to declare Philippine sovereignty over the area. The Philippine Navy was also directed to establish a more permanent garrison at the Shoal to fully establish Philippine ownership. It also resulted in the arrest of Chinese “fishermen” who were “inhabiting” the area. The dispute with China continued on varying levels of intensity. The Ramos administration reached out to the US government for assistance and support in defending Philippine sovereignty, specifically over the Kalayaan area under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). The US responded by citing the nature of their obligation, which is limited to providing such support only to “metropolitan territory” and “island territories under the jurisdiction of both parties.” In the US' view, the Kalayaan Islands were not covered by these provisos.

The Philippines negotiated for increased US presence. However, these talks covering joint military exercises among other new forms of cooperation were slowed down by a US-Philippine dispute over criminal jurisdiction over American soldiers participating in the exercises on Philippine soil. Due to an impasse in the negotiations, US naval port visits and the conduct of the RP-US “Balikatan” exercises were suspended in 1996. The US, however, continued to provide assistance to the Philippines (satellite surveillance over relevant areas, for instance). Subsequently, the resurgence of Chinese incursions into the shoal prompted the resumption of negotiations with the US. By 10 February 1998, President Ramos signed the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). The agreement was ratified by the administration of Joseph Estrada, which succeeded President Ramos'.

As these geopolitical developments played out, President Ramos also turned to the AFP with an expanded concept of its role and duties. Aside from being a guarantor of internal and external security, the AFP, in his view, was to be necessarily engaged in nation-building. During the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Homecoming on 16 February 1997, he described the AFP he was trying to build:

While modernization is bound to directly enhance the service requirements of the AFP as a credible and effective defense force, it will also improve the capability of the armed forces to help the people in nonmilitary ways, such as through the protection of our environment, the preservation of our seas and natural resources, the rehabilitation of calamity and disaster-stricken areas, and infrastructure construction and repair.

During the term of President Ramos, the AFP through its Engineering Corps helped organize an estimated one hundred twenty four cooperatives; establish forty-two micro forests by planting over 600,000 trees; conducted more than seven hundred courses in depressed rural areas through its literacy patrols; and completed more than three hundred kilometers of roads all over the country and a substantial number of buildings and bunkhouses for the victims of the Pinatubo volcanic eruption in Central Luzon. These endeavors produced more fruitful civil relations between the public and the military, and became part of the reform trajectory for the security sector.

That reform agenda also looked at the police forces, the service arm President Ramos headed in decades prior. When he assumed office in 1992, the peace and order situation was wracked by a number of criminal activities: kidnap-for-ransom operations (particularly targeting members of the Chinese-Filipino community); drug trafficking; and robberies. It was common knowledge that high-ranking military and police officers led or protected some criminal networks. In response, President Ramos created the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission (PACC) and asked Vice-President Joseph Estrada to head it. The PACC was established on 8 July 1992 by virtue of Executive Order No. 3. Its first order of business was to hunt down the criminals among the military and police, regardless of rank; and to disband the gangs. Vice-President Estrada, a famous actor, brought his task into the light of full media attention; media was present during operations to apprehend targets. To the “scalawags in uniform,” Vice-President Estrada added the “hoodlums in robes,” or corrupt judges. By the time Vice-President Estrada resigned from the PACC in 1997 to run in the 1998 presidential elections, one hundred eighteen cases against judges had been filed and the Supreme Court had, on its own, dismissed five judges for ignorance of the law.

The President set in motion the immediate reorganization and cleansing of the Philippine National Police of “slackers, misfits and miscreants in its ranks.” As a first salvo, he let go of the PNP chief. The initial message to maintain the principle of command responsibility was made clearer when, within President Ramos’ first forty-five days in office, more than twenty police generals and forty-two police colonels were retired, upon the recommendation of a nine-man committee established to review their performance and record of service. During the first National Summit on Peace and Order held on 15 February 1993, President Ramos issued the following warning to the members of the police force who were in attendance:

[I]f we are to promote the ideals of fairness, honesty, discipline, and efficiency among our people, we must set the examples ourselves.    

In this there can be no exception.  The law enforcer, before and above all, must observe the law.  And he must recognize that far from being a one-man army, he works in tandem with many peers.  And that if others slacken or fail, that is no excuse for him to do likewise.  And if he should fail, from weakness of resolve, then he can expect to be dismissed and be replaced by others of superior caliber.    

Over the past several months, we have made radical but necessary moves to rid the ranks of our law enforcers of the corrupt and the ineffectual.  We will not ease up on this campaign.  There is no shortage of good men and women in this country to replace the disappointing few.

Oplan Pagbabago was the operative plan to execute this initiative. By the time criminal elements in the military had been purged during the Ramos administration, a total of 1,649 members of the police force had either been dismissed, retired, or demoted. The combined effort of the PNP and the PACC resulted in the apprehension of entire kidnapping syndicates, and gangs involved in bank robberies and drug trafficking. These combined efforts produced positive results, and the incidence of criminality steadily decreased during the Ramos administration.

