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Friday, August 5, 2022

Remembering ex-President Fidel Ramos as courageous soldier, great leader

MANILA - “Kaya natin ito!” This was the battle cry of the late former President Fidel V. Ramos throughout his presidency as he stressed the importance of unity, solidarity and teamwork by all sectors to resolve any problem confronting the country.

Ramos, or FVR as he is popularly known, showed how this formula worked when he resolved the acute power shortage the Philippines was experiencing when he assumed the presidency on June 30, 1992.

Working hand-in-hand with his Cabinet members and the private sector, the power shortage was resolved, and the economy was again booming with foreign investors pouring in.

As he gradually try to resolve the economic problem, FVR, a retired four-star general and defense secretary, also had to attend to the security problem of the country when his administration successfully signed a peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) on September 2, 1996 that ended the MNLF’s 23-year rebellion in Mindanao.

Ramos also succeeded in stopping the rebellion mounted by the military and police during the administration of his predecessor, former President Corazon C Aquino.

During his six-year incumbency, Ramos urged local and foreign investors to invest in the Philippines. He traveled to various parts of the world that generated responses from foreign investors.

In fact, during FVR’s visit to London in June 1997, the United Kingdom and the Philippines signed a USD29.6 billion project, the biggest foreign investment project.

As a soldier, Ramos demonstrated his bravery in combat when as a 21-year-old new graduate from the United States Military Academy, volunteered to go to Korea as a member of the 20th Battalion Combat Team of the Armed Forces of the Philippines during the Korean War from 1950 to 1953.

It was in Korea that then 2nd Army Lt. Ramos led a 44-man platoon that successfully conquered the vital Eerie Hill occupied by well-entrenched Chinese communist troops following a bloody gun battle.

Upon returning to the Philippines after the Korean War ended, Ramos fought against the Huks in Central Luzon. Another laudable contribution FVR made was when he organized the Special Forces Airborne of the Philippine Army which is trained in conventional and guerrilla warfare.

As then chief of the Philippine Constabulary, now the Philippine National Police, Ramos organized the Special Action Force, the police frontline fighting force.

This writer had the privilege of covering FVR for almost four decades and wrote three books about the former president.

As the defense reporter of the Philippines News Agency, I covered FVR’s practically all official visits to military camps all over the country, and on two occasions caught in the fighting between government and rebel forces in Sulu, but Ramos remained calm until the gun battle stopped with the military driving out the rebels away.

Also in many instances, we experienced turbulent weather but Gen. Ramos did not panic as I prayed Psalm 23.

FVR, during his presidency, provided one Philippine Air Force plane for members of the media to cover his trips to the provinces so we can write our stories as we see it.

During his active military service, Ramos visited at least once a week his troops in the frontline to boost their morale. This also gave him a chance to personally assess the prevailing situation in the areas of conflict.

As a soldier, I found out that FVR was a man of prayer when he repeatedly told the officers and men in the military and police to “pray as you work and work as you pray” and put their trust in God.

FVR was also fun with anecdotes. One example was when he said that he had found the formula for how to reach 100 years old.

When asked what is the formula? FVR answered with a big smile: “Be sure you reach 99 years old because one year to go is not so difficult to reach your goal” as a laugh. Sad to say, FVR was 94 years old when he died on July 31, 2022. (Ben Cal)