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Fidel Ramos on EDSA, his legacy, and the most glorious way to die

By JOANNE RAE M. RAMIREZ, The Philippine STAR Published Aug 05, 2022 5:00 am

He stood by her side during at least seven coup attempts against her presidency, and when it was time for her to step down from the office they both protected with their lives, Corazon Aquino endorsed Fidel V. Ramos, then her defense secretary, to be her successor. It was Jan. 25, 1992, her 59th birthday.

The late former President Fidel V. Ramos. Photo by MARK CHESTER ANG courtesy of PeopleAsia

Ramos, who won by a plurality in the tightly contested 1992 presidential elections, passed away Sunday, July 31 at age 94. The following day, Aug. 1, was Mrs. Aquino’s 13th death anniversary. I guess for those like me who covered their consecutive presidencies, one would find some unique significance to the back-to-back dates, albeit 13 years apart.

During a memorial Mass for the country’s first female president last Aug. 1, the Aquino family paid tribute to the police general-turned-president, who like Mrs. Aquino, was hailed as one of the heroes of the 1986 EDSA people power revolution.

One of the best decisions she made, recalled Cory, was to tell then Armed Forces Chief Fidel Ramos in a heart-to-heart talk that she trusted him even if there were moves to discredit him.

“We also remember today in a special way, President Fidel Ramos, who passed away yesterday. President Ramos was instrumental in the restoration of our democracy during the EDSA revolution, its defense amid attempts to overthrow it during our Lola’s presidency, and its deepening through his relentless pursuit of peace and development during his own presidency and beyond,” Kiko Dee, speaking on behalf of his aunts Ballsy, Pinky and Kris, and his mother Viel, said.

According to the book Behind the Red Pen by Jojo Terencio, when asked if Mrs. Aquino asked him for anything in exchange for her endorsement Ramos said, “Ah, walang ganoon (Nothing of the sort).” 

Ramos would reciprocate by defending the Constitution every time it was threatened during Cory’s presidency. 

(During the memorial mass celebrated by Fr. Ricky Montañez, Kiko said his Lola Cory “didn’t believe in utang na loob.”)

A few months before she passed away, I was able to interview Cory in her Makati office. It was on the eve of the EDSA revolution, and we talked about the challenges she faced after she assumed office.

One of the best decisions she made, recalled Cory, was to tell then Armed Forces Chief Fidel Ramos in a heart-to-heart talk that she trusted him even if there were moves to discredit him. Ramos would reciprocate by defending the Constitution every time it was threatened during Cory’s presidency. 

When I visited Mr. Ramos with the PeopleAsia team before the pandemic in his Ramos Peace and Development Foundation Inc. (RPDEV) headquarters in a Makati high-rise, the former President was already waiting for us. His feet were up, and he explained it was because of his gout. But to prove that he was still physically fit, he did some push-ups with the male members of the PeopleAsia team.

I asked him what he thought his best legacy was, and his answer was totally expected: EDSA 1986.

But not only EDSA.

“A lot…EDSA…the peace and development aspect of that...non-violent regime change, accompanied by sustainable socioeconomic development,” he replied when asked for what he considered his greatest legacy.

“Legacy, that’s my legacy to you. If you don’t like it, go home. I hope you understand the odds…They had the tanks, they had the helicopters, they had the fighter bombers, they had the artillery, they had the Marines. We had nothing except for 300 people.”

“The only thing that countries cannot outsource is good government — which must be homegrown — along with leadership, national solidarity, competence, teamwork, and other cherished values.”

He said the only thing that the Philippines cannot rely on foreign sources for is good governance. “The only thing that countries cannot outsource is good government — which must be homegrown — along with leadership, national solidarity, competence, teamwork, and other cherished values.”

I swim, jog, play golf and badminton, do pushups and crunches, and can even shoot some basketball with any of you. Living with a single kidney, you can even become President, as I did.

At the time, with one kidney, a pacemaker and gout, FVR, with a lifetime of achievements and adventures behind him, was far from even considering calling it a day. “Who wants to slow down?” he told us. “The most glorious way of dying, as far as soldiers are concerned, is to die from an enemy’s bullet in combat. But equally glorious and noble is just to drop dead of old age after providing for a family, paying your taxes, and helping your community and your neighbor. That’s what I’m after now.”

FVR proudly showed us the scar when one of his kidneys had been taken out due to an infection in 1950, just after his graduation from the United States Military Academy in West Point. “I lived and have lived a good and healthy life. I swim, jog, play golf and badminton, do pushups and crunches, and can even shoot some basketball with any of you. Living with a single kidney, you can even become President, as I did.”

He had always beaten the odds. Mabuhay and Godspeed, Mr. President.