Birth

The future Philippine President was born at the end of the decade that saw the launch of the first Five Year Plan of the newly created Soviet Union. Simultaneously, Chinese Nationalists captured Beijing, ending China’s Warlord Era. Fourteen nations signed the Kellog-Briand Pact, a high point of anti-war idealism. However, the United States Stock Market crashed, leading to the Great Depression. Rioting exploded in Palestine. Penicillin was accidentally invented. The Dutch, French, British, and Americans are colonial powers in Southeast Asia.

18 March 1928

Fidel Valdez Ramos was born to patriots. Narciso Rueca Ramos, his father, was a Pangasinense public servant: a lawyer, journalist, assemblyman, and Secretary of Foreign Affairs (1965-1968). The elder Ramos served under 8 Philippine presidents. Fidel Ramos’ mother, the Ilocana Angela Valdez Ramos, was an educator, a suffragette, and a civic worker during the Second World War.

“Our parents raised, nurtured, and challenged us, their children, to value education, honesty, hard work, and frugality. They also taught us to be respectful to elders and to those in authority, to obey the law, and to love God, country, neighbors, and nature.”

early
Education

Heightened violence in the last 100 days of the Second World War, and aerial bombardment, destroyed 90% of Old Manila and its environs. The destruction preceded the razing to the ground of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by atomic bombs dropped by the United States. The European theater of war saw the defeat of Nazi Germany, and the carving out of East versus West blocks of the world’s political geography. The Cold War begins. The United Nations is established.

February 1945

The young Fidel was educated in the Pangasinan City of Lingayen and in Manila. He was 17 years old at the end of the Second World War, when he saw the 2nd most destroyed Allied city in the world: Manila. He graduated as a civil engineer, ranking 8th of the top 10 examinees in the nationally administered Civil Engineering Exam in 1953.

“I saw the massive damage when we came back to Manila after Liberation, sometime in February 1945. And when I was crossing the Pasig River on a pontoon bridge, put up by the American Liberation forces because the old Nagtahan Bridge had been blown up, I decided right then and there to become an engineer, in order to help in the reconstruction of the Philippines.”

West Point

The postwar period was framed by the Cold War, but prosperity was on the rise in Western economies. Population numbers surged. Pocket wars and debacles flared between countries left and right of the political spectrum, notably, in Cuba,  Korea, and Vietnam, which would become the major battleground of the clashing ideologies. The Space Race commenced, also along ideological lines. Decolonization picked up momentum, including in the newly established nations of Southeast Asia.

1950

Fidel V. Ramos was further educated at the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he enjoyed a scholarship and graduated with a civil engineering degree. The American milieu of the mid-20th century gave the aspiring soldier an immersive experience in liberal democracy. The ideals of duty, honor, and love of country became his creed. He commenced a lifetime pursuit of peace and development goals.

“In a much larger sense, we must recognize that any viable relationship with any other nation on earth must be based on our commitment to duty, honor, country—and the conduct and performance implied by this commitment. It will not always be easy to ascertain what this commitment demands, but we must always do our best to find it out.

The lessons here are clear. Amid diversities and clash of cultures, there will always be effective ways to introduce, nurture and strengthen democracy and to establish lasting relationships.”

Wars of the mid 20th cENTURY

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was established with the signing of the Bangkok Declaration. The Philippine signatory was Narciso Ramos, then Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Tensions nevertheless rose among Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia over the territory of Sabah. The Vietnam War, eventually lost by the United States, became the defining conflict of the period. Antiwar sentiment in the West and its spheres of influence would produce countercultural movements.

1951 - 1968

Fidel V. Ramos recovers from losing a kidney to tuberculosis and volunteers for the Korean War. Now considered military-textbook strategy, Ramos leads a historic victory of a 44-man team at Eerie Hill in the Korean War. Over in Vietnam, Second Lieutenant infantry platoon leader Ramos serves as a non-combat civil military engineer and Chief of Staff of the Philippine Civil Action Group (PHILCAG) which rebuilds roads and provides humanitarian aid, and on occasion, defensive operations.

“I fought the communists as part of the battalion combat teams, I went up the ladder. Battalion staff officer. Company commander. Task Force commander. Special Forces group commander. Brigade commander. All in different periods in our country. Huk campaign. Korean War campaign. The Vietnam War, and I was the head of the advance party of the PHILCAG that went to a tiny province at the Cambodian border — the so-called Alligator Jaw – War Zone Z where even Max Soliven said, ‘The Viet-Cong will eat us up.’ Of course, we were physically there as non-combat troops. But you try to be a non-combat troop in a combat area—that is the toughest kind of assignment.”

Internal Wars

The invention of the first microprocessor signaled radical technological advances. The 1970s saw parallel developments: the rise of authoritarianism in many countries of the world, but also the emergence of progressive social development ideas. Civil society became a mainstream force.

1972

Fidel V. Ramos was appointed Chief of the Philippine Constabulary (PC) and Chief of the Integrated National Police (INP) during the Administration of President Ferdinand E. Marcos. The PC of that time was part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and waged war against the New People’s Army (NPA), the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). These security sector leadership roles were in large measure performed during the Martial Law Regime (1972-1981).

