Senator Pia Cayetano

Honoring the late FVR

Mr. President, in the next few days, we will see a deluge of much well-deserved praises for the late former President Fidel V. Ramos.

I filed Senate Resolution No. 90 to honor FVR and to convey the Senate’s sympathy on the passing of this great man.

I quote from parts of my resolution: “President Ramos’ background and legacy of public service remain peerless: he was an honor graduate at the United States Military Academy at Westpoint, veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars, Presidential Assistant on Military Affairs, Vice Chief of Staff and later acting Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine Constabulary, Integrated National Police Chief, EDSA 1 icon, AFP Chief, Secretary of the Department of National Defense, 12th President of the Republic of the Philippines, peace and leadership advocate and statesman.”

President Ramos advocated for and was instrumental in the deregulation of key industries, the liberalization of the economy, the privatization of public entities, and encouraging the entry of foreign investments.

In fact, under his administration, we embarked on an ambitious development plan dubbed as the Philippines 2000, which opened up the economy, encouraged private enterprise, invited foreign and domestic investment, and reduced widespread corruption.

But beyond all of this, FVR was a good friend to the family. He would call my dad [the late Senator Renato L. Cayetano] at his usual time, which was at the crack of dawn, for those who know him. My dad at that time was a private practicing lawyer, and he invited my dad to seek his counsel. My dad was an afternoon golfer, so that early morning in the dark calltime was not his normal calltime, but he gladly said yes to the President.

[Note: begins to show photo slides] So that’s a photo of dad and that’s actually Alan [Senator Alan S. Cayetano] there on the left side. Mapayat pa siya nun, so you might recognize some of the people there. I am pausing so our colleagues can laugh at Alan’s photos, which they are doing.

And he is not a golfer so I don’t know why he’s there. My two other brothers, Ren, who’s actually a golfer, I think was on the fairway many times with President Ramos, and Lino was also a golfer. Si Alan, pulitiko kaya andyan. Ako wala, I was a private citizen.

But I digress, and I move on. As I was saying, my dad heeded these early morning invitations to play golf, and we knew that the President trusted his counsel and it was just a matter of time that he made my dad his Chief Legal Counsel. And so in the next few years, this is a photo of my dad’s oath taking, I was behind my dad… I was actually carrying my daughter who was barely one year old… This was in 1995, midway through the President’s term, when he asked my dad to be his legal counsel. It was a dream job for my father. He had loved being a lawyer and he loved giving advice to the President. And I believe they still continued to play golf early in the morning.

So, a few years later, in 1998, the President asked my dad to run for the Senate, which he did. And the rest was history, my dad was a senator from 1998 to 2003. And my father passed away in 2003.

Shortly after that, I became the person to seek the late President FVR’s counsel. Alan and I went to him and sought his advice on my bid to run for the Senate. So if I listened carefully to the earlier speeches before me, clearly, he is instrumental, for better or for worse, for a lot of members being in this Senate today. May I put on record yung sabi ni Sen. Imee, “Oo nga.” Because it is true, a lot of people went to see him and asked for his advice.

Anyway, he continued to counsel my brother and I, and I think Alan has his share of his own stories. I continue to visit him. And I’d love to hear if any of you have had this experience, or baka it’s just my experience, because it’s my common bond with the President. May ‘push-up challenge’ siya. Did any of you experience that or was it just me because pareho kami? Si Sen. Lito, nag-thumbs up so nasama siya sa push-up challenge.

But interestingly, I was so game to take the push-up challenge but I think I must have been on a skirt, because for whatever reason, or because he just wanted to be a gentleman, he asked my security to perform the push-ups and my security maybe was not that young but not that old, maybe 50, but FVR clearly would have been in his 70s, and he performed it flawlessly. Yung talagang push-up hanggang dibdib na deretsong deretso ang katawan, and then, he looked like he could go on and on.

But that is a personal story that I share because he was a beacon of fitness. He was known to wake up hours before the crack of dawn to run for fitness. Like me, he believed that a healthy body supported a healthy mind. And then, from what I know, he proceeded to devour the news and only then I think would the sun rise, and he would officially start his day, which would still be earlier than many of us would be comfortable with.

I’ve known him to be such a hard worker, very demanding on, I think it was Sen. Loren who mentioned, complete staff work na I’m sure panalangin natin lahat ng senador sa staff din natin, complete staff work.

And I also heard stories na meron siyang mga small pieces of paper na doon niya sinusulat, tapos dinudukot niya sa bulsa niya yun, yung maliliit niyang reminder sa sarili niya at sa kasama niya.

And then, years later, I would actually see him joining races, running 5 kilometers and the like in races.

So I am about to come to an end on my tribute to FVR. Around 2010, 2011, I wrote a book to honor my father. I asked FVR to be the guest speaker when I launched the book, this is called, ‘To Dream the Impossible Dream,’ because my father’s dream was to serve his country. And in a large way, the late President Fidel Ramos gave my father that break, to fulfill his dream to serve his country. So this was me and my family, my father was no longer around, and I’d like to think that through the opportunities that the late President Fidel Ramos gave my father, and later to me, and even to Alan, we continue to fulfill our father’s impossible dream.

And so let me end on this note: interestingly, all my colleagues in the 18th Congress know, and for the new ones, if you don’t know yet, you’ll know soon enough, that my passion is sustainable development, and the Committee I chair is SDGs, Innovation, and Futures Thinking. And as I was reading through the late FVR’s accomplishments, one of them is something that will continue to guide me today. He established the Philippine Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD). Interestingly, and how many years ago was that? Hindi pa naninindigan si Sen. Loren for climate change, andyan na si FVR for sustainable development. I mean that to also honor Sen. Loren. I am just saying the late FVR has also been doing this for so long.

And let me just read a portion of that from my resolution: “FVR established the Philippine Council for Sustainable Development to integrate sustainable development parameters in the country’s development efforts, to ensure that the country’s economic agendas are not pursued at the expense of the environment. And when we speak of the environment, it’s not just the physical environment, but it’s everything else: human health, gender equality, and so on and so forth.”

And so I end this by sincerely offering our condolences to the family and all the people he loved, who loved him, and I pray that this tribute that we have, I hope will be repeated again and again, if not for days, for months, but for years to come, because he truly was an inspiration for our youth to emulate.

Thank you, Mr. President. #

Run for the Pasig River 2008
File photo: Former President Fidel V. Ramos, former First Lady Amelita ‘Ming’ Ramos (chairperson, Clean and Green Foundation) and Sen. Pia Cayetano award the female winners of the Philippine Marathon for the Pasig River (2008).

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