Fidel V. Ramos

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Fidel V. Ramos : biography

March 18, 1928 –

Spratly Islands

In early 1995, the Philippines discovered a primitive Chinese military structure on Mischief Reef in the Spratly Island, one hundred and thirty nautical miles off the coast of Palawan. The Philippine government issued a formal protest over China’s occupation of the reef and the Philippine Navy arrested sixty-two Chinese fishermen at Half Moon Shoal, eighty kilometers from Palawan. A week later, following confirmation from surveillance pictures that the structures were of military design, President Fidel Ramos had the military forces in the region strengthened. He ordered the Philippine Air Force to dispatch five F-5 fighters backed by four jet trainers and two helicopters, while the navy sent two additional ships. The People’s Republic of China had claimed that the structures were shelters for fishermen but these small incidents could have triggered a war in the South China Sea.

Migrant Workers Protection

One of the downturns of his administration was his experience in handling migrant workers protection. On the eve of his 67th birthday on March 17, 1995, Ramos was on a foreign trip when Flor Contemplación was hanged in Singapore. His last minute effort to negotiate with Singapore President Ong Teng Cheong and Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong never succeeded and he was marred with protests after his return to Manila. The protests also caused the resignation of Foreign Affairs Secretary Roberto Romulo and Labor Secretary Nieves Confesor from the Cabinet. He immediately recalled Philippine ambassador to Singapore Alicia Ramos and suspended diplomatic relations to Singapore. He created a special commission to look into the case and to try to rescue his sagging popularity. The commission was led by retired justice Emilio Gancayco.

As also recommended by the Gancayco Commission, Ramos facilitated the enactment of Republic Act 8042, better known as the Magna Carta for Overseas Workers or the Migrant Workers Act. The Migrant Workers Act was signed into law on June 7, 1995. Learning from the lessons of Contemplación case, Ramos immediately ordered UAE Ambassador Roy Señeres to facilitate negotiations after learning the death penalty verdict of Sarah Balabagan on September 1995. Balabagan’s sentence was lowered and she was released August 1996. After tensions cooled off, Ramos restored diplomatic relations with Singapore after meeting Goh Chok Tong during the sidelines of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations in New York City.

Asian Financial Crisis

The 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, which started in Thailand, was a major blow to the Ramos administration. The economy was hit by currency devaluation. The same was true for the Thai baht, Malaysia ringgit and Indonesia rupiah. Growth fell to about −0.6% in 1998 from 5.2% in 1997, but recovered to 3.4% by 1999. It also resulted to the shut down of some businesses, a decline in importation, rise unemployment rate and unstable financial sector.

Controversies

Clark Centennial Expo Scandal

Wikileaks

In 2011, Wikileaks released a leaked 1994 diplomatic note from the US Embassy in Manila, recounting a private conversation between a diplomat and Joel De Los Santos, a retired Filipino university professor who specialized in Islamic affairs. Mr. De Los Santos alleged that Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi had channeled $200,000 (5 million pesos) to Ramos’ 1992 election campaign."Cable 94MANILA13414". http://wikileaks.org/cable/1994/07/94MANILA13414.html Ramos dismissed the claim as "hearsay by itself, and is further based on a string of successive hearsay conversations" and challenged anyone who believed the claim to produce evidence.Ramos Denies Libyan Campaign Contributions, The Philippines Star, Sept. 7 2011. http://www.philstar.com/headlines/724230/ramos-denies-libyan-campaign-contributions

Charter Change

During his final years in office, Ramos tried to amend the country’s 1987 constitution; a process popularly known to many Filipinos as Charter Change or the so-called "Cha-Cha". Widespread protests led by Corazon Aquino and the Catholic Church stopped him from pushing through with the plan. Political analysts were divided as to whether Ramos really wanted to use Cha-Cha to extend his presidency or only to imbalance his opponents, as the next presidential election neared. The New York Times (September 22, 1997). Retrieved on August 24, 2008