“This caution is partly a lesson remembered from the colonial period — when the weak were wise to stay away from the quarrels of the strong. But it also results from an appreciation of the chance that the dismantling of the American naval and air bases removes a potential provocation to ASEAN’s giant neighbor — and invites China to live and let live with Southeast Asia.”

EDSA

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the superpower’s subsequent defeat, followed by the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, bracketed this period. The decline of the East at the end of this period precipitated wealth creation in the West. Global warming is recognized. The 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution in the Philippines was the first of many endings to authoritarianism, notably, in the nations of the Eastern bloc. Latin American dictatorships also ended.

1986

Two weeks after the fraudulent Presidential snap elections, Armed Forces Vice-Chief of Staff General Ramos and Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile split with President Marcos. The bolting of the defense establishment became the pivotal signal for the coming to surface of a decade of popular disaffection with military rule. The 4 day uprising — an uncharacteristically peaceful protest involving millions of Filipinos — culminated a long resistance marked by violence.

“There has become an elite Armed Forces of the Philippines that no longer represents the rank and officers’ corps of the Armed Forces. …The President of 1986 is not the President to whom we dedicated our service. It is clear that he no longer is the able and capable Commander-in-Chief that we count upon. … He has put his personal family interest above the interest of the people. We do not consider President Marcos as now being a duly constituted authority.”

Defending democracy

China doubled down against democracy forces and in 1989, student protests at Tiananmen Square descended into violence. Global shifts to democracy had meanwhile become the context for the drafting of the Human Development Index by the United Nations. Prior to its enactment, massive poverty and famines stalked the developing world. Live Aid was staged to assist Ethiopia. By the end of the 1980s, however, Islamism emerged immensely in the Middle East.

1986-1992

Nine failed coup attempts challenged the Philippines’ fragile democracy, threatening  the presidency of Corazon C. Aquino. Her National Defense Secretary Ramos defends the Constitution, standing by the Aquino government through the entirety of her term. A sophisticated peacemaker, Ramos quelled coups and eased tension as he continued to explore “win-win” resolutions to violent differences amongst Philippine populations.

“Even as we negotiate on three fronts to find a peaceful solution to the armed conflict through reforms, we will not turn back those who only wish for a place in the sun instead of the barrel of a gun.”

Election

The collapse of the Soviet Union allowed a new Russian Federation to emerge in 1992. A successful referendum in South Africa repeals over 4 decades of institutionalized racial segregation: apartheid.

30 June 1992

Fidel V. Ramos takes his oath as the 12th President of the Republic of the Philippines. Elected by a slim plurality to lead a fractious country and economy towards national development in a new millennium, Ramos confronted a radically changed environment with the contraction of American support, the rapid advance of capitalist systems throughout the world, and growing primacy of international economic issues. Managing global pressures and domestic demands and interests required insight and vision, and Ramos possessed both.

“Being president of the country is like being a juggler, balancing 10 balls in the air, but you’re not on the ground, you’re on a high wire, 100 meters up there, with no safety net below, but on the high wire, you’re not on your feet, you’re on a bicycle, you’re still juggling — that’s the nature of the job — very precarious, a little mistake might bring you down, if not the whole country.

The President is basically a generalist, a jack of all trades, but the members of the Cabinet must be specialists. The Cabinet must advice the President ahead of time.”

philippines 2000

The half-century old North Atlantic Treaty Organization expanded and pressed for  the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. In 1993, the Oslo Accords begin a peace process between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). In the United States, the World Trade Center was bombed. Hongkong was handed back to China by the United Kingdom. East Timor gained independence. Fourteen countries that composed the Soviet Union declared their new status as independent states.

26 July 1993

President Ramos sets a development course of Philippine transformation into a newly industrialized country within a decade. His Philippines 2000 — a whole of nation approach — galvanizes various stakeholders’ involvement in initiatives aimed at economic liberalization and structural reforms leading to sustainable growth and development that has eluded the Philippines since post-war independence. He took the global turn to democracy to strengthen economic support for Philippine democracy.

“The ultimate truth is that we cannot afford to fail—in our venture of reform and development. The consequences of failure will be grave.”

Pivotal
action agenda

The peace agreement President Ramos brokered with military rebels and the MNLF wins for him (together with Chairman Nur Misuari) and the Philippines the coveted UNESCO Peace Prize. The East Asian miracle—Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia—posts dramatic growth, reduced poverty and income inequality.

1992-1998

With emergency powers granted by Congress, President Ramos moved forward to arrest the power crisis by calling on investors to fast track energy reforms. Coalition and consensus building were front and center in pursuit of economic and structural reforms, the deregulation of key industries and the liberalization of the economy. He encouraged the privatization of public entities, to include the modernization of public infrastructure through the expanded Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) law. These initiatives turned the trade deficit into surplus and heralded the country’s emergence as the “Tiger Cub” economy.

In 1992, President Ramos repealed the Anti-Subversion Act of 1957. This move lent credence to — and buoyed confidence in — his administration’s commitment to strengthening democracy by addressing the symptoms and the root causes of rebellion: poverty, injustice, and ignorance.