Philippines Crime Rate & Statistics - Historical Data

On the occasion of the PNP’s second anniversary on 4 February 1993, President Ramos exhorted the police force to pursue organizational development and meaningfully contribute to national development.

The PNP must simply get hold of itself and settle down to work—to work hard on your programs that complement the government's larger aims and policies.    

You must adapt your organizational structure, your systems and procedures to the need of the times. You must be dynamic and flexible in responding to the demands of our national crisis. You must sharpen you capability; to deal not only with criminality but with every other threat to our internal security.    

As an organization, you must counteract the growing sophistication of crime syndicates. You must keep strong enough to put down the forces undermining our internal security.    

Above all, you must regain people's confidence and respect. And to do this, you must—above all else—professionalise your ranks.

The regional training commands were re-established to enable policemen and recruits to receive basic in-service training that focused on good moral values. The Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) was transferred to Camp Gen. Mariano N. Castañeda at Silang, Cavite from its shared quarters at the INP Training Command in Fort Bonifacio. Aside from providing for improved training facilities for the PNPA, the training program was also improved. In January 1997, the curriculum of the three-year Bachelor of Science in Public Safety, which was the sole academic program at the PNPA, became an enhanced four-year course duly approved by the Philippine Public Safety College (PPSC).

To regain the trust of the communities it served, police units conducted regular ugnayan (which translates to “correlation”) discussions nationwide. The radio program Pulis, Pulis—kung Umaksyon, Mabilis and the television program Police Hour were launched. To maximize community support and assistance, People's Law Enforcement Boards (PLEBS)52 were organized in sixty-four cities and 1,449 municipalities. The PNP provided needed manpower assistance and logistical support to communities in order to establish rapport with them.

The Adopt-a-Cop Koban initiated by the Zonta Club of Makati was replicated nationwide. This involved civil society organizations adopting an entire police precinct to provide policemen with medical kits, and their children and dependents with educational benefits and livelihood opportunities. This practice was combined with the Japanese koban system that transformed the neighborhood policeman into a counselor and an adviser, or a father of the community. The neighborhood reciprocated by giving the police all the information they needed. Shared information would mitigate against crime by pre-empting untoward plans, and, with the residents’ cooperation, no crime would remain unsolved for long. Aside from addressing criminality, the PNP also assisted the AFP in counter-insurgency operations. The primary responsibility of the PNP in this effort was information gathering, provision of assistance to the AFP in times of national emergency,  and the performance of police functions.

On the occasion of the PNP’s second anniversary on 4 February 1993, President Ramos exhorted the police force to pursue organizational development and meaningfully contribute to national development.

The Philippine and South Korean Governments entering into a Memorandum of Understanding on Logistics and Defense Industry Cooperation on 24 May 1994 at the Cheong Wa Dae, Blue House, Official Presidential Residence.
The Memorandum of Understanding signed by Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Roberto R. Romulo and South Korean Foreign Minister Han Sung-joo enabled the transfer of a total of five Chamsuri-Wildcat class fast attack craft to the Philippine Government.
Ramos family archives

Scarborough Shoal Map.
The dispute between the Philippines and China resurfaced in May 1997 in relation to the Scarborough Shoal prompting President Ramos to declare Philippine sovereignty over the area and directed the Philippine Navy to establish a more permanent garrison at the Shoal,
to fully establish the Philippine ownership.
Photo credit: Reuters

A group of Filipinos plants a Philippine Flag on Scarborough Shoal.
Scarborough Shoal, on which the Philippines declared sovereignty, was challenged by China’s incursions
into the area in 1997.  
Photo credit: Ambassador Chito Sta. Romana
Bonifacio Global City’s master development plan.
Privatization of land parcels within the Fort Bonifacio military reservation provided capital for government’s security modernization plan and the administration’s social reform agenda focused on vastly improving the availability, quality and access to basic social services.  
Photo credit: Bonifacio Global City website

People Empowerment in Development

Before us lies the challenge: Come then, let us meet it together. With so much for us to do, let us not falter. With so little time left in our hands, we cannot afford to fail.To this work of empowering the people, not only in their political rights but also in economic opportunities, I dedicate my Presidency.    

Fidel V. Ramos
Inaugural Address    
30 June 1992    
Quirino Grandstand, Manila

The Philippine concept of people empowerment born in EDSA53—the interdependence and indivisibility of political, social, cultural, economic, and environmental rights—influenced movements for people empowerment in many other countries. Through the 1986 EDSA Revolution, Filipinos provided a new and universal standard for human rights for the twenty-first century. This is the basic reason why, in vying for the presidency, then-candidate Fidel V. Ramos ran on a program of People Empowerment, and anchored his presidency on its foundation. People empowerment dominated the administration’s agenda as a way to mobilize the country democratically for modernization, to devolve power from the center to the countryside, and afford ordinary people a stake and a role in winning the future.

