Soldier Back at the Homefront

Campaign to Quell the Huk

The Platoon Commander in the Huk and Korean campaigns became Company Commander in the Sierra Madre Range of eastern Luzon against communist insurgents. Then he was organizer and Commander of the Special Forces Group (Airborne), the Philippine Army version of the US Green Berets; Assistant G3 (Operations) of the 3rd Army Infantry Division, and PHILCAG’s G3; and then its Chief of Staff. Fidel V. Ramos rose through the military ranks, performing to the demands of each decade’s version of the same ideological confrontations. His lifetime coincided with the contests played out throughout the 20th century between antagonistic political philosophies which divided the community of nations into either side of “curtains”—the Iron Curtain creating a Western and Eastern Europe, and the Bamboo Curtain setting China apart from East and Southeast Asia.

His forte was intelligence and psychological-war operations, and he burnished a reputation for perennially outsmarting his adversaries. These were warrior skills honed in 20th century wars, which were in large measure mind games: outmaneuvering the opposite force to yield superior information; projecting a steely will to cow target subjects; and deft, highly informed moves. But as in previous centuries, armed combat with state-of-the-art weaponry remained the soldier’s lethal primary tools. Trained and tested as a straightforward military professional, the 1960s Lieutenant Colonel Ramos mobilized skills at troop command level, whether in combat, law enforcement, civilian-military civic action, or Army, Navy, and Air Force joint operations. His leadership was also sharpened by the self-evident gumption to be able to do everything he commanded everyone else to do.

When he began in the 1950s prior to his deployment to the Korean War, Platoon Commander Ramos was a soldier in his 20s tasked to root out the remaining Huk bands. President Ramon Magsaysay had already found a successful approach to the rebellion of organized farmers who fought the Japanese Occupation and continued on to a class war in Central Luzon and Panay Island in the Visayas—titled land in Mindanao was offered to surrenderees.19 Thousands of rebels took up the offer, but there remained a number of bands holed up in the rainforest of Luzon’s Sierra Madre. Captain Ramos was among the first from several generations of young Filipino soldiers sent to challenging terrains to fight Communist guerrillas of different Marxist persuasions.

The Philippine tropical mountains where soldiers were sent to fight the Low Intensity Conflict dimension of the Cold War was a theater similar to the tropical thickets that US soldiers fought in Vietnam the following decade. A harsh death was normal in either environment. As told by Jose Almonte, a close and constant Ramos associate who eventually became brigadier general, near the end of the anti-Huk campaign they found themselves in guerrilla turf:

In the late ‘50s, I was a second lieutenant, leading  a platoon posted in the Gilingan sector of the Sierra Madre, on the Laguna-Quezon border. A company only a few kilometers away was commanded by Captain Fidel V. Ramos, with whom I often visited—to feast on hard-boiled condensed milk. Our mission was to interdict remnants of the dissident Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan traversing Gilingan to and from the Central Plains.

Now and then, a patrol would bring in a Huk’s body, slung up on a bamboo pole like a deer. We, too, suffered the occasional casualty, but by then the insurgency had died down enough for Captain Ramos and I, sitting together on a hill in the slanting afternoon sunlight,  to ask ourselves why we were killing our own people.

Only gradually—perhaps because soldiers are not supposed to reason why—and much later, when the 1986 People Power Revolution set us free from our political innocence, did we come to realize how we as a people have divided into two nations… and become a country at war within itself.

Only from the vantage point of the Presidency from 1992 to 1998 was General Ramos able to answer this question. But only partially because…from the experience of East Asia’s tiger economies…we  would need at least eighteen years…or three Philippine Presidential terms…to put in place a reformed political infrastructure that would be both enduring and self-sustaining.

Up to this day, as a private citizen, the former President is still engaged in helping reform the nation to complete the answer to the same question we asked ourselves more than half a century ago.22

The same ideological opposite force had to be met by the Philippine armed services through the next half century and into the 21st century. Part of its longevity is owed to the energy produced by the break in the early 1970s between the new Maoist CPP-NPA-NDF, with its different leadership and ideological inflection, and its predecessor Leninist party. In the same pivotal decade, General Fidel V. Ramos took charge of the Philippine Constabulary (PC), the country’s earliest established armed service. As a constabulary force, its mission was general law and order; and it had indeed served as the Filipino police force from the period of its establishment under the American Occupation in the early 20th century. By the mid-20th century, the PC’s work needed to address insurgency throughout the country. This meant that aside from quelling the Communist rebellion, the PC needed to keep order in an explosive Mindanao where Muslim Filipinos had commenced a war to secede from the Philippines.

