MANILA — The death of former President Fidel V. Ramos represents the passing of a generation, historian Manolo Quezon III said on Tuesday.
Ramos, who served as the country's Chief Executive from 1992 to 1998, passed away at 94 years old, his family confirmed Sunday.
"He was a product of a part, point in time. He was military-educated in the US and here. He was an engineer. He could wear so many hats with distinction. The Asia’s Sentinel said it’s very rare for such a low-key person to be successful in our society," Quezon told ANC.
"He also represents the passing of a generation...the Korean War veterans in our country. The South Koreans, of course, are still very grateful about it, but Filipinos are not aware."
A graduate of the prestigious West Point military academy in the United States, Ramos had a lengthy career in the armed forces, including combat against communist guerrillas. He was also deployed in the 1950 to 1953 Korean War as part of the Philippine contingent.
The Philippines was one of 16 countries to respond to the United Nation's call for assistance to "defend freedom and democracy" after troops from North Korea crossed the 38th Parallel in a surprise attack against South Korea, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea consisted of 5 combat battalions under UN Command. Of 7,420 soldiers who saw action, 112 were killed and 299 were wounded in action. Then Second Lt. Ramos served as a reconnaissance platoon leader in the Chorwon- Kumwha-Pyongyang area in North Korea, the DFA said.
Ramos was later commander of the paramilitary Philippine Constabulary under his second cousin, then President Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
In 1986, Ramos joined the EDSA "People Power" revolt that overthrew Marcos Sr. and installed Corazon Aquino into the presidency.
Aquino appointed Ramos as military chief and then defense secretary. When elections came in 1992, Aquino gave her endorsement to Ramos, which was crucial to him winning the presidency.
Ramos' death leaves Marcos Sr.'s defense secretary Juan Ponce Enrile, 98, "as the last man standing from that generation and era," Quezon said.
"The whole idea of EDSA, democracy, economy, has receded into the past and is being replaced with something else. What that something else is still in the process of being formed by the new generation who were all young at the time. It's a passing of the torch not in the way FVR has expected or even understood," he said.
"He was not just one chapter, he was part of many chapters and that's a very remarkable life."
Ramos was also a "real peace builder," his former Health Secretary Jaime Galvez Tan said.
"He was a real peacemaker, a real peacebuilder. When I was traveling him to the provinces, a post-earthquake visit, I asked him, 'Mr. President you are a general, yet you have never acted like you're at war. I mean you made peace with the NPA (New People's Army), MNLF, reformed Armed Forces movement,'" Galvez Tan said.
"He said, 'If you knew what war was, I was in the Korean War and Vietnam War, you would never like to know war.'"
Ramos made peace overtures to communist guerrillas, separatists, and military coup-plotters. In the end, only the communists refused to sign agreements with his government.
Galvez Tan said Ramos would mark newspaper clippings as early as 6 a.m. and send them to Cabinet officials before an 8 a.m. meeting.
"He was so sensitive, if there was something being said, something about health, he would put a red mark," he said.
"There was nothing to fear, every time he called up you know it was something very important that’s going to happen. Even after the whole term and wherever we met, even abroad, he was really accessible. I know senators, congressmen, governors, mayors, but President Ramos was exceptional."
Galvez Tan said he knew the former president's health was deteriorating.
"I knew he was already not so well in terms of health. I saw him almost every year pre-pandemic. Last year it was his birthday and I was (asking) my friends who's with him, even the family will not allow a visit. I knew he was in a difficult situation, and in a way expected knowing his health condition," he said.
— With a report from Agence France-Presse