Enshrined in the 1987 Philippine Constitution are three articles54 that established the role of non-government organizations (NGOs) and people’s organizations (POs) in development. Seeking to realize these Constitutional provisions, the concept and framework of people empowerment were evident in presidential issuances and endeavors that actively engaged non-government organizations and civil society in policy development, and project implementation and monitoring. Likewise, acts of Congress, with the President’s many allies and like-minded individuals, mandated the inclusion of legitimate, organized interest groups in the government’s multi-sectoral strategies, transforming civil society into a more potent and effective partner for reform and growth.

The institutionalization of civil society engagement in governance in Philippines 2000 was a distinct formulation of democratization in global politics at the time. This strategic framework for effective national and local governance, with sustainable development as a guiding objective, was launched in 1993. Philippines 2000 was designed to be the Filipino vision of a dynamic Philippine economy that provided productive and gainful employment to its workforce, where people participated actively and benefited from the economy’s growth and development. This steered the drive for development by conciliation, consultation, and consensus, which demonstrated that effective and efficient government was possible with civil society as partners in attaining the status of a newly industrializing country (NIC) by the turn of the century.

Philippines 2000 was conceptualized to have twin aspects: the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan and the Social Reform Agenda. Operationalized together, these strategic directions set in motion civic participation in policy development and programs that stimulated economic activity and mobilized the entrepreneurial spirit among Filipinos. Philippines 2000 sought to do so while simultaneously addressing the difficulties brought about by the overarching social climate—the political, social, and cultural realities—in which economic growth must take place. Beyond facilitating the access of every citizen to expanded opportunity, the Ramos period empowerment strategy allowed a wider range of life choices for the extremely marginalized. Collective action, as it was understood in government at that time, was the only avenue towards achieving the country’s goals and aspirations. Corollarily, the then-prevailing wisdom in the government bureaucracy was that problems existed in neighborhoods and rural areas; and even as these came together as national in scale, intervention can be enriched only by local perspectives and private sector participation.

The Ramos administration encouraged multi-sectoral engagement across the full range of national endeavors. Civic consciousness and citizen action were thus animated, and Filipinos obtained a heightened understanding of civic duty and civil rights. Mechanisms for cooperation between government and civil society facilitated dialogue, often exhaustive, and generated insight on all areas of common concern, including peace in Mindanao, human and ecological security, and socio-economic reforms. In his social reform agenda, President Ramos engaged civil society in all its permutations. The policy environment he created emphasized countryside development, explicitly as directives towards expanding the range of opportunity for citizens to thrive in a democratic system.

Overall, Philippines 2000 as a reform package endeavored to make Filipino citizens aware of their own stakes in governance, and, in real terms, of their chance to own and manage their economic means of survival—hence, to have a viable purchase of a good future. Myriad fora stimulated dialogue, marked by initiatives by people’s organizations to redefine the content of the democratic political framework. Issues such as violence against women and children, the rights of indigenous peoples, and amnesty for rebels—and others that were once considered ineligible for legislation— moved from debate to legislation. As civil society saw the progress of participative citizenship, reform led to its progressive institutionalization and professionalization, attracting college graduates seeking viable options for a meaningful career path.

As the 21st century commenced, the 1997 National Development Summit gathered elected officials and civil servants, business, labor, and civic leaders, professionals, academics and intellectuals, heads of non-government and people’s organizations, for what was called a “pole-vaulting” conference. The intention—to usher the country into the status of a newly industrializing economy by the end of the twentieth century—was a Ramos refrain. During the millennial turn, he spoke with an even stronger future-orientated inflection. He challenged civil society to work with government to realize three ambitions. First of all, he sought collaboration to sustain the Philippines 2000 drive to overcome poverty and expand the circle of progress. Then, he personally rallied sectors around the intention to “catch up with the Tiger neighbors in East Asia,” and then to keep pace (at a minimum). Finally, and repeatedly, he pressed for the economy’s competitiveness in the global market, making business and industry into efficient creators of wealth.

Guided by a comprehensive policy climate, the Ramos agenda provided focus throughout the consultations- and consensus-building processes, incorporating dominant and minority views. Setting the priority timeline, these strategic approaches included the views of the disadvantaged, the political opposition, and others marginalized by mainstream politics, thus bringing to fore the many economic and political reforms that remained under-attended prior to his tenure. The metaphor of pole-vaulting translated into real accomplishments. The succeeding presidents followed the Ramos administration roadmap in large measure, because it was widely understood that the seeping character of reforms needed decades to actualize, and with the participation of all stakeholders.

The children thrived in this environment of sustained interest in life outside their family, which showed up in the quality of their individual careers. Fidel was to articulate this ethos in his three interconnected words—“Caring, Daring, and Sharing”—which in due course became his personal code of ethics, and his wish for the Philippines. In particular, he would look to the full display of his parents’ “sterling characters” during the Second World War, when they managed to keep the family intact and resilient, while contributing to the guerrilla resistance and helping prisoners-of-war. The young Fidel was drawn to their example. To him, the war years occasioned a full education in parental responsibility combined with responsiveness to the demands of nationalism. This string of virtues he intoned through life—honesty, integrity, hard work, simplicity, and love of country—sprung from his experience of his parents, especially in dire circumstances.

