Ramos, ex-Filipino leader who helped overthrow dictator, dies at 94

Manila, July 31 (AP) Former Philippine President Fidel Valdez Ramos, a U.S.-educated former general who served in the Korean and Vietnam wars and played a key role in a 1986 pro-democracy uprising that overthrown a dictator, died. He was 94 years old.

The cause of his death was not immediately clear, but one of his longtime aides, Norman Legaspi, told The Associated Press that Ramos had been in and out of hospital in recent years due to heart disease and suffered from dementia.

Some of Ramos’ relatives were with him when he died at Makati Medical Center in Metro Manila on Sunday, Legaspi said, adding that the family would release a statement on his death later on Sunday.

“He was an icon. We lost a hero and I lost a father,” said Legaspi, a retired Philippine Air Force officer who served as a key member of Ramos for about 15 years old.

Publicist Trixie Cruz-Angeles sent her condolences to Ramos’ family.

“He leaves behind a colorful legacy and a secure place in history for his participation in the great changes of our country, both as a military officer and as chief executive,” she said in a statement.

Cigar Ramos, known for his visionary “win-win” vision, attention to detail, thumbs-up and firm handshake, served as president from 1992 to 1998, succeeding democracy icon Corazon Aquino. She was propelled to the presidency in 1986 after a military-backed and largely peaceful “people power” revolt toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was also a cousin of Ramos.

The uprising, which has become a harbinger of change in authoritarian regimes around the world, came after Philippine Constabulary Chief Ramos and Secretary of Defense Juan Ponce Enrile withdrew their support for Marcos following a failed coup.

Roman Catholic Cardinal Jaime Sin then summoned the Filipinos to surround and protect the military and police camps in the capital area where the defectors and their forces had entrenched, prompting crucial government defections that eventually led Marcos, his family and friends in American exile.

After Aquino assumed the presidency, Ramos became military chief of staff and later secretary of defense, successfully defending it against several violent coup attempts.

Ramos won the 1992 presidential elections and became the first Protestant president of the majority Roman Catholic nation. His tenure was marked by major reforms and attempts to break up telecommunications and other business monopolies that sparked a rare economic boom, bolstered the impoverished Southeast Asian country’s image and won praise from leaders business and the international community.

His calm demeanor in times of crisis earned him the nickname “Steady Eddie”. The son of a longtime lawmaker and Foreign Secretary, Ramos graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1950. He was part of the Philippine combat contingent that fought in the Korean War and was also involved in the Vietnam War as a non-combat civilian military engineer.

Ramos is survived by his wife, Amelita “Ming” Ramos, school official, pianist, sports and environmental advocate, and their four daughters. Their second child, Josephine “Jo” Ramos-Samartino, died in 2011.

Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.

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