MANILA — Ex-President Fidel V. Ramos had been ill for months before his death, one of his former Cabinet members said Monday.
According to former acting Justice secretary and Solicitor General Silvestre Bello III, they were not allowed to visit Ramos during his birthday last March.
"We didn't know until 'yung last March we attempted to visit him ganun ka serious ang sakit niya. Akala namin part of his aging na," he told ANC's "Rundown".
Bello said Ramos' death came as a "shock" to him.
"I didn't know it was that bad because you know knowing the physique of former President Fidel V. Ramos, hindi ka maniwala na magkakasakit ng ganun, napakatibay ng katawan," he said.
Ramos' family announced his death in a statement Sunday but did not give a cause of death. He was 94.
Ramos was born March 18, 1928 in Lingayen, Pangasinan. He was an engineer who rose through the ranks of the military and became the 12th President of the Philippines. He served from 1992 until 1998.
For Bello, Ramos' greatest legacy was the signing of a peace pact in 1996 between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front.
"Sabi niya, 'We can't achieve this [peace] unless mapag-usapan natin 'yung mga basic reason for the armed struggle. Bakit tayo nag-aaway ang mga Pilipino,'" he said.
"Sabi niya, 'The only way to do that is to talk to them. Find out what is keeping our country in a fighting mode,'" he added.
Ramos' desire to achieve peace for the country is a characteristic that sets him apart from other presidents, Bello said.
He has served in the administrations of former President Cory Aquino, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Rodrigo Duterte.