The Ramos Cabinet in the Province of Romblon.
People empowerment was the touchstone of the Ramos Administration, and Regional Cabinet Meetings embodied the spirit of responsive and participative democracy.     
Ramos family archives
President Ramos discussing sectoral issues with farmers in Loo, Buguias, Benguet, Mountain Province.
Provincial sorties and town hall meetings were distinct practices of the Ramos Administration where marginalized sectors participate in formulating a path towards
sustainable development.
Ramos family archives
Whistle stop at Barangay Lamtang,
Benguet, Mountain Province.
President Ramos shares a cup of tea and anecdotes with Ibaloi tribeswomen during a brief stop at Barangay Lamtang, Benguet, Mountain Province.
Ramos family archives
President Ramos and his Secretaries in a briefing for a site development plan.
The Cabinet Officers for Regional Development (CORD) System assigned specific Cabinet Secretaries as “champions” of specific regions —identifying their development requirements and coordinating with peers in the Cabinet to strategize action to address these needs.
Ramos family archives

Re-Engineering Public Service

The civil works experience that shaped Ramos’ personality came into full view as he re-engineered the bureaucracy he inherited as president. And Ramos the soldier was revealed to be an accomplished administrator possessed of military precision. He was accustomed to clear mission objectives, methodologies, and measures of performance. His personality was on public exhibit the most when he expressed his intention to produce a disciplined civil service during his first State of the Nation Address on 27 July 1992:

For us to get anywhere, we need to remodel the very machinery of government. We have to reorganize the civil service so that it can do more—and do better.    

We must rationalize the public corporate sector by privatizing those of its operations which are better undertaken by private enterprise.    

And we must devolve and decentralize more of national administration so that Government truly reaches out to our citizenry, wherever they may live in our vast archipelago.    

This effort can be propelled only by definitive support from Congress. Since the reorganization will affect most of the Cabinet departments, it does not make sense for us to reorganize piecemeal.    

I would urge Congress therefore to consider one comprehensive ‘Government Reorganization Act’ that will enable us to streamline the entire Executive Branch, including the Office of the President.    

Our goal here is to promote speed in decision-making and action that yields quality results; and to increase effectiveness and impact in government operations despite funding constraints.

President Ramos went on to describe a bureaucracy without fat. A reorganization would, in his plan, implement the law “on attrition,” and realign agency mandates by abolishing non-essential functions, including vacant positions. His design set in place the dictum to integrate all attachés and offices of the overseas missions, and to reduce the number of departments and agencies. As he laid out this plan, he took care to clarify that “[s]ome have mistakenly thought that this is a request for blanket authority for the President in reorganization,” at which point he highlighted his resolve to work with the Legislative branch: “What we seek is a law that will fully enable us to reorganize the Executive branch.” He then allayed fear of the changes he was setting in motion:

Others fear that reorganization will result in massive layoffs. This is not envisioned at all. The only ones who have to fear displacement are fifteen to thirty employees and all those who do not possess civil service eligibilities.

President Ramos was working with historical data that demonstrated the steady increase in public sector employment. It had been growing by an inefficient nine percent annually, and so he moved to reverse the trend by adopting three strategies: attrition, privatization, and devolution.

Attrition is the outcome of a process of planned size reduction. In the case of the intentions President Ramos articulated at the outset of his term, it was a stripping lean of the government bureaucracy. In the 8th Congress, he prioritized what would be known as the Attrition Law: Republic Act No. 7430 or “An Act Providing for Optimum Utilization of Personnel in Government Service Through a System of Attrition, Providing Penalties for Violation Thereof, and for Other Penalties.” It took effect on 8 May 1992 and ended in June 1997. Fully implemented during the Ramos administration, it shaved off excessive personnel by prohibiting agencies from filling up positions vacated by resignation, retirement, dismissal, death, promotion, or transfer of an employee. Enforcement was assigned to the Civil Service Commission (CSC), which issued a memorandum55 and other policies and guidelines articulating the implementation rules.

By 3 January 1994, during his Ulat sa Bayan, President Ramos described the gains achieved under the Attrition Law at its implementation midpoint:

Bureaucracy's organization and operations were continually streamlined to make it more responsive to the needs of the public and serve as an effective machinery for development.  The measures we have implemented reduced the available positions in the national government by four percent or roughly 42,000 positions, a reversal of the nine percent natural historical growth rate per year.  The strict implementation of the Attrition Law generated savings from personal services amounting to almost Php 2.0 billion.

The CSC issued a policy memorandum56 in 1994, which proved highly effective. Known as the “95%-5%” scheme, it exempted government agencies from the Attrition Law for a period of twelve months if they voluntarily abolished five percent of all authorized positions. The scheme allowed government agencies to identify and decide which plantilla positions are superfluous to their operations. By 1997, 100,753 positions were left unfilled, resulting in savings of PHP 9.3 billion, representing salaries and allowances which would have been paid without this strategic move.

