Fidel Ramos

Fidel Ramos’ achievements as president and public servant: Economy, peace

Jodesz Gavilan, Sofia Guanzon, Loreben Tuquero
Fidel Ramos’ achievements as president and public servant: Economy, peace

SPEAKING TO MEDIA. Former president Fidel Ramos answers questions from journalists in Makati City.

Lito Boras/Rappler

(1st UPDATE) Rappler looks back at the various achievements and contributions of former president Fidel V. Ramos

MANILA, Philippines – Former president Fidel V. Ramos died on Sunday, July 31. He was 94 years old.

Ramos served as the 12th president of the Philippines from 1992 to 1998, following Corazon Aquino’s term and after serving several key government positions, including chief of the Philippine Constabulary and chief-of-staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Rappler looks back at the various achievements and contributions of Ramos. 

Military career

Before entering politics, Ramos enjoyed a prolific military career, making him the first Philippine president to have climbed the ranks in the Philippine military from second lieutenant to commander-in-chief, and remains to be the only president to have done so. 

After graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York in 1950, he joined the Philippines’ 20th Battalion Combat Team of the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea (PEFTOK), which fought in the Korean War from 1950 to 1953. 

Prior to his election as president, he served in the Cabinet of his predecessor, Corazon Aquino, first as AFP chief-of-staff from 1986 to 1988, and later as secretary of National Defense from 1988 to 1991. 

He also founded the Special Forces Regiment of the Philippine Army and the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police (PNP). 

Withdrawing support from the dictator Marcos

Ramos was a key figure during the administration of Ferdinand E. Marcos. He served as PC chief and was one of the people the dictator consulted regarding the implementation of Martial Law, before eventually becoming AFP vice chief in 1981.

But perhaps aside from his term as president, Ramos was well known for the period when he went against Marcos. In February 1986, he resigned from his post and threw his support behind rebel soldiers during the People Power Revolution. Marcos reportedly reached out to him and said: “​​Stop this stupidity and surrender.” 

One memorable moment from the People Power Revolution was when Ramos jumped onstage upon finding out that Marcos had reportedly left Malacañang. He would reenact this jump in subsequent events commemorating the revolution that toppled the dictatorship.

The economy under Ramos

The Ramos administration focused on reforms that sought to address the still-lingering issues that the Philippines suffered from in the aftermath of the Marcos dictatorship. 

A paper published by the International Monetary Fund in 2000 described the Ramos administration as having embraced a “comprehensive reform strategy” that targeted opening the economy, reducing macroeconomic imbalances, and addressing structural rigidities, among others.

Another working paper published by the World Bank in 2008 said that the Ramos presidency began when the Philippines still remained “the sick man in Asia,” as it failed to match the growth of its neighboring countries. 

“At the end of the day, [Ramos] had been most successful where the reform effort entailed liberalization and deregulation, that is, getting the government out of the way to foster market efficiency,” Romeo Bernardo and Marie-Christine Tang wrote in their paper.

“The success record of his programs for institutional reform is less evident, partly because these are by nature more intractable and complex and require sustained action over a long period, perhaps longer than a president’s term,” they added.

One of the plans that Ramos took up that required long-term action was Philippines 2000, his flagship socioeconomic program that sought to help realize the “vision of newly industrialized country’s status by the year 2000.” This aspiration was also referred to as NIC-hood status during his presidency.

Ramos laid out the two components of this plan during his State of the Nation Address in 1993, including the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (1993-1998) which focused on boosting the economy “guided by principles of people empowerment and global excellence,” as well as boosting economic growth by addressing the political, social, and cultural climate in the country.

Foreign policy

In line with his commitment to bolstering national security, Ramos facilitated the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the United States, an implementing agreement of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). 

As early as 1995 and only three years into his term, Ramos faced Chinese incursions on the disputed Spratly Islands and now-occupied Mischief Reef, an underwater feature that Beijing has reclaimed to host a runway and a missile system. 

Ramos mitigated these disputes by strengthening military force in the region, and by engaging China in dialogue, preserving what would become a blossoming bilateral relationship with the country. 

It was under his administration that migrant worker Flor Contemplacion was hanged in Singapore in 1995. This led to the temporary suspension of diplomatic relations with Singapore and prompted the creation of a special commission to investigate the incident.

Following this, the landmark Republic Act No. 8042 or the Migrant Workers Act was passed, which outlined provisions for the protection and welfare of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). 

Peace agreements 

Ramos reached a peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front and conducted peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF). The NDF is the political arm of the Communist Party, while the NPA is its armed wing.

In 1992, Ramos signed the bill that repealed the Anti-Subversion Law, which was first introduced in the aftermath of World War II in 1957 by then-president Carlos P. Garcia. The law was expanded through presidential decrees issued by then-president Ferdinand Marcos during his reign.

With the repeal of Republic Act No. 1700, Ramos legalized membership in the CPP. In doing this, Ramos assured insurgents of political space, but challenged them to “compete under our constitutional system and free market of ideas – which are guaranteed by the rule of law.”

In his speech at the signing of the bill, Ramos said, “My Government is addressing the root causes of rebellion – and not just its symptoms. We are determined to reduce poverty, remedy injustice, remove ignorance and protect the law-abiding.”

Then, in 1996, he signed the final peace agreement between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), led by Nur Misuari. This allowed qualified members to join state forces, or surrender their arms in exchange for money. 

In light of this peace agreement, Ramos and Misuari were awarded the 1997 Félix Houphouët-Boigny – UNESCO Peace Prize. Previous laureates of this prize include Nelson Mandela and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. – Rappler.com

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.

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Loreben Tuquero

Loreben Tuquero is a researcher-writer for Rappler. Before transferring to Rappler's Research team, she covered transportation, Quezon City, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government as a reporter. She graduated with a communication degree from the Ateneo de Manila University.