The key military figure of the Edsa Revolution, is about to reach another important milestone in his illustrious life. Former President Fidel V. Ramos will turn 90 on March 18.
FVR — the initials by which the former Chief Executive is widely known — was a dashing soldier of 58 when he decided to sever his political ties with his cousin Ferdinand E. Marcos and co-lead the revolt that brought down the dictatorial regime of the 9th President of the Philippines. During his cadet days at the Philippine Military Academy and, later, at the U.S. Military Academy FVR could not have imagined that on February 22, 1986 he would be defying his Commander-in-Chief and challenging the Marcos regime. But challenge President Marcos he did, alongside the Minister of National Defense, Juan Ponce Enrile, and the officers comprising the Minister’s staff.
The period between February 25, 1986, when Marcos and his family were flown into exile, and July 1, 1992, when FVR took his oath as the nation’s twelfth President, was one of the most tumultuous periods in contemporary Philippine history. Not only did the termination of nearly twenty years of Marcos governance create a political vacuum, but conflict also erupted between the group headed by Juan Ponce Enrile, who believed that the fruits of the Edsa Revolution belonged to it, and the group headed by FVR, who believed that the masses who supported the revolution—and the highly intimated Catholic Church—wanted a shift from military to civilian.
Finally convinced that they had a better claim to the seat of national power, the Enrile group staged no less than seven coup d’ etat attempts between August 1987 and December 1989. As Security of National Defense, the civilian-head of the nation’s armed forces, FVR was faced with the existential choice: Keep the 120,000-man-strong Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) squarely behind President Corazon Aquino’s Presidency or grab power for himself with the support of the legions of pro-Ramos members of the military.
Anyone who knew anything about the Ramos family never had any doubt as to the choice that Fidel V. Ramos would make. FVR carries in his veins the blood of two Northern Luzon families known for their integrity and stability: the Ramoses of Pangasinan and the Valdezes of Ilocos Norte. On a personal note, my parents considered FVR’s parents, Narciso and Angela Ramos, one of the finest couples they met in my father’s political life. FVR’s and my father found great pleasure and satisfaction in having served together in the 1934-1935 Constitutional Convention, the pre-independence National Assembly and this country’s foreign service.
Besides personal and professional pedigree FVR brought to the Presidency a keen sense of patriotism, a first-rate intellect, an inclination toward industriousness and a passion for efficiency.
FVR had a proper, not a perverse, sense of patriotism, and he has not lost it. Realizing that the future of the fledgling Republic of the Philippines lay with a stable world order, FVR newly graduated from the U.S. Military Academy, eagerly served with the Philippine contribution to the United Nations’ military effort against North Korea (the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea; or PEFTOK). For the young Lt. Ramos, love of country called for support for the U.N. And, of course, defending what rightfully belonged to this country.
The course at West Point, like the PMA course, ends with the cadets’ earning a degree in engineering.
But FVR’s keen intellect — no pasang awa 75 for him — caused him to develop in interest in economic and the humanities. His engineering degree and his absorption of economic concepts were to serve him well when, during his Presidency, the Cabinet took up infrastructural, industrial and financial matters.
Although FVR had no degree in economics or finance, the members of the Cabinet economic cluster knew that they had to be ready to answer questions from their boss at Cabinet meetings.
FVR’s penchant for hard work was almost legendary. Not only was the tenth President known to burn the midnight oil, but he also had always been an early riser. Deadlines were things that were supposed to be met. Woe to the department or agency head who failed to meet a deadline for submission of a report or plan.
If FVR’s middle initial were E rather than V, the E surely would stand for Efficiency. There was — and is — nothing that the former Chief Executive abhors more than sloppy, substandard work. That is why he has always been a stickler for staff work. In FVR’s book, inefficient work is wasteful work and inefficiency leads to waste of scarce resources and even scarcer opportunities.
These are the things that FVR brought to the Presidency. That is why his Presidency was a great success. One can only muse over how things would have been difficult for this country if the Constitution had allowed FVR to serve two terms instead of one.
Happy 90th birthday, Mr. President.