Privatization, the second of the three strategies President Ramos deployed to thin the bureaucracy, was to him inextricably linked to raising the correct scale of financial resources to fill the empty government coffers he inherited. On 03 December 1992, President Ramos issued Executive Order No. 37. President Ramos described the gains achieved under the Attrition Law, and reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to pursue privatization wherever applicable. It provided provisions to guarantee orderly, efficient, and timely roll-out. It also expanded the coverage of the Privatization Programme adopted by the administration of former President Aquino by including assets owned and activities undertaken by specified line agencies which may be privatized through other schemes, such as the Build-Operate-Transfer scheme (BOT), and the instrumentalities of management and maintenance contracts.

The strategy of prioritizing the sale of big ticket items such as the Philippine National Bank (PNB), Petron, National Steel Corporation (NSC) and the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) proved successful. By the midterm of the Ramos administration, the number of government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) were reduced to seventy-nine from three hundred and one at the beginning of former President Aquino’s term.

By the end of 1995, the Asset Privatization Trust (APT) reported that revenues of PHP 33 billion had been generated from the disposition of government assets from 1987 to 1995. The United National Public Administration Network (UNPAN) in 1997 recorded that gross revenues from the sale of ninety-one GOCCs and other assets netted PHP 170 billion by the end of 1996. This prompted UNPAN to comment on the Philippine privatization program thus: “in the Philippines virtually all commercial activity is now in the hands of the private sector.”

PHP 170.4 billion in government revenue were derived from the sale of ninety-one GOCCs (PHP 69.7 billion); the transfer of non-performing assets by government financial institutions (PNB, Development Bank of the Philippines, National Development Corporation, Philippine Export and Foreign Loan Guarantee Corporation) to the APT for disposition (PHP 44.3 billion); and the sale of other assets (PHP 56.4 billion). From 128,098 employees in GOCCs in 1990, the number decreased to 97,142 by the end of 1997.

President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, successor to President Ramos, best captured the achievements of the Privatization Program in the text of Executive Order 12 issued on 14 August 1998:

Whereas, Executive Order No. 37, s. 1992, restated the privatization policy of Government by encouraging government agencies and government corporations to identify assets which may be disposed of to the private sector and activities which may be more efficiently, effectively and economically undertaken by the private sector; and that disposition of such assets activities may be undertaken through sale of physical assets, leasing of assets, management and maintenance contracts or build-operate-transfer (BOT) schemes;

Whereas, of the 562 Government Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCCs) Assets, approved by the President for privatization, 453 were privatized disposed as of June 30, 1998, generating gross sales proceeds of P184 billion;  

Whereas, the privatization program has helped substantially in improving the investment climate, attracting foreign investments, broadening ownership base, developing the local capital market, and generating substantial revenues for priority government expenditures;[.]

The international agency for better lives, the Organization for Economic Development (OECD), reported in its Investment Policy Reviews of 2016 the Ramos administration’s achievement thus:57

These economic improvements are in part the cumulative result of reforms since the late 1980s, notably deregulation, privatization and the breaking up of long-standing monopolies during the 1990s under President Ramos. These reforms encompassed the air transport, telecommunications, banking, oil and water sectors, among others. As a legacy of these reforms, state ownership is less of an obstacle to private investment than in some other countries in the region.

Devolution, the third of three Ramos administration strategies to trim the government bureaucracy, had a providential precedent in the 1991 Local Government Code (LGC), created via Republic Act No. 7160 — a landmark legislative achievement of the Aquino administration and the 8th Congress of the Philippines. This Congress was historically significant for having had the most number of progressive thinkers among its members, and the LGC is regarded as a primary example of their libertarian collective mind. While the LGC became operational on January 1992, an election year, the task of implementing the law was taken up by the newly elected incoming administration. It mandated the task of assisting Local Government Units (LGUs) so they could assume the immense responsibility of absorbing the devolved functions of government. The Ramos administration conducted symposia and fora to clarify the assistance and cooperation mechanism between the national government agencies (NGAs) and local government units (LGUs).

For the LGC to succeed, it was necessary for the national government to keep supporting the LGUs while devolution took place, including exhorting the local officials to embrace and accept the challenge of becoming self-reliant. President Ramos issued the following statement during the 2nd National Symposium on the Local Government shortly after he assumed office on 14 September 1992:

In this process of adjustment and change, I would emphasize two key points to guide us.    

One is that our approach to this process must be pragmatic. We must move beyond the rhetoric to the practical aspects of devolution. Precisely because this major reform cannot be implemented overnight, our activities and instruments must be always guided by what is workable and feasible.    

…[A] matter for priority attention is the need for instruction and training in the devolution process. This symposium today is part of that learning process... Local governments have to be helped in learning the tools for handling their larger responsibilities.    