The Vietnam War ended with the Americans losing to the North Vietnamese. The loss set the US’ trajectory of emphasizing diplomacy and propaganda to win the ideological contest of a still on-going Cold War. But as the US and its adversaries China and Russia raced each other for predominance in the world order, the Filipino soldier continued to be mired in guerrilla warfare. The Communist rebellion would turn out to be the longest in the world, and is still unfinished up to the present. And the Muslim secessionist war was to only find resolution with the conclusion of the 1990s peace process, regarded as a historic moment for the Philippines, as it marked the end of a twenty-four-year secessionist war. The Peace Agreement was signed on 2 September 1996 by Ambassador (and former Armed Forces Chief of Staff) Manuel T. Yan as Chairman of the GRP, and the MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari, a Tausug former student leader in the University of the Philippines. Hamid Al-Ghabid, Secretary-General of the OIC, was also a signatory. The significance of the event was marked globally when both President Ramos and Mr. Misuari were awarded the Félix Houphouët-Boigny UNESCO Peace Prize in 1997, by a unanimous vote of the whole UN membership. In these fifty years of war, General Ramos would play various leading roles, but always as a defender of the democratic way of life. In more than a decade as PC-INP Chief, concurrent Vice Chief of Staff, Acting Chief of Staff, then finally Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, he continued pursuing internal reforms in the armed services. His commitment to the defense of the Philippine state did not waver through his entire career.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines went on full counter-subversion campaigns from the years immediately after the 2nd World War
up to the late 1950s.
The soldiers were deployed in obscure and difficult terrains, such as the Sierra Madre Mountain Range,
where Captain Fidel V. Ramos saw action.
Ramos family archives
Briefing on counter-subversion and
counter-insurgency missions.
Captain Fidel V. Ramos briefed military peers on measures to counter the Huk rebellion which was gaining momentum.
Ramos family archives
The First Special Forces Company Airborne, Philippine Army at Fort Magsaysay, Laur, Nueva Ecija.
Fort Magsaysay was a key launching pad for
the anti-Huk campaign.
Ramos family archives
Captain Fidel V. Ramos in discussion at a mess hall.
The Filipino soldier in the anti-Huk campaign fought guerrillas that continued operations even after the 2nd World War.  
Ramos family archives

Serving Under Martial Law

On 30 December 1965, Ferdinand E. Marcos was elected to his first term as the 10th Philippine President. He won against then-incumbent President Diosdado Macapagal on a platform of economic reform. To fulfill his campaign promise, President Marcos took out loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to finance infrastructure projects in the country. At the same time, and among other large-scale initiatives, President Marcos launched covert operations to pursue the claim of the Sultanate of Sulu over the territory of Sabah, at that time still called British North Borneo. However, the proprietary claim, regarded internationally as legitimate, was folded into a larger sovereignty claim that verged on territorial aggression. A secret commando unit, composed largely of Muslim Tausug and Sama recruits from Jolo and Tawi-Tawi of the Sulu Archipelago, was trained and shaped into what would have amounted to an invasion force.

According to existing accounts of the training, difficulties arose concerning funding and the recruits’ basic needs. The difficulties reached such a level that members of the unit refused to participate in further training and asked to be returned to their Sulu homes instead. On 18 March 1968, faced with imminent exposure, the military handlers of the clandestine operation killed sixty-eight of the recruits. Henceforth called the Jabidah Massacre, the event triggered incendiary sentiments among Muslims in the Philippines. The Jabidah Massacre was the proximate cause of the formation on 1 May 1968 of the Mindanao Independence Movement (MIM). The short-lived MIM was the first organization overtly formed to call for Mindanao’s Muslim-majority areas’ secession from the republic. The MIM did not generate widespread support from Muslim Filipinos, but the subsequent formation of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was to inspire revolutionary action as evidenced by the quick increase in the number of their fighters.

