His service to the state continued through the Marcos years, during which he headed the Philippine Constabulary (now the Philippine National Police) and served as Vice-Chief of Staff of the armed forces for five years. Ramos was also identified as one of the “Rolex Twelve”, the group of close associates of the president. However, he switched sides in the struggle for power in February 1986, aligning himself with Corazon Aquino and the “People Power” movement against Marcos. He and Juan Ponce Enrile led the resistance to Marcos centred on two military camps. He was rewarded with promotion to Chief of Staff and then, in January 1988, with the post of Defence Minister in Aquino’s government. He increased his popularity during these years by helping to defeat a series of coup attempts against Aquino.
Aquino nominated Ramos as her choice for President in the 1992 elections. Ramos won a narrow victory to become the 12th president of the Philippine Republic. His immediate priorities were to deal with the energy crisis and the economy; he tackled economic problems through policies of fiscal transparency and deregulation, as well as less popular methods such as extending value added tax. Ramos also sought to end insurgencies by Communist and Muslim rebels, and formed a National Unification Commission in August 1992 to oversee this. In the same month he gave permission for the return of Ferdinand Marcos’s remains to the Philippines. Legislative elections held in June 1995 that were presented by Ramos as a referendum on his administration led to overwhelming victory for his supporters; by this time, his policies had reformed the Philippine economy and lifted its growth rate closer to that of other Pacific Rim “tiger economies”. In October he took personal charge of the government’s campaign against organized crime. The withdrawal of the Lakas ng Edsa party from the ruling coalition weakened Ramos’s support, but he was still able to put through an important economic liberalization package in March 1996. In September the government concluded a landmark agreement with the Muslim secessionist Moro National Liberation Front in Mindanao, ending the long-term insurgency there. Congressional opposition to suspected moves by Ramos to amend the constitution, allowing him to stand for a second term in 1998, led to the ousting in October 1996 of the Senate president Neptali Gonzales, a firm Ramos supporter.
In March 1997 the Philippines Supreme Court rejected a campaign by Ramos supporters to allow a second presidential term, confirming its decision in June. In September 1997 a mass rally in Manila, attended by Cardinal Jaime Sin and Corazon Aquino among others, demonstrated against all efforts to change the constitution to allow Ramos a second term. In December, Ramos duly endorsed his chosen presidential candidate. However, the presidential elections in May 1998 were won by Ramos’s former vice-president, Joseph Estrada.
Endorsed by the outgoing president Corazon Aquino, former defence minister Fidel Ramos narrowly won the 1992 presidential elections in the Philippines. His government successfully enacted economic liberalization measures, invigorating the Philippines’ economy. He also negotiated a peace treaty with the Muslim rebel group in Mindanao, ending a long-standing uprising there.