A quintessential Filipino leader

Fidel V. Ramos died on July 31, 2022; he was 94.

The FilAm Editorial

That is not a knock-down on Fidel V. Ramos. Neither is it fulsome praise.

Ramos bent like a reed, adjusting his positions during his lifetime of being an army general-turned-politician.  He finally served as president of the Philippines from 1992 to 1998.

He defected and dumped his cousin, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., at a critical moment in 1986. Before he did that, he was chief enforcer of martial law. That is historical fact.

The reason for doing what he did is less than salutary. He had lost influence to a rival general. The decision to defect had more to do with political survival. Love of freedom and democracy was conveniently part of the package.

Even in his run for the presidency, Ramos leaned heavily on President Corazon Aquino to eke out a two-percentage point victory over Miriam Defensor Santiago. When he assumed the presidency, he again relied heavily on the tough spadework Aquino took to set up his economic renaissance. The job Aquino did was never recognized or acknowledged by Ramos’ people, downplaying her contribution.

On a more up-to-date basis, Ramos was one of the first to endorse Rodrigo Duterte and was even named special envoy to China over the dispute in the West Philippine Sea. His mission to China came to nothing in the face of Beijing’s obduracy, but he never talked about that.

When the stench from Duterte’s drug war became too toxic, he broke up with him and called the man a “disappointment.”

Let’s face it. The former president is a typical Filipino politician. You always need to scratch beyond the surface to judge his record. Ramos was a more effective leader compared to the other occupants of Malacañang (see Joseph Estrada, Gloria Arroyo or even from initial performance Ferdinand Marcos Jr.).

Ramos, warts and all, performed decently as the second president of the Republic in the post-martial law era. The economic gains attained by the Philippines were noted during his years in office.

Historical fact is often cast aside for misty-eyed sentimentalism in judging the effectivity of our leaders, especially when looking at their historical performance or their crass political motives.

Even Jose Rizal had his weak moments. He disowned the Philippine revolution of 1896 because he did not believe Filipinos were ready for the responsibilities of nationhood. There is also, as some astutely pointed out, the fact he looked down on the proletariat leadership of the Katipunan and Andres Bonifacio.

Maybe it is time for us to recognize leaders like Fidel Ramos for what they are: all too human functioning in the milieu of our times, ruled by the same political calculation and passions of their era.

As one leader in 1944 said of another: his desire for power is clothed in idealism, and mythmaking.

One would hope that we can see our leaders with a less jaundiced eye. But that is not really possible and in the social media echo chamber we live in today, likely not in the realm of reality at all.

(C) The FilAm 2022

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