These developments elicited an aggressive reaction from the mostly Christian settlers in traditionally Muslim lands in Mindanao. They had been awarded homesteads and farms in the 1950s and 1960s, so they were resolved to defend their titled properties from feared Muslim aggression. By the end of the 1960s, many farmer-settlers organized themselves into paramilitary troops harboring cult-like beliefs. Calling themselves ilagâ (“rat” in Hiligaynon, the language of the settlers who first formed these groups), they went through Central Mindanao’s Muslim villages killing residents, torching homes, and driving survivors into refugee camps. Verified accounts have placed command responsibility on the Marcos administration.

In December 1968, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) was established, rendering obsolete the previous Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP), organized in the early 20th century. The shift involved a Maoist turn from the previous Leninist formation. It was the mid-century CPP that organized the New People’s Army to serve as its military arm. The CPP-NPA immediately engaged the Philippines’ military services in armed conflict, and overtly sought the downfall of the constitutional order. At the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, both the CPP-NPA and the MNLF were still few in number and had little power to realize their political and military objectives.

Meanwhile, President Marcos delivered on his 1965 campaign promise to launch USD 50 million worth of infrastructure projects (including the construction of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, an iconic structure designed by National Artist Leandro Locsin), ensuring his re-election in November 1969. However, the massive loans he incurred to guarantee this reelection resulted in a balance of payments crisis. This required his administration to negotiate with the IMF for debt rescheduling. The IMF agreed but imposed the adoption of a stabilization plan which included allowing the Philippine peso to float and devalue to its natural level, and shifting from import substitution industrialization to export-oriented industrialization. The IMF stabilization plan triggered inflationary effects in the Philippine economy. Increased gasoline prices coupled with the beginning decline of the sugar and coconut industries caused unprecedented hardship for drivers and operators of public transportation, and the vast number of farming communities.

Popular disaffection fed violent outrage, and in the year following President Marcos’ reelection student protests became progressively belligerent. They erupted into what was to be called  the First Quarter Storm—zealous demonstrations against the iron hand that President Marcos increasingly brandished. Alleged election cheating and corruption in the Marcos administration incensed increasing numbers of Filipinos. The Storm commenced with President Marcos and First Lady Imelda Marcos being confronted by student protesters after his delivery of the State of the Nation Address (SONA) outside the Old Legislative Building in Manila on 26 January 1970. This was followed shortly by the “Battle of Mendiola” on 30 January, where student protesters marched from the Old Congress Building to Malacañang. They managed to enter the palace grounds where they were met by members of the Presidential Guard Battalion. Repelling the protesters out of the palace and onto Mendiola Bridge, the Presidential Guards successfully dispersed the protesters by opening fire. Four students died.

On 18 and 26 February, a People’s Congress organized by the Movement for a Democratic Philippines (MDP) was conducted at Plaza Miranda. The assembly participants then marched to the US Embassy to denounce US support for the Marcos administration. On 3 March 1970, MDP organized the People’s March from Welcome Rotonda to Plaza Lawton to the US Embassy. The People’s March coincided with a transport strike protesting the collection of bribes (more popularly known as “tong”) by policemen from jeepney and bus drivers and operators. The First Quarter Storm concluded with the Second People’s March and People’s Tribunal which saw protesters converging at Plaza Moriones in Tondo, traversing the poor communities in Tondo, and ending at the US Embassy where the protesters were dispersed by a waiting police contingent armed with tear gas. The First Quarter Storm was followed by a large rally at Plaza Miranda which ended in a street battle between protesters and a joint military and police force. Finally, on 29 December 1970, Lieutenant Victor Corpus, reinforced by members of the CPP-NPA, raided the armory at the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio where he had served as an instructor.

It was during this tumultuous period that forty-six year old Brigadier General Fidel V. Ramos was assigned to lead the Philippine Constabulary (PC). General Ramos faced the entire gamut of belligerents, insurgencies, and other expressions of civil unrest. The year 1971 proved as turbulent as 1970. The turmoil began with the Diliman Commune which lasted from 1 to 9 February. Akin to the Paris commune, this event involved students and members of their families, as well as the faculty and residents of University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, who together with transport workers, conducted protests within the Diliman campus against the three centavo increase in oil prices and the military's intrusion into the campus. On 21 August, the opposition Liberal Party was conducting its election campaign at Plaza Miranda when grenades were lobbed onto the stage, injuring its roster of candidates for top government positions. Among those seriously injured was the venerable Senator Jovito Salonga who nearly lost his eyesight.

