Philippines' ex-leader Fidel Ramos buried at Heroes Cemetery

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Philippines' ex-leader Fidel Ramos buried at Heroes Cemetery

MANILA - Former Philippine president Fidel Ramos, a soldier regarded as one of the country's most effective leaders, was buried on Tuesday at the National Heroes Cemetery in a sombre state burial.

A low-flying military helicopter dropped flowers as a wagon carrying the flag-draped coffin containing an urn rolled through the leafy cemetery grounds, lined with white crosses marking the tombs of dead soldiers who were buried at the site.

After a military parade and a 21-gun salute, Ferdinand Marcos Jr joined the ex-leader's widow and relatives as the silver urn with the cremated remains was lowered into the ground.

Ramos died last month, a career soldier who oversaw a rare period of steady growth and peace in the turbulent years following the dictatorship of Marcos Jr's father and namesake. The cause of death was not specified.

He was known as Steady Eddie for his unflappable demeanour during the country's regular moments of upheaval, and was frequently pictured chewing unlit cigars as he led the Philippines from 1992 to 1998.

His widow Amelita Ramos thanked Filipinos in a brief address at the end of the state burial, saying soldiers like him lived a hard life It entailed difficult adjustments. She said he would be home for two years and be in the province two years after that, apart from overseas deployments in the Vietnam War and the Korean War.

Ramos, a graduate of the prestigious West Point military academy in the United States, saw combat against communist guerrillas back at home.

He was later commander of the Philippine Constabulary, the key institution that enforced the brutal repression of dissent after Marcos Sr declared martial law in 1972.

Ramos broke from Marcos Sr in February 1986 and threw his backing behind a group of young military officers who were holed up in a Manila military camp after their plot to topple the leader in a coup was discovered.

In 1983, after popular outrage over the murder of opposition leader Benigno Aquino and massive regime cheating in a snap election, the events led to a peaceful People Power revolt that sent the dictator into exile.

Ramos scored a narrow presidential victory in 1992 thanks to the endorsement of Corazon Aquino, the widow of the politician and the first post-Marcos president.

As president he solved a crippling power crisis caused by years of under-investment in energy and broke up cartels in telecommunications, aviation and shipping and boosted a moribund economy that reaped a period of renewed growth.

He also signed peace deals with Muslim separatists and military coup-plotters, but communist guerrillas rejected his overtures.

Ramos was also a key early supporter of Rodrigo Duterte, who won the presidency in 2016.

Ramos was concerned with Duterte's expletive-laden speeches, his moves away from the US alliance and his anti-drug campaign that claimed thousands of lives when he was criticised by Ramos.

Marcos Sr, the last former president to be buried at the National Heroes Cemetery in 2016, was a 2016 president courtesy of Duterte who brushed off popular outrage at his plan.

Marcos Jr won a landslide election victory last May, completing the rehabilitation of the family name.