MANILA, Philippines — Some Catholics in the Philippines have hailed former President Fidel Ramos for the restoration of democracy and revival of the economy following the ouster of long-reigning dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
Ramos, who served as president 1992-1998, died July 31 in Manila. He was 94.
The former military general and first Protestant president of the Catholic-majority nation is hailed for his efforts in revitalizing the Philippine economy during the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, ucanews.com reported.
Ramos was a general during the 1986 people power revolution that ousted Marcos, father of the current president. Ramos switched allegiance to Corazon Aquino, who succeeded Marcos as president, and he served in her Cabinet.
Ucanews.com reported the Youth Social Involvement for Christ in Manila said the former president exhibited qualities of a “true” leader at that time.
“President Ramos knew when his loyalty to the dictator should end. It is when his loyalty to serve the people and the Constitution began. There he made the tough decision that would forever define his leadership. He had helped to restore democracy in the Philippines,” the youth group said in a statement.
Before entering politics, Ramos served in the military as a soldier during the Korean and Vietnam wars. His experience in the war made him chief of staff of the country’s police force and vice chief-of-staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines under the rule of the elder Marcos.
Under Ramos’ command, the national police force effectively turned away from the Marcos administration, although the general was behind the enforcement of martial law that led to thousands of killings and human rights violations.
“Although some doubt his heroic act for leading the police force in the implementation of martial law, we believe that he still did his part by improving the economy when he became president of the Republic of the Philippines,” the youth group added.
Ramos dismantled monopolies and cartels in telecommunications, shipping and banking when he opened up the economy to foreign investors. He also privatized some government-owned corporations to steer the country’s annual growth to 5 percent, ending Philippine foreign debt with the International Monetary Fund after 35 years, ucanews.com reported.
The youth group noted Ramos’ role in the Philippine economy during the Asian financial crisis in 1997.
“When the Philippines was labeled the ‘sick man of Asia,’ President Ramos resuscitated the economy back to our target economic indicators. Food was not scarce. Fuel price was low. There were sufficient jobs for everybody,” the group added.
However, beginning in 1997, when Ramos wanted to amend the constitution, Philippine bishops rallied against the proposal, believing it was designed to extend his term of office.
The bishops’ conference did not immediately issue a statement after his death.
Father Joem Afable, a priest from the Diocese of Sorsogon, said the former president’s efforts to combat poverty were a success, and the poverty rate fell to 31 percent from 39 percent, according to government figures.
“When the financial crisis of 1997 led many emerging economies in Asia to the brink of collapse, President Ramos revived the economy severely damaged by several coup d’état attempts during the term of President Cory Aquino,” Afable added.
The San Lorenzo Catholic group highlighted the former president’s principle after he criticized former President Rodrigo Duterte’s position on the West Philippine Sea issue that invalidated China’s historic nine-dash line, which made extensive claims on the sea.
Southeast Asian nations like China, the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Taiwan and Malaysia have been embroiled in centuries-old disputes over claims in the contentious South China Sea region.
The San Lorenzo group said Ramos resigned “because he couldn’t take Duterte’s foreign policy in the West Philippine Sea, calling Duterte’s administration a huge disappointment to many Filipinos.”
The Ramos family has yet to announce the details of the funeral of the former president.