On 1 June 1970, prior to the Plaza Miranda bombing, a Philippine Constitutional Convention was convened to rewrite the 1935 Constitution. Among the amendments proposed by President Marcos was the constitutional wherewithal to allow him to run again for president, beyond the constitutional two-year term limit. Subsequently, in May 1972, Imelda Marcos and three other cohorts were accused of bribing delegates who were opposed to the amendments proposed by President Marcos. On 11 January 1972, President Marcos suspended the constitutional provision of the writ of habeas corpus, which provided for a citizen’s right to be seen bodily after arrest. The suspension meant that arrested citizens may disappear entirely from public view.

Outrage produced an environment in which multiple bombing incidents pervaded daily life. A bombing run which began in March lasted until September 1972. The first site of the bombings was the Asia Building along Taft Avenue in Pasay City. This was followed by monthly bombings at various sites which included, among others, the Court of Industrial Relations, Philamlife, Far East Bank and Trust Co., Daily Star Publications Buildings, Senate Publication Division, Tabacalera Cigar and Cigarette Factory, and the Manila and Quezon City Hall buildings.  The Marcos administration blamed the bombings on the urban guerrillas of the CPP-NPA. However, it was observed that the only suspects caught were associated with certain PC personalities.

On 5 July 1972, members of the PC intercepted an arms and ammunition shipment onboard MV Karagatan at Digoyo Point in Isabela. The Marcos administration identified the CPP-NPA as the intended recipient of the attempted smuggling of an arms cache. The interception was and remains a signal achievement of the PC. The arms came from China as support for Communist partisans in the Philippines. On 13 September 1972, then-Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino revealed “Oplan Sagittarius” based on information provided by General Marcos Soliman. It was allegedly the President's plan to place Greater Manila, the Province of Bulacan, and the towns of Rizal under military control as a prelude to Martial Law. Following Senator Aquino’s disclosure, President Marcos on 16 September declassified a confidential report of Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile claiming that Senator Aquino met with CPP founder and leader Jose Maria Sison. The disclosure was intended to insinuate collaboration between the Liberal Party and the CPP.

Events rapidly escalated, punctuated by the alleged assassination attempt on Defense Secretary Enrile within his village in the early evening of 22 September 1972.  Following reports of the ambush and survival of Secretary Enrile, President Marcos declared Martial Law by virtue of Proclamation 1081. In the same evening, President Marcos issued Letter of Instructions 1 ordering the closure of media establishments and wire agencies. Shortly before midnight, Senator Aquino was arrested. Early the following morning of 23 September, President Marcos appointed Brigadier General Ramos as PC Chief. Shortly thereafter, media practitioners and opposition figures were arrested, and media outlets, including broadsheets Manila Times, Daily Mirror, Manila Chronicle, Manila Daily Bulletin, Philippine Daily Express, Philippines Herald, Philippine Free Press, Graphic, and Nation were all shut down. However, media outlets owned by known Marcos crony Roberto Benedicto, which included the newspaper Daily Express and television and radio stations of Kanlaon Broadcasting System, were allowed to continue operating.

In his capacity as PC Chief, General Ramos headed the Command for the Administration of Detainees (CAD), which oversaw the arrest and detention of the Marcos regime's political prisoners, including prominent politicians, journalists, academics, and student leaders. In addition to arresting journalists, Ramos also took on the task of enforcing the closure of media outlets. Upon their arrests in the opening hours of the Martial Law regime, the prominent journalists Teodoro Locsin Sr., Joaquin “Chino” Roces, Amando Doronila, Luis Beltran, Maximo Soliven, Juan Mercado, and Luis Mauricio were met by General Ramos, who was quoted as saying, "Nothing personal, gentlemen. I was ordered to neutralize you. Please cooperate. We'll try to make things easier for you."

