“I derive the greatest satisfaction from my having played a part, however small, in the election to office of the best President that this county has had.”
Since his passing two weeks ago much has been said or written about former President Fidel V. Ramos’s remarkable six years in Malacañang.
But hardly anything has been said or written about how FVR got there despite his having failed to win the nomination as Presidential candidate of his party, the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP).
The delegates to the late 1991 LDP convention selected party president Ramon V. Mitra as the party’s Presidential candidate by a lopsided 90-2 vote.
Having been a soldier all his life, FVR had never joined or affiliated himself with a political party, not even the Kilusan ng Bagong Lipunan (KBL), the party Ferdinand E. Marcos intended to be the political arm of his martial law regime.
FVR was a hero of the EDSA Revolution, but the most powerful politician in the Philippines in 1991 was Mitra, the Speaker of the newly restored House of Representative, a close friend of President Cory Aquino and her assassinated husband, Benigno Aquino Jr.
If he was to be the Presidential candidate of the Aquino administration’s party—the 90 LDP—FVR would have to become a party member and submit himself to the LDP’s Presidential-candidate selection process.
He did as he was told: He became an LDP member and submitted himself as a candidate for the party’s Presidential nomination. But, as already stated, he failed to win the nomination.
At that point it looked very much like FVR’s newborn political career was over.
But numerous Filipinos—myself included—were unwilling to accept the idea that a mere defeat in a political-party process would deprive the nation of the services of a man as principled, as competent, and as experienced as FVR.
Having been overwhelmingly rejected by his LDP partymates, FVR had effectively become partyless.
He must have a political horse to ride on if he was to remain in contention for the then-impending Presidential election.
A political party that would have FVR as its Presidential candidate was needed. With FVR’s approval, my fellow-supporters and I quickly proceeded to create that party.
The obvious first step that needed to be taken was the calling of a meeting that would discuss all the important aspects of the party that was about to be born—its structure, its needs—especially financial resources—and the elements of Philippine society that it could probably count on for support.
That meeting—a real brainstorming session—was held in early December 1991 at the Ramos family vacation house in Tagaytay City.
Other meetings were to follow in the immediately succeeding weeks. By the first week of January 1992 my fellow organizers and I were ready to announce the birth of the political horse that we were confident would carry FVR to victory.
The announcement was made on January 6, 1992 at the historic Club Filipino in San Juan.
What was the new party to be called? To create in the Filipino people’s minds the belief that the new party was a party of the people, FVR wanted it to be called Lakas Tao.
That many Filipinos—including some members of the press—did not take our new party seriously was shown by the ridicule that greeted the choice of the name Lakas Tao.
Some renamed it Lakas Tawa; others called it Lakas Loob. It was not the best of times for FVR, politically speaking.
Lakas Tao became Lakas Tao–NUCD when former Foreign Secretary Raul Manglapus and my late brother Joe established connections with the Italian Christian Democrats.
While serving as this country’s ambassador to Italy, my brother persuaded FVR that Lakas Tao would benefit greatly from an association with the strongest political group in Western Europe.
Subsequently, our new party’s name became even longer when a Mindanao-based political group affiliated with it.
My fellow-Lakas Tao organizers and I knew full well that FVR and our party were fighting an uphill battle, considering LDP’s enormous strength and the political survey and experience of Mitra and the other LDP leaders.
But we had something that none of the other Presidential candidates had: President Cory Aquino’s benediction of FVR, which she announced to the nation on her birthday, January 24, 1992.
At that juncture, her popularity being still at a high level, being “Cory’s Choice” would spell the difference between electoral victory and electoral defeat. My fellow-FVR supporters and I knew that our man Eddie Ramos could not lose the election.
At the start of the 1992 campaign FVR was riding a horse that was puny and untested; by the end of that season FVR mounted a mighty thoroughbred that would take him all the way to victory.
I derive the greatest satisfaction from my having played a part, however small, in the election to office of the best President that this county has had.
One of the framed pictures prominent on a wall of my office is that of the January 6, 1992 newspaper announcement of the faith of Lakas Tao NUCD, which contained my signature and the signatures of 21 other co-founders led by Raul Manglapus, Rep. Jose de Venecia Jr. and Leticia Ramos-Shahani.