Fidel Ramos, Philippine president who broke with Marcos, dies at 94

Fidel V. Ramos, military leader who succeeded Corazon C. Aquino as President of the Philippines and presided over robust economic growth, exceptional political stability and reconciliation with communist insurgents and Muslim separatists from 1992 to 1998, died Sunday in Manila. He was 94 years old.

The Department of Defense confirmed his death in a statement on Sunday.

This was reported to the Associated Press by longtime aide Norman Legazpi. Ramos died at Makati Medical Center and that he suffered from heart disease and dementia.

In a country plagued by the corrupt dictatorship of Ferdinand E. Marcos, who was overthrown in a popular uprising in 1986, Aquino and Mr. Ramos fought for six consecutive years under the banner of “Power to the People” to restore democracy, reform a weakened economy, and reconcile with extremists.

It was easy to say, like many Filipinos, that Mrs. Aquino restored democracy and that Mr. Ramos restored the economy. In fact, it initiated many of the economic policies that flourished under Mr. Jones. Ramos, and he successfully defended Ms. The fragile democratic government of Aquino against repeated military mutinies.

mr. Ramos, a second cousin of President Marcos, was the descendant of an aristocratic family who held public office. His father was an ambassador during World War II and foreign minister under the Marcos regime. mr. Ramos graduated from the US Military Academy, served in the Korean War with US troops, and commanded the Philippine contingent in the Vietnam War.

He was also a study of controversy. Filipinos were perplexed by the deeds and character of a Protestant who became president of a Roman Catholic country, or an uncompromising general who brought about liberal economic, political, and social changes in a country exploited for centuries by Spanish and American colonialists, Japanese invaders, and the infamous two-decade rule of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos.

Early in his career, Mr. Ramos was a supporter of Marcos, who commanded security forces that violated human rights and arrested thousands of dissidents, including Ms. Macedonian. Aquino’s husband, Senator Benigno S. Aquino Jr., who had been imprisoned for many years, is exiled and then killed on the day of his return. Critics called Mr. Ramos a ruthless henchman of Marcos.

But Mr. Ramos, who insisted that he was merely enforcing law and order, was later hailed as a national hero for deciding at the moment of truth to break with President Marcos, sound the death knell for his regime, and swear allegiance to the Constitution and Mrs. Aquino. She appointed him commander-in-chief of the armed forces and then secretary of defense, but did not support him for the presidency.

Elected by a narrow majority, Mr. Ramos took office vowing not to be a carbon copy of Ms. Aquino. “She did her job—established political freedom,” he told Far Eastern Economic Review. “But the second stage is the strengthening of democracy. My priority is the unification of the country.”

He reached peace agreements with two longtime guerrilla rebel groups, the New Communist People’s Army and Muslim separatists from the Moro National Liberation Front, granting amnesty to thousands. He also purged the national police of 600 corrupt officers and cracked down on dozens of warlords involved in smuggling, drug dealing and other crimes.

To revive the economy, he introduced reforms to encourage private enterprise, open trade, and foreign investment. He traveled throughout Asia and the United States, meeting with government and business leaders to highlight his country’s stable political climate, declining inflation, and favorable exchange rates. By some estimates, he attracted $20 billion in new foreign investment to the Philippines.

He deregulated and privatized industries in an economy dominated by a few large companies, overhauled an inefficient government tax system, and encouraged the practice of family planning to curb population growth. To improve the unreliable power supply, he reorganized the state power company, commissioned new power plants, and made blackouts rare.

National growth under G. Ramos rose from near-stagnation to almost 6 percent a year before falling as a result of the regional recession in East Asia to 3 percent in his last year in office.

“The Philippines has established itself in the developing world as a good model for demonstrating that democracy and development are compatible. Ramos told The New York Times in 1998. “Authoritarianism, while initially conducive to rapid growth, is incompatible with a free market system that should be transparent and predictable.”

Fidel Valdez Ramos was born in Lingayen, north of the capital Manila, on March 18, 1928, to Narciso and Angela Valdez Ramos. His father, a journalist, lawyer and congressman, was the military envoy to Taiwan and Marcos’ foreign minister. One of Fidel’s sisters Leticia Ramos Shahaniwas a diplomat and Philippine senator.

After graduating from West Point in 1950, Ramos received a master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Illinois and other degrees in business administration and national defense from Philippine universities.

He married Amelita Martinez in 1954. She outlived him, as did their four daughters, Angelita Ramos-Jones, Carolina Ramos-Sembrano, Cristina Ramos-Jalasco and Gloria Ramos. Fifth daughter, Josephine Ramos-Samartino, died in 2011.

After serving in Korea and Vietnam, Mr. Ramos returned to the Philippines in the throes of protesting the Marcos regime. He joined the dictator’s inner circle, was one of the Gold Watch-winning Rolex 12 advisers, and was appointed commander of the Philippine Police Force, the national security force that dealt with the terrorists.

Barred by law from running for a third term in 1972, Marcos declared martial law, citing the threat of communist and Muslim uprisings. In his executive order, he curtailed civil liberties, shut down Congress, and arrested opponents, including Mr. Aquino, who was imprisoned for seven years and shot to death at the Manila airport when he returned from exile in 1983.

The assassination brought his widow’s attention to political life. Three years later in a snap election, Mr. Marcos allowed because he thought he couldn’t lose, miss. Aquino became president. mr. Marcos tried to steal it by staging a military coup.

For Mr. Ramos, the commander of the armed forces, the moment of truth arrived on November 11th. On December 22, 1986, when he had to choose whether to remain loyal to Marcos and his old military comrades, or support Mrs. Aquino.

Around midnight, the decision of his command was communicated to troops across the country: “The New Philippine Armed Forces support the government of President Aquino, elected and installed by the people. We must not betray our country and our people.”

Three days later, Mr. Marcos fled the Philippines.

Jason Gutierrez contributed reporting.