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Former Philippine Leader Fidel Ramos Dies

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Former Philippine leader Fidel Valdez Ramos, an ex-general who turned against his cousin Ferdinand E. Marcos to help topple his dictatorial regime in 1986, died on Sunday, family members and officials said. He was 94.

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The largely peaceful “people power” uprising came after Ramos, the head of the Philippine Constabulary, and Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile withdrew their support from Marcos following a failed coup.

The Ramos family issued a statement Sunday, saying they were “profoundly saddened to announce the passing” of the ex-president.

“We thank you all for respecting our privacy, as the family takes some time to grieve together,” the statement read. “We will announce wake and funeral arrangements in the near future.”

The recently elected President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son and namesake of the dictator Ramos helped oust, called on all Filipinos to pray for the eternal rest of Ramos. 

“I extend my deepest condolences to the family of former President Fidel Valdez Ramos who passed away today having lived a full life as a military officer and public servant,” Marcos said in a statement on Sunday.

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“Our family shares the Filipino people’s grief on this sad day. We did not only lose a good leader but also a member of the family.”

Marcos also said the legacy of the Ramos presidency would “always be cherished” and “forever enshrined in the hearts of our grateful nation.”

It was not immediately clear what caused his death, although some relatives and friends told reporters that they were informed it was caused by complications associated with COVID-19.

Ramos could be given a state funeral at the Heroes Cemetery in Manila, according to national defense spokesman Arsenio Andolong, who credited the former leader for modernizing the armed forces.

“The department is one with the nation in mourning the passing of the former president Fidel V. Ramos,” Andolong told reporters.

“He was a decorated soldier, diplomat, as well as the secretary of the national defense, aside from being the [former president]. So his career was really sterling in all (the) sense of the word. We condole with his family at this time.”

From West Point to the presidential palace

Ramos, famous for chomping cigars, was educated at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York and the University of Illinois in the United States. He entered the Philippine army shortly afterward, serving in Korea and Vietnam.  

In 1972, Marcos Sr. appointed Ramos as the head of the Philippine Constabulary, in charge of enforcing his brutal martial law in which thousands of political activists were either killed or went missing. 

After an allegedly fraudulent snap election in 1986, Enrile, then the defense secretary, and some military officers plotted to seize power but were found out. Ramos joined their rebellion, withdrawing his support from Marcos.

The duo’s defections inspired many others to follow suit, as the influential Catholic church called on its millions of followers to protect those holed up in security institutions and to protest against the regime. 

The popular revolt toppled Marcos, sending him and his family to exile in Hawaii, where the patriarch died in 1989. Opposition leader Corazon Aquino came to power, though a rough transition to democracy marked her six-year term. 

Ramos served as her military chief of staff and later as her defense secretary, helping put out several coup attempts by security forces still loyal to the former dictator 

In 1992, Ramos succeeded Aquino as the country’s president, the first Protestant to win the top office in the overwhelmingly Catholic nation. 

During his six-year tenure, he set to liberalize the economy, broke up syndicates in transport and telecommunications, and saw steady growth and peace. 

While chronic power outages marked his tenure, he managed to woo back foreign investors as the country again opened up for business. He also held talks with communist guerrillas and Muslim separatists.

Some thirty-six years after Marcos Sr. was ousted, his son won presidential elections in May. Also known as “Bongbong,” Marcos Jr. has often referred to his father’s era as the “golden age” of the Philippines.  

In 2016, Ramos said he had more than apologized for being part of the elder Marcos regime. 

“In the Christian tradition, you confess, and then you atone. My atonement was leading the military and the police during the People Power Revolution,” he said. “It’s there in history books.” 

Jojo Riñoza contributed to this report from Manila. 

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