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NOVEMBER 3, 2000 VOL. 26 NO. 43 | SEARCH ASIAWEEK

'I Am Deeply Saddened'
Ramos on the crisis facing the country

PLUS
Is She Ready: Gloria Macapagal Arroyo rallies the opposition

When Fidel Ramos talks or acts, Filipinos take note. During the 1986 People Power revolution, Ramos, then armed forces vice chief of staff, dropped his support for his cousin Ferdinand Marcos, leading to the strongman's ouster. After Joseph Estrada became president in 1998, Ramos was one of his top advisers. Now he is calling for Estrada to be impeached. Whatever happens, Ramos is back in the political game. When he isn't running his foundation or traveling to promote the Philippines as an investor and tourist destination, he is trying to raise people's consciousness about the excesses of the Estrada regime through public appearances and provincial sorties. As chairman emeritus of the Lakas opposition coalition, he is helping Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo build up the party prior to next May's congressional and local elections. Ramos's own presidency was far from ideal, but during his time the country was stable, peaceful and respected, and business confidence was high. On Oct. 25 Asiaweek's Antonio Lopez caught up with Ramos, 72, to discuss the current crisis and how the country can get out of it. Excerpts:


On the crisis
I am deeply saddened by the reverses suffered by the country. The president should call a meeting of core groups of leaders regardless of political affiliation to help tackle the nation's multifarious critical problems. Faultfinding and finger-pointing will not solve our people's urgent concerns.
On being behind an alleged plot against Estrada
I vigorously deny being involved, much less behind the current crisis facing the Estrada government. I will not demolish what I helped to put together.
On the possibility of a military coup taking place
Very slim. The idealistic young colonels are not there anymore. They have become senators, entrepreneurs or been trying to make a living peacefully.
On Estrada resigning
I want impeachment. It affords the president the time to explain his position and provides him a graceful exit. If in the process he resigns, that's a bonus. [As it is], he may be exonerated or acquitted of the charges against him.
On the opposition
The best chance for the opposition is to coalesce as a broad front of parties against the administration party. If there is no united front of opposition parties, then [we] will be handing over to the [current] administration party the leadership of the country for the next three or four presidential elections . . . Gloria can unite the opposition. I am convinced she will make a good president.
On what Estrada should do
Fire his cronies. Restore the dignity of the presidency. It has become a laughing stock. Estrada should not foment class war and call one group of society walang kuwenta [useless] and elite while addressing the masa [masses]. We should get our act together so that we are again looked upon with respect by the outside community.

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November 30, 2000

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