Because he was in command of the PC and the person who issued arrest orders, Ramos is broadly thought to bear command responsibility for some of the military brutality during this period.  Nevertheless, the esteemed writer Jose Dalisay Jr. observed of General Ramos: “I do have to say that even having gone to martial-law prison, I think much less of FVR as my jailer than the general who rebelled against his CIC (commander-in-chief) at EDSA, and who (unlike his partner Juan Ponce Enrile) never turned back on that decision.”21

Primitivo Mijares, a novelist, journalist, and former National Media Advisory Council head to President Marcos, spoke of General Ramos’ Martial Law record thus:  “In the military, I could only point out [sic] to General Fidel V. Ramos, Constabulary Chief, as the only relatively clean ranking officer of the armed forces.”

Brigadier General Ramos was promoted to Major General in 1973, by which time President Marcos integrated the PC with the nationwide police force to create the Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police (PC-INP), whose first head was Director General Ramos. His leadership manner was clear from the outset. Intensive inspections of local police units were routine throughout the country, so that the PC Chief understood local issues of corruption, abuse, and conflicts related to dynastic rule. Self-styled PC “protectors” did not prosper. General Ramos was early to understand reform and development work as fundamental to constructing conditions of law and order. As Concurrent Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, General Ramos articulated his grasp of social problems in a J-2 intelligence report of 1971:

Our short history as a nation has taught us that a problem of this nature and magnitude cannot be solved overnight and can only be remedied by a combined aggressive military campaign against lawless elements and long-range government measures in the social economic field. The government has thus exerted efforts in the proper direction in instituting a military reaction to the distressed area together with the fielding of other government agencies to provide a solution in its home socio-economic problems. However, with the present military activity, so much lies in the sincerity [of the] efforts of the administration to effect social economic reforms.

The same purview—the demand for battlefield superiority buttressed by an institutional grip on the roots of social unrest—was put to the test in Mindanao. On 23 October 1972 in Cebu, Brigadier General Ramos received reports of an attack by four hundred Muslim barracudas (named after a large carnivorous fish with razor sharp teeth) in Marawi City, Mindanao. These self-styled militias, associated with elite Maranao families, were dramatically scaling up Muslim response to the depredations committed by the Christian settler ilagâ. Between 1968 and 1972, massacres of Muslim villages in Central Mindanao were perpetrated, and indeed proudly admitted, by these armed, tattooed, and cult-like ilagâ.22 Muslim Filipinos believed, with ample reason, that these militias were supported by the state. The barracuda assault on government facilities in the Islamic City of Marawi, Lanao del Sur, was large-scale. An AFP report documented General Ramos’ response. He was accompanied by a few staff officers and a four-vehicle convoy:

… linked up physically with government troops, while a fierce gun battle was raging. Arriving at a time when government troops could barely hold on to their positions, General Ramos, being the most senior officer… personally reorganized the defenses by strengthening fighting positions and realigning the troops in key areas, and rallying them to carry on the fight. Facing an enemy force of superior strength and firepower, he issued timely orders and provided firm leadership that uplifted the spirits of the battered defenders…. The sheer courage of General Ramos, despite the precarious situation they were all in, paid off as the midnight attack by the rebels which lasted up to daybreak failed to take over the camp.… By this heroic achievement, General Ramos contributed immensely to the command’s early crushing of the rebellion….

After defeating the barracudas, General Ramos repaired to the Marawi municipal hall for discussions with officials and a number of residents gathered in the aftermath. They affirm the need to ease fear and to be united in the face of violence.23 The general’s message only bought a little time under the dire circumstances of that period in Mindanao history. The festering disaffection of Muslim Filipino communities was to erupt into full-scale war in the following months. The Marawi event quelled by PC Chief Ramos was just the beginning of a protracted armed conflict in Mindanao that killed over 120,000 people in the next half century, an estimate that included combatants on both sides, as well as considerable collateral damage.24 A vast refugee crisis occurred intermittently; more than a million people experienced internal displacement. The Mindanao war to quell the separatist ambition of Muslim Filipinos was fought by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, with the deployment of three-fourths of the Philippine Army by 1975.25 No longer a police matter, the theater of war was given to General Ramos’ peers, commencing with the creation of the Central Mindanao Command (CEMCOM) under General Fortunato Abat.

