All is well between President Duterte and President Fidel V. Ramos despite the latter’s recent sharp rebuke of his position on some issues.
The President showed his respect for Ramos for being his foremost critic and supporter during the alumni gathering of San Beda law graduates in Taguig City last Saturday.
Duterte, in his impromptu remarks, recognized that Ramos’ criticisms of his performance were part of the country’s vibrant democracy.
“Former President Fidel Ramos, my No. 1 critic and No. 1 supporter and that is good. You know, decent and criticism would make this democratic country healthy,” Duterte said in welcoming the former leader to the event.
Both leaders exchanged pleasantries and did a fist bump during their attendance at the alumni event last weekend.
Duterte has regarded Ramos as one of his mentors who convinced him to run for President in the last elections.
But the former leader recently claimed that the Duterte government has been a huge disappointment, saying it was losing badly by prioritizing the anti-drug campaign over other issues such as poverty alleviation and job creation.
Ramos was also not pleased with Duterte’s support for the burial of President Ferdinand E. Marcos at the Libingan ng Bayani as well as his lackluster participation in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Peru.
But instead of getting annoyed with the former leader’s criticisms, the President heaped praises on Ramos, especially his support of the peace process in Mindanao, tough stance against illegal drugs, as well as efforts to promote economic growth during his term.
“I agree with President Ramos. There can never be a real fight, you just have to talk,” the President said, citing the “wisdom” of the former leader in forging peace with rebel groups in Mindanao.
Duterte likewise credited the Ramos administration worked hard to address the drug problem, unlike his two predecessors.
“I’m not saying this because he’s here but because simply it’s the truth. Kasi sa panahon niya, nagtatrabaho ang mga pulis at takot. Takot sa – eh chief PC ‘yan eh. He used to head the Philippine Constabulary,” he said.
“But I’m sorry to say, during the two administration, napabayaan. Napabayaan talaga and they were just paying lip service. They knew,” he added.
Duterte also recalled that his home province of Davao started to become progressive during the Ramos administration due to the improving peace and order situation.
“Economic growth hit sometime – anong year ‘yun? Panahon siguro ni President Ramos – nine percent. Tingnan mo ang Davao ngayon. Look at Davao now, look at how clean Davao is,” he said.
The President seized the chance to defend his position on the Marcos burial during the San Beda event. Duterte said he was aware that the San Beda community was “divided” over the burial of Marcos but he insisted that he looks at the matter with “cold neutrality.”
A lawyer by profession, Duterte maintained the country’s law allows the burial of Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani since he was a former President and a soldier. “Whether or not he became good or bad or worst along the years, that is not for me to decide,” he said. (GENALYN D. KABILING)