…I assure you that we in the national government will stand with you, department by department, activity by activity, in implementing this reform program. Do not fear that when you wake up tomorrow, you are faced with the challenge of providing basic services while we in the national government wash our hands of them….    

…[T]he Local Government Code envisions a regime in which our local communities will increasingly become more autonomous and self-reliant, while the national government guides the entire process of national modernization and makes it more equitable. Where communities need assistance, we must and will assist. Where communities require help to maximize availment of their opportunities, we must and will provide assistance. Where we must build the infrastructure for development, we will build them.    

But at bottom line, you must all face the fact that your communities will progress only in accordance with the intensity and effectiveness of your own labors and achievements. You must pull yourselves up by your own talents and exertions.

The Master Plan 1993-1998 for Sustained Implementation of the Local Government Code of 1991 guided both national and local governments in the decentralization process. It provided for a phased framework for devolution, in which a Phase I took place from 1992 to 1993 for what was called  the Changeover Phase. Devolved functions were transferred to the LGUs with corresponding assets and personnel. During Phase II from 1994 to 1996, the Transition Phase, national and local governments institutionalized adjustments to decentralized schemes stipulated by the LGC. And from 1997 onwards, during Phase III, local governments built capacities in managing local affairs, with national government agencies providing support and assistance only when necessary. The devolution was completed during after this Stabilization Phase. The Master Plan did not leave loose ends, although there were line agencies—notably the Department of Health—that took more years beyond Phase III to complete, due to the complexity of the take-over of costs and responsibilities by the local government.

The transfer of personnel from national and local governments was undertaken expeditiously, allowing the Master Plan’s Phases I and II to devolve responsibility and spending power and to thus achieve decentralized governance. Decentralization was further realized by the steady increase in the amount of the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) from the national budget to augment local revenue from the exercise of their corporate powers and broadened powers of taxation.

To further augment local funds and build capacity, the Philippine contingent to the Consultative Group Meeting of Donors for the Philippines held in Tokyo, Japan on December 1996 presented a five point plan, beginning with a review of the internal revenue allotment (IRA) framework to increase the flow of funds to the poorer LGUs. The plan also reoriented the Overseas Development Assistance58 towards financing and technical assistance, with an emphasis on poorer local governments, and on social and environmental projects. Third, enhancing local revenue base was prioritized; and fourth, support assured market-based credit enhancement for private commercial lending and municipal bond. Finally, the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) program was held up as essential to the promotion of private sector participation in local government infrastructure development. This plan resulted in a number of signal changes.

The Local Government Support Project59 (LGSP) of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) was initially implemented on the island of Panay (Region VI), Southern Mindanao (Region XI), and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), covering a discontinuous territory of majority Muslim provinces. Expanded in 1996 to cover Regions X (Northern Mindanao) and XIII (CARAGA), the LGSP represented two funds, one for technical assistance and the other a development allocation. The Technical Assistance Fund of USD 5 million was designed for local government capacity-building, in order for their personnel to plan and implement programs and projects. The training program focused on local policy formulation and planning, fiscal management, human and natural resource management, formulation of the development planning framework, selective project implementation to demonstrate local capabilities, and monitoring and evaluation.

The LGSP Development Fund of up to USD 30 million was created to fund capability-building activities in policy support, training, planning assistance and project implementation at the local level. Funding was drawn from the Development Fund, which was local currency deposited in a special account following the monetization of commodities provided by the Canadian government under its Commodity Assistance Programme.

The Philippine Regional Municipal Development Project60 (PRMDP) enabled the local governments of eight of the country’s cities to respond to increasing demands for both infrastructure and institutional services. A collaborative agreement among the city governments of Lucena, Puerto Princesa, Legaspi, Bacolod, Tagbilaran, Iligan, General Santos and Cagayan de Oro, funds were drawn from the Department of Finance, Asian Development Bank (ADB), and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID). The total amount allocated for the project was USD 64.2 million, with USD 30 million provided by the ADB as a loan, USD 11.5 million provided as a grant by AusAID, and USD 22.7 million provided by the Philippine government through loans via by the Department of Finance. The PRMDP represented funding for two strategies: infrastructure development for the construction of roads, bridges, public markets, sanitary landfills, and transport terminals; and, the institutional component for traffic management and drainage improvement systems.

The Pilot Provincial Agricultural Extension Project (PPAEP) of the Department of Agriculture was designed in cooperation with AusAID and the local governments of the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur (Region V), Misamis Oriental, and Bukidnon (Region 10). Intended to increase and sustain agricultural productivity and incomes of rural households, the project developed self-reliant Rural Based Organizations (RBOs), strengthened agricultural extension services, and improved GO-NGO-RBO linkages. PPAEP worked with eighty-two RBOs in thirty-six low income barangays, resulting in average income increases of 123% to the beneficiaries. By 1996, the combined assets of the RBOs had reached PHP 2.4 million. Non-government organizations were responsible for strengthening the activities of RBOs, while the RBOs themselves provided various services to members, including the provision of inputs, loans at Land Bank rates, and the marketing of products. PPAEP also provided technical training and a range of activities to build participation, teamwork, confidence, and values to the agricultural extension units of the cooperating LGUs.

