Ex-Philippine leader helped oust dictator Marcos in 1986
MANILA, Philippines — Former Philippine President Fidel Valdez Ramos, a U.S.-trained ex-general who saw action in the Korean and Vietnam wars and played a key role in a 1986 pro-democracy uprising that ousted a dictator, died Sunday in Manila. He was 94.
Ramos’ family announced his death in a brief statement that asked for privacy.
One of his longtime aides, Norman Legaspi, said Ramos had been in and out of the hospital in recent years due to a heart condition and had suffered from dementia. Some of Ramos’ relatives were with him when he died at the Makati Medical Center, Legaspi said.
“He was an icon. We lost a hero and I lost a father,” said Legaspi, a retired Philippine air force official, who served as a close staffer to Ramos in and out of government for about 15 years.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. condoled with the family of Ramos in a Facebook post. “We did not only lose a good leader but also a member of the family,” he said.
The newly elected president is the namesake son of the former Philippine dictator, whose 1986 ouster came after Ramos, then a top official of the Philippine Constabulary, and defense chief Juan Ponce Enrile withdrew their support in defections that sparked massive army-backed protests.
Ramos was the late dictator’s second cousin, and in 1972 had helped him implement martial law during which thousands of people were incarcerated, tortured and became victims of extrajudicial killings and disappearances.
The Department of
National Defense, which was once led by him, said Ramos was a decorated soldier who spearheaded the modernization of the military, one of Asia’s most underfunded. He organized the elite special forces of the army and the national police.
The United States, the European Union and other foreign governments expressed their condolences. “His contributions to the U.S.-Philippines bilateral relationship and advancing our shared goals of peace and democracy will always be remembered,” the U.S. Embassy in Manila said.
The cigar-chomping Ramos, known for his “we can do this” rallying call, thumbs-up sign, attention to detail and firm handshakes, served as president from 1992 to 1998, succeeding the democracy icon, Corazon Aquino.
She was swept into the presidency in 1986 after the largely peaceful “People Power” revolt that toppled the elder Marcos and became a harbinger of change in authoritarian regimes worldwide.
In a memorable moment of the revolt, as the tide turned against Marcos, Ramos jumped in triumph with his hands high up while Enrile was rallying
a crowd under a Philippine flagpole, drawing applause and cheers from rebel forces. The scene was captured by photojournalists and had been reenacted by Ramos each year during the anniversary of the revolt, until age and his failing health prevented him from showing up.
Marcos, his family and cronies were driven into U.S. exile, where he died in 1989.
After Aquino rose to the presidency, Ramos became the military chief of staff and later defense secretary, successfully defending her from several coup attempts.
In 1992, Ramos won the presidential elections and became the largely Roman Catholic nation’s first Protestant president. His term was marked by major reforms and attempts to dismantle telecommunications and other business monopolies that triggered a rare economic boom, bolstered the image of the impoverished Southeast Asian country and drew praise from business leaders and the international community.
Ramos is survived by his wife, Amelita Ramos, and four daughters. Their second child, Josephine Ramos-Samartino, died in 2011.