Ex-Filipino leader Ramos, who helped overthrow dictator Marcos, dies


MANILA, Philippines — Former Philippine President Fidel Valdez Ramos, an American-educated former general who fought in the Korean and Vietnam wars and played a key role in a 1986 pro-democracy uprising that toppled a dictator , is dead. He was 94 years old.

Ramos’ family announced his death with deep sadness but did not provide further details in a brief statement which requested confidentiality.

One of his longtime aides, Norman Legaspi, said Ramos had been in and out of hospital in recent years due to heart disease and suffered from dementia.

Some of Ramos’ relatives were with him when he died at Makati Medical Center in Metro Manila on Sunday, Legaspi said.

“He was an icon. We lost a hero and I lost a father,” said Legaspi, a retired Philippine Air Force officer who has been close to Ramos in the bosom and outside government for about 15 years.

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President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. offered his condolences to Ramos’ family in a Facebook post. “We not only lost a good leader but also a family member,” he said.

The newly elected president is the namesake son of the former Filipino dictator, whose ouster in 1986 came after then-top Philippine police official Ramos and defense chief Juan Ponce Enrile withdrew support in defections which sparked massive protests backed by the military.

Ramos was the late dictator’s second cousin and in 1972 helped him enforce martial law in which thousands of people were incarcerated, tortured and suffered extrajudicial executions and disappearances.

The National Defense Ministry, which was once headed by him, said Ramos was a decorated soldier who led the modernization of the army, one of the most underfunded in Asia. 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 bilateral U.S.-Philippine relations and the advancement of our common goals of peace and democracy will be remembered,” the U.S. Embassy in Manila said.

Bill Clinton and Fidel Ramos toast during a state luncheon hosted by the latter at Malacaniang Palace in Manila on November 13, 1994.

Marcy Nighswander/AP

Cigar Ramos, known for his ‘we can do it’ rallying call, thumbs-up sign, attention to detail and firm handshakes, served as president from 1992 to 1998, succeeding the democracy icon , Corazón Aquino.

She was propelled to the presidency in 1986 after the largely peaceful “people power” revolt that toppled the elder Marcos and became a harbinger of change for authoritarian regimes around the world.

In a memorable moment of the revolt, as the tide turned against Marcos, Ramos leapt in triumph with his hands in the air as Enrile rallied a crowd under a Filipino flagpole, drawing applause and cheers from the rebel forces. The scene was captured by an AP and a few other photojournalists and re-enacted by Ramos every year on the anniversary of the revolt, until age and failing health prevented him from appearing.

Marcos, his family and his friends were exiled to the United States, where he died in 1989.

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After Aquino assumed the presidency, Ramos became military chief of staff and later secretary of defense, successfully defending it against several violent coup attempts.

In 1992, Ramos won presidential elections and became the first Protestant president of the majority Roman Catholic nation. His tenure was marked by major reforms and attempts to break up telecommunications and other business monopolies that sparked a rare economic boom, bolstered the impoverished Southeast Asian country’s image and won praise from leaders business and the international community.

One of his legacies was the 1996 signing of a peace pact between his government and the Moro National Liberation Front, the largest Muslim separatist group at the time in the volatile southern Philippines, home of Muslim minorities. .

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Ramos’ calm demeanor in times of crisis has earned him the nickname ‘Steady Eddie’.

The son of a longtime lawmaker and Foreign Secretary, Ramos graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1950. He was part of the Philippine combat contingent that fought in the Korean War and was also involved in the Vietnam War as a non-combat civilian military engineer.

Ramos is survived by his wife, Amelita Ramos, a school official, pianist, sportswoman and conservationist, and their four daughters. Their second child, Joséphine Ramos-Samartino, died in 2011.

Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.

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