The Ramos administration recognized at its outset that improving the efficiency and effectiveness of government is the sine qua non of Ramos' and indeed any reform agenda. Streamlining government was a manifest need. Soon after President Ramos assumed office, he directed the heads of government agencies to attend to this matter, and issued Memorandum Order 27 on 13 August 1992 to help them. And on the occasion of the 92nd Anniversary of the Civil Service Commission on 14 September 1992, President Ramos said:

We shall definitely carry out the streamlining of the government structure.   We will—among other things—pare down the layers of bureaucratic fat which clog the arteries of the Civil Service, impeding decision-making and the delivery of government services.      

Apart from devolving central government authority and resources, we will simplify the organizational set-up and the complex reporting systems that characterize many government offices. To me, government's organization must be action and results oriented.  What cannot measure up to this standard must be adjusted or discarded.  

We will also put some sense and reason into the convoluted processes and procedures the ordinary citizen has to put  up with whenever he has to deal with government.

More importantly, the OP-attached agencies were abolished and their personnel, assets, and vital functions transferred to the following agencies: Economic Support Fund Secretariat to the Department of Public Works and Highways, Board of Liquidators to the National Development Corporation, Development Coordinating Council for Leyte and Samar and the Kalinga Special Development Authority to the Department of National Defense, Sequestered Assets Disposition Authority to the Presidential Commission on Good Government, Philippine Gamefowl Commission to the Games and Amusements Board, and the Philippine Human Resource Development Center to the Presidential Management Staff.

Other agencies followed the streamlining efforts, beginning with the reduction of undersecretaries and assistant secretaries of the Department of Trade and Industry from five per position to three per position. Nine embassies and three consular offices of the Department of Foreign Affairs were closed. The Intellectual Property Office was established and the Bureau of Patents, Trademarks and Technology Transfer was abolished. President Ramos then moved to reduce red tape and improve the public’s experience of government transactions. In his Ulat sa Bayan on 7 January 1993, he said:

All these priority programs we cannot pursue if our bureaucracy continues to be ineffective in responding to our tasks.  In response to this we have currently laid the groundwork for a more responsive bureaucracy. A bureaucracy that is efficient and responsive to the needs of the people and the country is a necessary instrument for our program of development.

To observers of the Ramos reforms, the most significant improvements included the much reduced processing time in registering and availing of incentives from the Board of Investments, from a maximum of one hundred twenty days to around fourteen days, depending on the firm’s size. The reductions also included the lessened waiting time for product testing and release of shipments of cement, tires, and electrical products from sixty days to fourteen days; and the evaluation of applications for the renewal of authority to employ foreign nationals, from ninety days to fourteen days. The calibre of reforms—for instance, as remarked by the December 1999 Report of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) about the computerization of the Tax Administration System as “world class”—remains highly regarded until the present. The IMF Report continued to say that “many developed countries would benefit from…” this particular reform.61 Likewise, the Computerization of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) Customs Administration System occasioned an award from the World Customs Organization in July 1998.62

The Ramos administration resolved 75,087 cases within the required sixty-day period (from ninety days or more) by the Department of Justice’s Prosecution Service. And the computerization of the court system nationwide transpired quickly, with four hundred fifty personal computers in the Supreme Court and one to three units in each Regional Trial Court to facilitate the sorting of cases, and enhance case retrieval systems, docketing, and other procedures for delivering justice.

Taking pride in his being a Career Executive Service Officer63 (CESO), President Ramos placed a premium on professionalizing the bureaucracy and instilling pride and satisfaction in public service. He shared this goal while celebrating the awardees for public service during the 92nd CSC Anniversary on 14 September 1992:

What we shall do rather is to develop the full potential of each and every government employee in the mold of our honorees today.      

I understand the Civil Service Commission is accelerating its human resource development efforts at all levels of the bureaucracy. This program deserves  the highest priority and support.  And I hereby direct the Department of Budget and  Management to work closely with the CSC in this undertaking—particularly in giving this effort the budgetary support that it needs.    

But an organization can only be as good as the people in it, specifically their skills and their attitudes.  We have to develop and nurture our most precious human resource which is the skilled and dedicated public  servant.  It is high time we act purposively on the shortcomings of government and the people in it. To me there is hope in the Philippine bureaucracy. As our honorees today have demonstrated, the government employees can rise above the stereotype of mediocrity and excel and find satisfaction in the service of our country and people.    

Under my administration, job performance and ethical behavior are qualities that are to be given equal importance and recognition. The bottom-line after all is efficient, effective, and dedicated public service.

President Ramos reiterated his vision for public servants in his Ulat sa Bayan on 3 January 1994:

[W]e will continue to make the bureaucracy more responsive, more transparent, and more service oriented.  Aside from streamlining our operations, we will upgrade morale and welfare programs for public servants to increase their productivity and efficiency.      

