Critical appraisal of Gen. Fidel Ramos: Reactionary hero, people’s foe

This article is available in Bisaya

Profuse praise are being heaped by the reactionaries on Gen. Fidel Ramos since news of his death came out. They all pay homage to Ramos for supposedly bringing “stability” to the country and turning it into a “tiger economy.” The broad masses of the Filipino people, however, are confounded by these praises, as they recall only suffering during the years of the Ramos regime. We are, thus, compelled to provide a more critical view to correct this attempt to prettify the past.

If we are to make an objective appraisal, we can say that during his lifetime, Gen. Fidel Ramos was 99% of the time on the side fascist dictatorship and the neoliberal policy regime. To his credit, he was for one fleeting moment on the people’s side of history, when he abandoned the Marcos dictatorship. Most of the reactionary politicians who have turned sycophants of the now ruling Marcos II regime, however, conveniently avoid mentioning this fact, even if Ramos’ real motivation was to salvage the ruling semicolonial and semifeudal system in the face of the downfall of the Marcos dictatorship.

For 14 years, he defended the Marcos dictatorship and served as one of the chief implementors of martial law. He headed the PC-INP (Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police), the police force under the military, which was notorious for bloody crimes of massacres and killings, especially in the countryside.

As chief-of-staff and defense secretary under the Aquino I regime, and later as president, Ramos unleashed three campaigns of suppression against the people and their revolutionary forces (Oplan Lambat Bitag I, II and III) which were carried out under the guidance of the US military and its doctrine of “low-intensity conflict.” He oversaw the formation of armed vigilante groups (such as the Alsa Masa) and paramilitary groups, including the CAFGU (Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit), a new name for the dreaded Marcos-era CHDF (Civilian Home Defense Force). The military and police committed gross violations of human rights under Ramos’ baton.

Ramos was a special instrument of the US in resolving the factional conflicts within the AFP. He made ringleaders of the bloody coup attempts under Aquino to do a few push-ups as punishment and allowed them to convert themselves to politicians, bureaucrats, managers and businessmen. Albeit firmly under the influence of the US, the AFP remains deeply divided by conflicting loyalties to different factions of the ruling political elite.

Ramos was an American puppet through and through. He is the quintessential “American Boy.” As a junior military officer, he served the US wars of intervention in Korea in 1952 and Vietnam in 1966. As president, he colluded with the US government to regain extraterritorial prerogatives for American military forces after the Military Bases Agreement expired and was not renewed in 1991. He forged a “status of forces agreement” and later negotiated for the Visiting Forces Agreement. These would later allow US forces to use any part of the country as their military base to mount acts of intervention.

Ramos sought to carry out peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), and with the Moro National Liberation Front, with the aim of inducing them to capitulate. He succeeded in obtaining the surrender of the MNLF in 1997 of the Bangsamoro’s aspiration for self-determination in exchange for promises of crumbs. In 1992, Ramos allowed the signing of the framework and principles of negotiations with the NDFP, but up until his term ended, refused to sign any comprehensive agreement on substantive agenda.

The reactionaries extol Ramos as a “great statesman” without mentioning how he wasted billions of pesos in overseas trips with big bourgeois compradors in hand in a desperate attempt to forge ties with foreign capital. We recall how the “statesman” Ramos failed to save the life of Filipino domestic helper Flor Contemplacion who was hanged in Singapore in 1995 after a questionable trial.

As president, Gen. Ramos opened the floodgates of liberalization, deregulation and privatization which denationalized the economy and subjected it to the slow death-grip of foreign multinational corporations. He promoted the slogan “Philippines 2000” purportedly to turn the country into an “industrialized country by year 2000.” In 1995, he pushed for the country’s inclusion in the World Trade Organization. Not soon after, he opened wide the economy to allow foreign multinationals to pour capital to public utilities, mining, retail trade, financial services, and other areas of the economy formerly reserved for Filipino nationals.

Ignoring the clamor for the nationalization of the oil industry, Ramos, together with then senator Gloria Arroyo, pushed for the full deregulation of the oil industry in 1998. This law gave the oil cartel free rein to dictate retail prices according to their profit whim. Up to this day, the Filipino people suffer the consequences of this outright anti-national law.

Under the slogan of privatization, Ramos ran a bazaar of government assets, handing over public properties and state assets, including the vast land area of Fort Bonifacio, to foreign monopoly interests and their local big bourgeois comprador partners. The aim was to augment foreign and local borrowing to cover widening fiscal and trade deficits.

He allowed companies to engage in infrastructure and energy projects and private construction of office and residential towers, leisure facilities and subdivisions, many of which will turn into white elephants after the international financial crisis of 1997. In addition to the Fort Bonifacio land deal, many of these other sales involve unprecedented levels of corruption such as the PEA-Ameri land deal, described as “the grandmother of all scams.”

After his all-out push for liberalization, deregulation and privatization, Ramos left the Philippines in shambles. The country’s economic sovereignty was completely trampled. Workers, peasants and toiling people were left in further ruin. The supposed “tiger economy of Asia” turned out to be a “sick kitten.”

He started the country on a neoliberal downward spiral marked by high prices of commodities, lack of government service, low wages, contractualization, massive unemployment, landlessness and tightening foreign capitalist control and domination of the economy that continues to this day.

Critical appraisal of Gen. Fidel Ramos: Reactionary hero, people's foe