“Today our country calls us, not to die but to live for it. The patriotism borne of revolution and war must give way to citizenship for peace and development, which means personal commitment, social obligation, civic responsibility. If each of us pulled his or her weight, then we as a nation can be bound together not only by the common memory of our past sufferings but by the progress we can enjoy together."

Social
reform agenda

Trade liberalization accelerates through reduced or eliminated tariffs on imports and exports. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) among the United States, Mexico, and Canada came into effect. Revolutionary leader and icon for social justice Nelson Mandela is elected President of South Africa after 27 years of political imprisonment. The Suharto dictatorship ended in Indonesia. Aung San Suu Kyi’s Party wins in Myanmar. England’s Margaret Thatcher government ends. Deng Xiao Ping’s economic reforms take root in China.

June 1994

The Ramos Government formalized the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan in 1993, a precursor to the Social Reform Agenda which focused on leveling the playing field towards growth and equity. Through statecraft, President Ramos worked with diverse interests to press for economic liberalization, social inclusion, and political reforms where every Filipino is both participant and beneficiary. It was during this time that  the average income of the Filipino family grew more than in the preceding two decades.

“Perhaps because I am a military man by training and an engineer and builder by background, I brought to the presidency a different view of how problems should be faced and mastered…Trials and challenges for me are not debates over principles and dogmas. They must rather be overcome in the most pragmatic, cost effective, and fastest way.”

Elder statesman

Natural disasters of unprecedented scale marks the arrival of the 21st century, and Climate Change convinces many global leaders to action. The 21st century turned on high momentum globalization, with its growing concern over human and ecological security, and optimism about the democratization of data. However, the Financial Crisis of 2008 halted unbridled capitalist growth. Continuing global inequity drives the emergence of sustainable development as a mainstream ideal in leadership circles. The rise of Islamic and Christian fundamentalism fuels large-scale conflict. Nevertheless, what is arguably the single most pivotal event of this period are the 9 September 2011 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.

1998-2022

Political stability and rapid equitable economic growth are the hallmarks of the Ramos presidency. Retired but not tired — as he is wont to say — he continues his duties as a citizen, promoting peace and development in the Philippines and in the larger Asia-Pacific region. Together with former Australian PM Bob Hawke, and former Prime Minister of Japan Morihiro Hosokawa, Ramos founded the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA), a premier forum for leaders in government, business and academia in Asia and other continents committed to promoting regional economic integration and bringing Asian countries closer to their development goals. Ramos is a founding Member of the Global Leadership Foundation, a network of former Presidents, Prime Ministers, senior government ministers and other distinguished leaders —drawn together by a desire to give something back to the world.

“You may have retired from your uniform, you may have retired from your career as a public servant, but you never retire from your duties as a citizen of the Republic of the Philippines. In the end, it’s three meals a day, it’s a better home, it’s insurance for the kids so that they can finish college and the ability to travel and learn about other people after retirement — this is the ambition of every family.”

THE LEGACY CONTINUES

Remarkable growth in technology offers a spectrum of digital platforms. A pandemic outranking the outbreak of SARS-COV, Ebola and the Zika virus, COVID-19 infects more than 700 million people with deaths in the millions. Advanced medical technology aided global pharmaceutical companies to develop and deploy vaccine posthaste.

More women leaders ascend into positions of power and simultaneous events buttress global relations. International treaties advanced response to climate change and global warming as space agencies launched several unmanned spacecraft for exploratory missions to Mars to determine its potential to sustain life. Prosecution of crimes against humanity found a platform in the creation of the International Criminal Court. The African Union is founded, China entered the World Trade Organization, the Euro commenced circulation, Switzerland joined the United Nations, Croatia enlisted in the European Union as the United Kingdom initiated withdrawal, and the largest free trade bloc with a third of the world’s population established the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

31 July 2022

News of the passing of former President Fidel V. Ramos elicited overwhelming expressions of condolences and tributes from the world over. These sentiments permeated throughout his homeland with flags at half mast, signifying a nation in mourning following the loss of its 12th President, the only five star general on national record. Lying in state for nine days, one witnessed a continuous, constant stream of individuals from varied interests and persuasions, sharing stories, invaluable lessons and distinct experiences woven through tributes and testimonials. Ramos was accorded full military honors, followed by a State Funeral and was laid to rest at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

“The pole-vaulting strategy I have articulated is the Ramos administration’s legacy to future administrations. The tasks it sets for both government and civil society may take not just years but decades to realize in their fullness. Carrying out the pole-vaulting strategy is inherently the shared responsibility of all levels of government and of all sectors of society. Hence, we should continue to draw on the spirit of unity, solidarity, and teamwork that has energized our efforts these past five years. How should I like history to sum up these years during which this country’s political affairs have been entrusted to the Ramos presidency? The best thing we did has not merely been to restore the economy to the path of growth. I would say our greatest accomplishment has been to bring back the Filipino’s sense of self-respect and pride; of faith in ourselves and of confidence in the future.”