The Highwayman: A conversation with former President Fidel V. Ramos

The Highwayman: A conversation with former President Fidel V. Ramos

He gives his two cents on EDSA, the current election, and what the youth can learn from both.

Though many of us were either not yet born or were too young when the EDSA People Power Revolution happened in 1986, we remember it through stories from our parents, along with the grainy footage of the crowd — a mix of people from different backgrounds — all clutching rosaries and religious items, uniting to oust Marcos.

Discovery Channel’s People Power: 30 Years On is the latest documentary to bring out that footage, and commemorate the peaceful revolution’s 30-year anniversary. It features interviews with some of People Power’s key players, including former President Fidel V. Ramos, who was the Philippine Constabulary chief during the Marcos administration.

Young STAR talked to the former president and army chief this week. With his signature medal-adorned veteran’s cap, he gave us advice on what kind of candidate to pick for the upcoming elections, and why we, the people, need to throw out some elected officials.

YOUNG STAR: What do you think of the Filipino youth of today? How did you see the youth of EDSA? Are there any differences?

FIDEL V RAMOS: Of course there are. And you probably know the answers to that. But because you asked me the question, during our time, none of the young ones — not even the adults like me — had good means of communication. Or call it connectivity. Or bonding that you now have with all kinds of people. Not only within your home, not only within your neighborhood, but also across the world with other nationalities, with all kinds of classes of people. And to me, that is a huge advantage. And it leads to my ultimate ambition in life. Which is that we must have enduring peace and sustainable development for the world, so we need to act like just one community. We should end up being just one family. We have to know that our planet earth is so tiny, really, and able only to sustain a limited number of people.

“Social media is a double-edged weapon. It can be used to the advantage of one group over the other. But it’s not necessarily advantageous for the whole nation and for the Filipino people as a whole, because it lacks objectivity, and it lacks accuracy in terms of your target.”

You’ve mentioned that social media (or the number of “likes”) isn’t as important for election campaigns because what the presidentiables need to address are the concerns of ordinary people who make up the majority.

Social media is a double-edged weapon. It can be used to the advantage of one group over the other. But it’s not necessarily advantageous for the whole nation and for the Filipino people as a whole, because it lacks objectivity, and it lacks accuracy in terms of your target. You’re not always aggressive or agitating the right people who must answer your questions or who must react to the situation. On the other hand, those that plan to exploit it for their own personal advantage may succeed, but their own personal interests are not necessarily national interests. So there is a necessary… I call it a mature or professional or universal kind of management that must be employed on social media for it to really be helpful to the world.

How do you think we can foster the values that were seen during EDSA?

We can learn these things only through internalization. And that just means that you need to keep repeating the core values, the buzzwords and the important virtues to yourself. And to reinforce that further, you must experience some of these values in real actions. Otherwise, they will just end up being theories that are not put into projects, programs, not to mention the gross domestic product, or sustainable development.

Do you think that the youth can use these values in preparation for the upcoming elections?

Early in my political career (and I was the only amateur in a field of six heavyweights; I was one lightweight starting in late 1981), I adopted a set of buzzwords that represent core values as individuals. And collective, cooperative spirit. As a team looking at the Philippines as one national team. So, it’s very simple. As individuals, people should be caring, sharing, daring. These are the names of three very beautiful Filipina girls — Caring, Sharing, Daring. Caring and sharing are easy enough to do, ‘cause we’re naturally helpful, generous, compassionate. And sometimes even forgiveness. To give more than to take. Let’s look for candidates who are like that. Select them.

It also means daring to sacrifice for the common good. And in terms of the world community, it means daring to take collective action in order to make a difference. So it’s a tough assignment to be daring. Now, in terms of the collective spirit, the group must have only one mission in life. For me, it’s very simple. For Filipinos, I think all of us want to have a better future than the future I was faced with when I was your age. And you’ll want your children — a future for your children better than the future that you’re facing now. So this unity of purpose is to have a better future for everyone.

Photos by Ralph Mendoza

Number two, solidarity in values. What are the values that we already have under the law? Love of God, love of country, love of people. But I added one more: love of the environment. Maka-Diyos, maka-bayan, maka-kalikasan. You have to take care of the environment because that will be our greatest enemy. That’s where hunger will come from. That’s where thirst will come from. That’s where ebola will come from. That’s where HIV/AIDS will come from. Why? Because it’s all part of the environment. But you must also love work. Time — there’s no such thing as “time out” anymore for anyone elected to the position of president of the Philippines. No weekends. No holidays. If there’s a need for a special session of Congress, you order it. And everybody should be there. There must be no lack of quorum. These days, we’re seeing: “Oh, the law was not passed because there was no quorum for three weeks at a time.” That’s no excuse. The people should “excuse” these so-called officials and throw them out. The finer things in life, you must also love. Like music, eating, Miss Universe. But we must also love ugliness. Because that’s a challenge for you. You must also love your enemy so that you can reconcile and make peace. But do not love your neighbor’s wife, or enemy’s wife, because that’s against the Bible.

Lastly, teamwork in nation-building. It must be like this (FVR motions to a graph he’s drawn). I have always said that each official must succeed better than his or her predecessor. In other words, the growth or the progress graph will always be going upward, like this (points to the graph). For presidents, they must never go up and down. They’re really going down because of poor policies, because of graft and corruption, because of cronyism, because of patronage, because of extravagance and the use of public funds. No. You must always improve on your predecessors, and if we graph that, you will end up very much higher than your beginning point. And if we are looking at Ferdinand Marcos, Cory Aquino, Fidel Ramos, Erap Estrada, Benigno Aquino, Mr. X — the one person who is going to be elected — we should already be up there. But we’re still at the beginning point.

Catch the encore telecasts of People Power: 30 Years from Feb. 26 at 1 p.m., Feb. 27 at 7 p.m., to Feb. 28 at 10 p.m. on Discovery Channel.

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