Republic of the Philippines, Ramos Presidency
Fidel Ramos, Corazon Aquino, MNLF, Joseph Estrada, Moro Islamic Liberation
Aquino endorsed Fidel Ramos for the 1992 presidential elections. In the political maneuvering leading up to the election, Ramos failed to win the nomination of the ruling party, Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP), and registered a new political party, EDSA-LDP. His party then changed its name to Lakas ng EDSA (Power of EDSA) and became part of a multiparty electoral alliance called Lakas-NUCD (National Union of Christian Democrats). Ramos narrowly won the election against several candidates who were Marcos loyalists, including widowed Imelda Marcos.
Ramos was the first former professional military officer to become president of the Philippines. He used his knowledge of the Philippine military to reestablish a tradition of civilian control over the armed forces. He also built on the process of restoring democracy to the Philippines by addressing the nation’s most difficult economic and structural problems. Ramos pursued an ambitious economic reform program based on privatization and deregulation, opening banking and business to foreign investment and transferring government assets to private ownership. He moved quickly to resolve the country’s serious electric-power shortage, which had been a detriment to economic growth, by investing in the domestic power-generating infrastructure. His government improved tax-collection policies and practices, and this combined with the growing economy to generate higher tax revenues for the government. In 1994 and 1995 the country had its first consecutive government budget surpluses. Despite many improvements, however, unemployment remained a serious problem because population growth continued to outpace the creation of new jobs. Voters signaled their support of the largely successful economic reforms by electing a majority of Ramos-backed candidates to the legislature in 1995.
In the early 1990s, meanwhile, secessionist Muslim groups renewed their guerrilla war in Mindanao. Negotiations between the Ramos government and the MNLF formally began in 1993 and resulted in a lasting peace agreement, signed in September 1996. Other rebel groups, including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Abu Sayyaf, continued guerrilla activities. The MILF demanded an expansion of the Muslim autonomous region, while the more radical Abu Sayyaf group demanded a separate Islamic state.
In 1997 supporters of Ramos explored the possibility of amending the constitutional stipulation that restricted the president to a single term in office. Corazon Aquino and Cardinal Sin organized a demonstration to protest the proposed amendment, leading Ramos and his supporters to drop the issue. For the 1998 elections, Ramos and the ruling coalition, Lakas-NUCD, gave their support to Jose de Venecia, the House speaker. Joseph Estrada, vice president under Ramos and a populist politician, entered the race as a candidate of his own party, the Partido ng Masang Pilipino (Party of the Filipino Masses), which entered a coalition with two leading opposition parties. Estrada campaigned on promises to work toward improving the lives of poor Filipinos. He won the election with the widest margin ever in Philippine politics. The office of vice president went to Lakas-NUCD candidate Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a former senator and daughter of former president Diosdado Macapagal. Although Lakas-NUCD won a majority of congressional seats, more than half of the members defected to Estrada’s coalition, Laban ng Masang Pilipino (LMP; Struggle for Filipino Masses), after the elections. Macapagal-Arroyo then represented the political opposition, led by Lakas-NUCD, which also drew support from Aquino and Cardinal Sin.
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