At the same time, we will enforce greater accountability and self-reliant performance on the part of government officials at all levels.

Towards this end, the CSC adopted a three-pronged approach that involved recognizing and awarding efficient and courteous public service and penalizing the opposite behavior; providing opportunities for skills and knowledge enhancement; and recruiting promising talent to join the civil service. To institutionalize courtesy and quick service to the public as standard norms of behavior among government employees, such behavior was incentivized via a system that conferred immediate recognition on employees for acts of courtesy and prompt delivery of services. A related program, Mamamayan Muna, Hindi Mamaya Na,64 was launched in 1994 to address discourtesy, arrogance, and inefficiency in the civil service. The program provided the public with a redress mechanism for grievances against discourteous government employees and for red tape in government agencies. A client feedback mechanism was built to improve public service, allowing the general public and members of the bureaucracy to report instances of discourtesy or inefficiency, as well as prompt, efficient, and honest service.

A local scholarship program was provided to improve capacity in the bureaucracy. It included a Master’s Degree Program grant for government employees who passed the selection criteria set by the CSC to pursue graduate studies in their chosen area of expertise. Bachelor’s Degree Completion scholarship grants were made available to qualified government personnel desiring to complete their academic deficiency to earn a bachelor’s degree. This was available only to those who had one more year of collegiate study in order to matriculate with a degree. Skilled Workers’ Skills Upgrading Courses were grants to clerical, trade and craft personnel to pursue skills enhancement training and seminars. Meanwhile, the recruitment of exceptional individuals to professionalize and upgrade the Philippine bureaucracy became a priority track for the CSC. It launched the Brightest for the Bureaucracy Program65 (BBP) in 1995 to entice honor graduates and government examination top-notchers to start their career in public service.

Mamamayan Muna, Hindi Mamaya Na.
President Ramos placed a premium on professionalizing the bureaucracy and instilling pride and satisfaction in efficient
and courteous public service.
Ramos family archives
Malacañang on the ground, Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal.
President Ramos convened fortnightly cabinet meetings in the poorest provinces throughout his term for immediate and sustainable solutions for Filipinos in the countryside; consensus building through dialogue and exchange of information
ensured viable resolutions.
Ramos family archives
Responding to the demands of nationalism.
“We will continue to make the bureaucracy more responsive, more transparent, and more service oriented.  Aside from streamlining our operations, we will upgrade morale and welfare programs for public servants to increase their productivity and efficiency.”  
Ramos family archives
Empowering local government units.
The success of the Local Government Code hinged on the national government’s full support for local government units during the devolution process, a commitment which President Ramos fulfilled.
Ramos family archives

52  Republic Act No 6975, Section 43; People's Law Enforcement Boards (PLEBs) are created by the sangguniang panlungsod/bayan in every city and municipality; there shall be at least one (1) PLEB for every municipality and for each of the legislative districts in a city. The PLEB shall have jurisdiction to hear and decide citizen's complaints or cases filed before it against erring officers and members of the PNP. There shall be at least one (1) PLEB for every five hundred (500) city or municipal police personnel.
53 The term “people power” as it was used by the people themselves who joined the massive political action to defend the military rebels on EDSA, referred to zealous action involving individual volition more than partisan thrust. The term entered the Philippine political and cultural lexicon as a generic term for an empowered citizenry asserting its sentiments through street action, collaboration with government and development agencies, construction and maintenance of support systems especially during disasters, and performing as political actors on behalf of grassroots organizations.  
54 Article II, Section 23: “The State shall encourage non-governmental, community-based, or sectoral organizations that promote the welfare of the nation.” Article XIII, Section 15: “The State shall respect the role of independent people’s organizations to enable the people to pursue and protect, within the democratic framework, their legitimate and collective interests and aspirations through peaceful and lawful means.” Article XIII, Section 16: “The right of the people and their organizations to effective and reasonable participation at all levels of social, political and economic decision-making shall not be abridged. The state shall, by law, facilitate the establishment of adequate consultation mechanisms.”
55 Memorandum Circular No. 24, series of 1992, Civil Service Commission.
56 Memorandum Circular No. 15, series of 1994, Civil Service Commission.
57 OECD, OECD Investment Policy Reviews: Philippines 2016 (Paris: OECD Publishing, 2016),
58 Official development assistance (ODA). OECD Better Policies for Better Lives.
59 Local Governance Support Program for Local Economic Development (LGSP-LED). Department of the Interior and Local Government Region XII.
60 Philippines: Regional Municipal Development Project. ADB.
61 mplementation Completion Report on a Loan in the Amount of USD 63 million to the Republic of the Philippines for Tax Computerization Project, Report No. 20554, June 29, 2000, Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Unit (PREM), East Asia and Pacific Region, and the World Bank.
62 Ibid.
64 Mamamayan muna, hindi mamaya" na is an alliterative wordplay in Pilipino, literally meaning, "The citizen first, not later." Both its humor and seriousness are simultaneously conveyed only in Filipino.