Filipino Catholic Church leaders paid tribute this week to the country’s first Protestant president, Fidel V Ramos, whose policies, especially on family planning, have been opposed by church leaders.
“To his credit, he was able, with the help of the people, to restore democracy in the Philippines … that is his number one legacy,” said Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani Jr. of Novaliches in an interview over Church-run Radio Veritas 846.
The prelate, who was among those who drafted the 1987 Constitution following the revolution led by Ramos, said the country had stability during the Ramos administration.
“We should be thankful that the country during that time became peaceful (and) there were no coups d’etat,” said Bishop Bacani. He said the problems “were not gone” but efforts were made to solve it.
“He was not a perfect president as no one is a perfect president, but he was a very good one,” said the bishop.
Ramos, who oversaw a rare period of steady growth and peace that won him the reputation as one of the country’s most effective leaders ever, died aged 94 on Sunday.
Known as “Steady Eddie” for his unflappable demeanour during the country’s regular moments of upheaval, he was frequently pictured chewing unlit cigars as he guided the Philippines with a sure hand from 1992-1998.
A career military man who never previously held elected office, his professorial conduct was unlike the bombastic image of many Filipino politicians.
“I offer my sympathy to the family … at the same time prayer that God may welcome him and forgive him of all his failures and sins while he was still alive with us,” said Bishop Oscar Jaime Florencio.
“The thing that I can always say is that he stood his ground … and as a military man I know that this is the best legacy,” said the military bishop.
“The late president was really a good statesman and a good military officer,” he added.
Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga, promoter of Stella Maris-Philippines, said Ramos did a lot of positive things for Filipino migrants, especially seafarers.
In 1997, the late president declared the last Sunday of September as National Seafarers’ Day through a presidential decree.
The legislation “is indeed a historical legacy to seafarers, families and to the maritime world,” said Bishop Santos.
“It has helped not only to raise awareness of the ‘blue economy,’ but above all, to make everyone more aware of the sacrifices that seafarers go through to move around 90% of the goods in the world,” he added.
“Our heartfelt gratitude to you, former President Fidel Ramos, for your great contribution to seafarers and their families,” he said.
In a statement, the Youth Social Involvement for Christ said the former president exhibited qualities of a “true” leader when he helped oust Marcos during the 1986 people power revolution.
“President Ramos knew when his loyalty to the dictator should end. It is when his loyalty to serve the people and the Constitution began,” said the youth group.
“There he made the tough decision that would forever define his leadership. He had helped to restore democracy in the Philippines,” read the group’s statement.
“Although some doubt his heroic act for leading the police force in the implementation of martial law, we believe that he still did his part by improving the economy when he became president,” said the group. – with a report from Genevieve Feliciano