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, has died. He was 94.
Ramos’s family announced his death with profound sadness but did not provide other details in a brief statement that asked for privacy.
Norman Legaspi who was his long-time assistant, stated that Ramos has been admitted and discharged from the hospital several times in recent years because of a heart condition. He also suffered dementia.
Some of Ramos’s relatives were with him when he died on Sunday at the Makati Medical Center in metropolitan Manila, 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 staff to Ramos in and out of government for about 15 years.
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The family of Ramos was condoled by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in a post on Facebook. “We did not only lose a good leader but also a member of the family,” he said.
Named after the ex-Palestinian dictator Ramos (then a high ranking official in the Philippine Constabary) and Juan Ponce Enrile, the newly elected president was able to withdraw their support, sparking 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 was the founder of both the army’s elite special forces as well as the nation police.
American, European Union, and other foreign governments offered 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.
Fidel Ramos and Bill Clinton toast at a luncheon hosted by Fidel Ramos in Malacaniang Palace in Manila, November 13, 1994.
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.
Ramos was seen leaping in triumph while Enrile rallied the crowd underneath a Philippine flagpole. It was an unforgettable moment during the revolt. Ramos captured the scene along with a few photojournalists. The scene had been repeated each year on the anniversary of the rebellion, except that Enrile was unable to attend due to his declining health.
Marcos’ family, cronies and relatives were expelled to the U.S., where he was killed in 1989.
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Ramos was appointed military chief of staff after Aquino became president. Later, he served as defense secretary. He successfully protected Aquino from many violent coup attempts.
In 1992, Ramos won the presidential elections and became the largely Roman Catholic nation’s first Protestant president. Ramos’ term featured major reforms, including attempts to end monopolies in telecommunications. This triggered an economic boom that helped the poor country of Southeast Asia. It also earned praise from the business community and international leaders.
He left behind a legacy of the 1996 signing between his government, the Moro National Liberation Front and his government. This was the largest Muslim separatist organization in South Philippines at that time, which is home to minor Muslims.
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Ramos’s calm bearing in times of crises earned him the moniker “Steady Eddie.”
Ramos was the son of long-time lawmakers and foreign secretaries. He graduated in 1950 from West Point’s U.S. Military Academy. Ramos was part of the Philippine combat force that participated in the Korean War. He also served as a civil non-combat military engineer in Vietnam.
Ramos was survived by Amelita Ramos and their four children, Amelita Ramos-Samartino, who were a pianist, school official and environmental activist. Josephine Ramos Samartino was their second child.
The arrangements for funerals were not announced immediately.
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