By Ben Cal
His charisma and accessibility to members of media as a devoted public servant for nearly half a century made the late former President Fidel V. Ramos a “Darling of the Press”.
Ramos, who was popularly called FVR after his initials, or “Steady Eddie” by his peers in the military and police because of his calmness in handling difficult security matters, died last July 31 at the ripe age of 94.
Journalists who had covered FVR when he was still in the active military service, in the defense department, and later as the 12th President of the Republic of the Philippines, visited his wake at the Heritage Chapel in Taguig City last Friday where they paid tribute to his many accomplishments in nation building that lifted the country from the quagmire of serious economic and security problems through his bold decisions.
They also offered prayers for the eternal repose of his soul.
It was during the wake that former members of the Malacañang and Defense Press Corps, where the newsmen cited FVR’s unrivaled openness to media, holding a weekly press conference and answering almost all questions thrown at him, except those that would compromise national security, which he politely turned down with a smile.
During his six-year term as President, members of the Malacañang Press Corps, including this writer, were provided a Fokker plane from the Philippine Air Force (PAF) to use in going to the provinces or cities where FVR would visit. It was an exciting experience for media players.
Reporters who covered FVR during his out-of-town trips got their stories first hand. It was during FVR’s incumbency as President that reporters wrote many stories day in and day out.
A known workaholic, FVR also allowed ambush interviews, especially when big stories broke out. He likewise chatted and shared jokes with reporters, making them laugh as it was his way of dealing with the press. He even called them by their first names. It was his style that paid off.
Even before FVR’s term as the country’s chief executive, when he was the head of the Philippine Constabulary (PC) and Integrated National Police (INP), now the Philippine National Police (PNP) and later as chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Defense secretary, Ramos had a good relationship with media, bringing them along in many of his out-of-town visits.
FVR had experienced several near-death incidents, including a crash-landing of a PAF Fokker plane during his official visit to Catarman, Northern Samar as Defense secretary on Dec. 19, 1990. Twelve other people, including the two pilots, also survived the incident.
Some 40 members of the Malacañang Press, including this reporter, also had a brush with death when our F-27 aircraft crash-landed at the Cotabato City airport in 1994.
After he bowed out of government service in 1998, FVR continued his service to the country by writing a column in the Manila Bulletin, giving advice and suggestions on dealing with national issues.
With all humility, this writer had the privilege of covering FVR for the longest time from1974 until his death which enabled me to write three books on his life and destiny as a courageous soldier and outstanding leader worthy of honor and emulation. (PNA)