FVR Principles Of Good And Effective Governance

Shortly after I had ended my Cabinet tenure an interviewer asked me: “What is the key to being a successful Finance Secretary?” I quipped: “Choose the right Boss.” Levity aside it was really the other way around as it was FVR who chose and put his trust in me and I will endlessly thank him for that life changing decision. It is indeed a great honor for me to deliver this tribute to my then and always Boss, Pres. Fidel V. Ramos, a great man who ran for public elective office just once in his life and went on to be a great President. He did not achieve this by treading along the usual political path since he wasn’t a politician, did not come from a political dynasty, had no geographical bailiwick and had to rely mainly on the public’s memory of the lustre of his pivotal participation and steady hand in restoring democracy during the peaceful people power revolution and the inspired decision of Pres. Cory Aquino to support him rather than her own party’s choice for the candidacy towards the Philippine Presidency.

Nevertheless, he was arguably more prepared for the rigors and complexities of the Presidency than many who aspired for it successfully or otherwise. He was one of literally a handful of Filipinos to be accepted to study at West Point, an
academic and military institution second to none in the world and had honed his leadership skills on the battlefield and his administrative and management prowess as Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, one of the country’s largest organizational structures.

This developed in him a world view that made him the soldier statesman he later became as leader of his country. This world view consisted first of all in an undying love of and faith in the Philippines for which he had often put his life on the line as a soldier. For him patriotism was neither just a concept nor slogan but a lived experience. There’s nothing like facing gunfire and possible death in defense of his country and its democracy to ingrain in him the reality of the words “ang mamatay ng dahil sa iyo”. Together with this there was imbued in him a strong desire arising from his faith in the Filipino to restore the Philippines to its place as the Pearl of the Orient before the country sadly descended from its perch and found itself worshipping other countries that were less advanced than it in the past as its models of modernization and economic development. Thus as President he delighted in presenting himself as the country’s premium “salesman/promoter”, deliberately chose to do state visits to ASEAN countries first to emphasize the Philippines intrinsic positioning in and belonging to the region as well as to expand Philippine trade relations beyond its traditional dependence on the US and Japan, and skillfully promoted an independent foreign policy without attracting negativism from either the US or China.

You may recall that China’s Pres Jiang Zemin and US President Bill Clinton paid state visits to the Philippines during the FVR administration (Jiang Zemin even sang an Elvis song with FVR during the state dinner in his honor and Bill Clinton played Summertime on the saxophone during his). But perhaps the growing recognition of FVR on the global stage as a leader among leaders was stamped in the minds of the international community when the Philippines hosted the APEC leaders meeting (held in Subic) during which FVR introduced the idea of including the private sector as an intrinsic part of APEC. This was the birth of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) which transformed APEC from a gathering of political leaders to discuss geopolitics to an instrument of meaningful globalization with the private sector as an inexpendable part of the process of international trade, peace and mutually beneficial development. It also transformed FVR’s reputation on the world stage as a brilliant leader and global visionary. The international reputation of FVR and the Philippines was further enhanced with the rapid resurgence of the Philippine economy under FVR’s leadership to become a favored investment destination and a “tiger cub” economy. He continues to be the most respected Philippine President amongst the international community.