'Omega 12' behind Marcos' martial law - US envoy

by Jojo Malig, ABS-CBNNews.com

Posted at Apr 12 2013 06:45 PM | Updated as of Apr 13 2013 03:02 AM

MANILA - Twelve military officers personally handpicked by then President Ferdinand Marcos implemented Martial Law during his regime, according to a declassified diplomatic cable published online by anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

And contrary to a popular urban legend, Marcos gave them Omega watches, not Rolexes, said then US Ambassador to Manila William Sullivan in a December 24, 1974 confidential memo to the US State Department.

Cable 1974MANILA15083_b, which was earlier released in the public domain by the US National Archives, identified the "Omega 12". They were:

  • Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile,
  • Philippine Constabulary chief Maj. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos,
  • National Intelligence Security Authority chief Maj. Gen. Fabian Ver,
  • Lt. Col. Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco, Jr.
  • Army chief Maj. Gen. Rafael Zagala,
  • Constabulary vice-chief Brig Gen. Tomas Diaz,
  • Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Romeo Espino,
  • Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Jose Rancudo,
  • Navy chief Rear Admiral Hilario Ruiz,
  • ISAFP chief Brig. Gen. Ignacio Paz,
  • Metrocom chief Brig Gen. Alfredo Montoya, and
  • Rizal province Constabulary head Col. Romeo Gatan.

Sullivan said Marcos gifted the 12 with personally inscribed Omega watches during a private ceremony in Malacañang in 1973.

The 12 apparently took pride in the gold watches.

"The twelve had previously been rewarded and identified individually in private during September  1973 Malacañang ceremonies when Marcos presented each of them with a personally inscribed gold watch leading them subsequently to title themselves 'The Omega Band,'" the US ambassador's memo said.

Without specifically naming them, Marcos cited the "Omega 12" during his 1973 address to the Armed Forces.

A year later, Marcos publicly acknowleged their primary contributions to martial law.

"Marcos re-emphasized his need for military in awarding medals to stalwart twelve who he said planned martial law," Sullivan said, referring to the dictator's address to the Armed Forces in December 21, 1974.

"Marcos chose to decorate the twelve men of defense establishment whom he described as instrumental in deciding and implementing martial law," he added.

It marked the first time that Marcos publicly singled out and thanked the members of the "Omega 12" were their role during the dictatorship. 

"There is no question now that their fortunes are even more tightly tied to those of the New Society," Sullivan said.

During the ceremonies, Marcos' wife Imelda was also given a special military award "signed by her least favorite Cabinet member, Secretary of National Defense Juan Ponce Enrile, for her outstanding contributions to the New Society," the US envoy wrote. 

Enrile and Ramos later launched an uprising against Marcos that led to the EDSA People Power revolution and the removal of the strongman from power.

Ramos would become Philippine president, beating fellow "Omega 12" member Cojuangco in the 1992 elections. Enrile would become Senate president.

Cojuangco, a cousin of former President Cory Aquino and uncle of current President Benigno Aquino III, would focus on business aside from politics. He is current chairman of San Miguel Corp.