Taking on the Communist insurgency remained the responsibility of the PC-INP. General Ramos stayed active in Mindanao as well, with the CPP-NPA-NDF expanding its reach across the archipelago over the next decade, establishing strongholds in the eastern and other parts of Mindanao. In his first Annual Report as PC Chief, General Ramos observed the early success of the Marcos Martial Law in establishing disciplinary order. Crime incidence was at its lowest levels in decades; smugglers, carnappers, narcotics traffickers, thieves, and other crooks linked to criminal syndicates could not ramp up the scale of their operations. More than 25,000 were jailed in the early years (this number included individuals arrested for subversion). Over 19,000 of them were released after the cessation of violent demonstrations and strikes, and after acquittal or the grant of release by Secretary of National Defense Juan Ponce Enrile. The PC attended to the proliferation of loose firearms with a drop box scheme in strategic areas in Metropolitan Manila and other parts of the country. Unlawfully owned guns could be surrendered at these stations, foregoing the obligation to go to Camp Crame or police stations. By October 1974, the second year of martial rule, the PC had collected over 500,000 unlicensed firearms from all over the archipelago.

Among other measures, the drive to stanch the untrammeled possession of firearms dramatically reduced criminality in the country as martial rule continued. But civil liberties were restrained, and the number of political prisoners increased. In the fourteen years of Martial Law, nearly 12,000 instances of proven human rights abuses were committed by state forces, according to the present day Human Rights Commission, which vetted more than 80,000 claims.26 As Martial Law excesses increased, PC Chief Ramos telegraphed to his inner circle his bottom line position on the side of Constitutional order. And while advocating internally for reform, he progressively distanced himself from the President and his inner circle. But he was outmaneuvered by a Malacañang Palace clique abetted by General Fabian Ver. PC Chief Ramos, accounted for his performance thus:

There’s no need for me to be remorseful…. During Martial Law I maintained a high degree of professionalism and contributed to making it less harsh for people. I’d just implemented what was considered legal directives of my superiors.

It came to a point when he decided that he could no longer follow orders.

Decades later, during a press conference held in November 2016, former President Ramos was puzzled why Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos had pointed to him (and not her father, Ferdinand) for being responsible, as PC Chief, for the human rights abuses committed during Martial Law. President Ramos replied:

Why should I make the apology? I hope you people remember your history. My apology was more than an apology in the Christian tradition to confess and then you atone. My atonement was leading the military and police during the EDSA People’s Power Revolution from 22 to 25 of February 1986 and I stand by that record. It’s here in the history books.

In addition, the AFP contributed during the Martial Law period to nation building in the field of construction, as cited for instance in the Official Gazette: “AFP engineer battalions completed a total of PHP 1.33B worth of infrastructure projects from 1973 to 1981.”27 In 1975, all civic and municipal police forces in the country were integrated by decree, and it became known as the Integrated National Police (INP), and under the control and supervision of the Philippine Constabulary. As head of the PC, Ramos was ex-officio the INP's first concurrent Director-General.

President Marcos lifted Martial Law on 17 January 1981, but continued to retain absolute powers. In the same year, General Ramos was one of the candidates for the position of Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as the successor to General Romeo Espino who was retiring as the nation's longest serving chief of staff. General Ramos was appointed AFP Vice Chief of Staff, with a rank of three-star general, losing the top military post to General Fabian Ver.

On 12 May 1983, a new unit was organized, pursuant to General Order 323 of Philippine Constabulary Headquarters, to deal with so-called "terrorist-related" crimes. Named the Philippine Constabulary Special Action Force , the unit’s co-founders were General Fidel Ramos and General Renato de Villa. General de Villa tapped Colonel Rosendo Ferrer and General Sonny Razon to organize a Special Action Force. Thus was formulated a training program called the SAF Ranger Course, which was the basis for training the first generation of 149 SAF troopers. This was a composite team of 26 commissioned officers and 123 enlisted personnel from different PC units such as the defunct PC Brigade, the Long Range Patrol Battalion (LRP), the K-9 Support Company, PC Special Organized Group, the Light Reaction Unit (LRU) of PC METROCOM, the Constabulary Off-shore Action Command (COSAC), and other PC units. The training course was subsequently renamed the SAF Commando Course.

During his speech at the commemoration of Philippine Constabulary Day on 8 August 1983, President Marcos announced the removal of Defense Minister Enrile from the chain of command, and the creation of a new arrangement with himself as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, replacing then-AFP Chief of Staff General Fabian Ver.  President Marcos also removed the operational control of the Integrated National Police from the Philippine Constabulary under General Ramos and transferred its direct control to General Ver. The result of the latter move effectively provided the Constabulary with only administrative supervision over the INP.

