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Fidel Ramos, a former Philippine general who denounced despots

Former president eschewed dynastic politics, consolidated democracy

Fidel Ramos flexes his muscles after surgery in 1996. Ramos prided himself on his healthy lifestyle.   © Reuters

MANILA -- The return of the Marcos dynasty to the Malacanang Palace this year shocked much of the world. Almost exactly five decades after Ferdinand Marcos Sr. declared martial law, ushering in a decadelong dictatorship, his namesake son captured the presidency with the strongest electoral mandate in contemporary Philippine history.

Around the world, many wondered how Filipinos could bring back to power the same family that oversaw one of the most rapaciously decadent and unrepentantly brutal regimes in Asian history. Naturally, much of the blame fell on the country's youth, who have no direct memory of the dictatorship years and overwhelmingly supported the campaign of the ex-dictator's son.

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