Former President Fidel V. Ramos, the 12th President of the Republic of the Philippines (1992-1998), is more than his array of titles to the veterans community. A distinguished military officer and a veteran of the Korean War and the Vietnam War, former President Ramos was a stalwart of veterans’ rights who not only advocated for the welfare and well-being of the veterans but also inspired a whole generation of future defenders for his relentless service to the nation, his bravery and fortitude.
Born on March 18, 1928 in Lingayen, Pangasinan, former President Ramos, known as FVR, was the son of lawmaker and diplomat, Narciso Ramos and educator, Angela Ramos. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1950 and earned a master’s degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois in 1951.
As part of the Philippine Army, he served in the reconnaissance and special forces. When the Korean War broke out in 1950, President Ramos was one of the 7,420-strong Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK) sent by the Philippines to help the embattled South Korea against the invading North Korean and Chinese forces. The PEFTOK were comprised of five battalion teams, namely, the 2nd, 10th, 14th, 19th, and the 20th Battalion Combat Teams (BTC) which served separately during the course of the Korean War.
Former President Ramos’ most famous exploit in the Korean War was in the Battle of Hill Eerie, a strategic military outpost located about ten miles of Chorwon within present-day North Korea, between the 20th BCT and the Chinese forces from 18-21 May 1952.
Beginning on 18 May 1952, multiple assaults were launched by the 20th BCT against the Chinese forces in Hill Eerie. At dawn of May 21, the final assault on Hill Eerie was led by then 1st Lieutenant Fidel V Ramos. He divided his 44 men into four groups: snipers, riflemen, scouts, and forward observers. To avoid detection, the platoon crawled through rice paddies and scattered trees for two hours until they reached an irrigation ditch about 400 meters from the top of the hill.
1Lt Ramos and his platoon held their position as the U.S. Air Force provided them aerial support by dropping napalm bombs on the Chinese position. When the bombing stopped, 1Lt Ramos and his men open fired their artillery. They then commenced a ground assault by engaging the retreating Chinese troops in a close quarter fighting. 1Lt Ramos and the scout team launched an attack on the right of the hill as the rifle team worked its way from the left side. The sniper team, meanwhile, engaged enemies from the nearby Hill 191.
After 1Lt Ramos and his team withdrew from the hill, the bombing of the Chinese position resumed. In total, the Chinese forces lost an estimated 1,100 men, with more than 2,500 wounded.
The 20th BCT’s concerted efforts, coupled with 1Lt Ramos’ strategic leadership and dauntless spirit, in the Battle of Hill Eerie earned the Philippines its third major victory during the Korean War. It also displayed the brand of courage and fearlessness the Filipino warriors are known for.
Former President Ramos’ contributions to foreign wars did not end in the Korean War. As serving the people in any capacity runs in his blood, he also joined the Vietnam War in 1960s as a non-combat civil military engineer and Chief of Staff of the Philippine Civil Action Group or PHILCAG.
Years later, the bemedaled military officer steadily rose the ranks. In 1971, he became the Chief of Staff for Home Defense of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and a year later, he was appointed as Chief of the Philippine Constabulary. He then became the AFP Vice Chief of Staff in 1981, the AFP Chief of Staff in 1986, and the Secretary of National Defense in 1988.
He faced a turning point in his career when he ran and won the Presidential elections in 1992. During his term, former President Ramos rebuilt the Philippine economy and implemented a comprehensive Social Reform agenda that helped address the country’s long-standing poverty problem. Specifically, the poverty rate fell down to 31 percent from 39 percent. A peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was also signed during his time for which he won the 1997 UNESCO Peace Award for the Philippines.
After his presidency, he continued to keep the Filipino Veterans Community close to him, supporting the veterans in any way possible. As a veteran of both the Korean War and Vietnam War, former President Ramos’ name carried with him a sense of duty that inspired others to do the same. He continuously lent his support to various fundraising activities for the benefit of Filipino veterans, including those of the efforts of the Filipino War Veterans Foundation Inc. (FILVETS) and of the PEFTOK Veterans Association Inc. (PVAI). As others learned of his support to the efforts of these organizations, they too pledged their assistance.
Among his recent contributions to the Filipino Veterans Community was his call and support for the unification of the Vietnam War Veterans. With his willingness to support the Vietnam War Veterans, they were able to be duly registered and affiliated under the Veterans Federation of the Philippines, moving one step closer to PVAO’s goal of unifying all veterans under a credible Federation.
Former President Ramos married Amelita Jara Martinez in 1954. They were blessed with five daughters.
Former President Ramos passed away on 31 July 2022. He was 94 years old.