When General Ver was implicated in the assassination of former Senator Aquino on 21 August 1983, General Ramos was appointed acting AFP Chief of Staff until Ver's reinstatement in 1985 after he was acquitted of charges related to the killing.

Philippine Constabulary Chief Fidel V. Ramos and Secretary of National Defense Juan Ponce Enrile looking over the uniform of a member of the “Blackshirts.”
This group—that fought the cult-like forces of Christian settler paramilitary groups called Ilaga—was firstly rumored to be the military arm of the Mindanao Independence Movement (MIM), the first openly secessionist movement in the Philippines.
Ramos family archives
The assumption of the command over
the Philippine Constabulary, the oldest
armed service branch in the Philippines.

General Ramos took over the PC (and subsequently, the PC-Integrated National Police) from General Eduardo Garcia in the year that Martial Law was imposed on the country.
Ramos family archives
The Generals and the Senator working together.
“Philippine Constabulary Chief General Fidel V. Ramos and Philippine Senator Benigno Aquino with Task Force Commander Brigadier General Tranquilino Paranos and journalist Tom Bacalzo at the interception of the MV Karagatan landing of firearms, ammunition, explosives and radios for the New Peoples Army from China, at Digoyo Point near Palanan, Isabela, 13 July 1972.”
Ramos family archives
General Ramos, only one week into his promotion as head of the Philippine Constabulary, engaging evacuees from fighting that erupted in Marawi City,
Lanao del Sur, 22 January 1972.
Rebel presence increased, and in October 1972, less than a month after the declaration of Martial Law, a large group of Maranaw youth (calling themselves Iklas) who were radicalized by historical injustice, attacked Banggolo, the Marawi commercial center, and attempted to take over the municipality. But they were stopped by the arrival of Philippine Constabulary Commander Ramos, who himself directed the defense and counteroffensive maneuvers.
Ramos family archives
Philippine Constabulary Chief, Director General Fidel V. Ramos receiving a serviceable weapon from a
Moro National Liberation Front rebel returnee.
The Muslim secessionist movements intensified
during the Martial Law years.
‍Ramos family archives

19 The distribution to former Huks of land in Mindanao—mostly untitled ancestral domains of Muslim and highland animist communities, and some of which were donated to the resettlement program by Muslim leaders—was conducted by several government agencies, like the Land Settlement Development Corporation (LASEDECO).  
20 See also Jose T. Almonte, Endless Journey: A Memoir (Quezon City: Cleverheads Publishing, 2015).
21 Jose Dalisay, Jr., “The President and his PaperMate,” Positively Filipino, August 3 2022,
22 Hiligaynon or Ilonggo is a language spoken in large parts of the Eastern Visayas island of Panay and neighboring Negros Occidental. Many Christian families who arrived to be resettled in Muslim ancestral domains, by the government of President Ramon Magsaysay belonged to this ethnolinguistic group. In due course, Filipinos of other language groups from Luzon and the Visayas arrived in Mindanao to homestead.
23 An eyewitness account is found in Macabangkit B. Lanto, “Flashback to Marawi in ’72,”, May 28, 2017,
24 Historian Thomas McKenna provides the gist of the emergence of the Muslim separatist movements: “By 1968, the CNI scholarship program had unintentionally created a group of young Muslim intellectuals schooled in political activism and able to articulate the frustrations both of Muslim students disaffected by their encounters with Christian cultural hegemony in Manila and of peripheralized Philippine Muslims in general. Their political efforts eventually led, in 1971, to the formation of the underground Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) headed by Nur Misuari. With the declaration of martial law by President Marcos in 1972 the MNLF began an armed separatist insurgency against the Philippine state.”
25 Thomas M. McKenna, “The Origins of the Muslim Separatist Movement in the Philippines,” Asia Society,
26 The Human Rights Violations Memorial Commission, a body created by law, received these claims and processed each of them. More than 11,000 individuals received financial compensation, the funds sourced from the successfully prosecuted class suit against President Marcos in Hawaii, United States.
27 “The Final Report of the Fact-Finding Commission, October 3, 1990,” Official Gazette,