THREE soldiers who figured in the successful defense of Zamboanga City in September last year against the assault of the Nur Misuari-led Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) faction were among this year’s The Outstanding Philippine Soldiers (TOPS) awardees.
Col. Teodoro A. Llamas of the Philippine Army, Staff Sergeant Rehu P. Magno of the 1st Scout Ranger Regiment and Technical Sergeant Benny G. Dofitas of the Philippine Air Force will receive the award given annually by the Metrobank Foundation and Rotary Club of Makati for their sacrifices, bravery, dedication, and heroism.
Llamas was instrumental in the rescue of 113 hostages and the capture of over a hundred MNLF as well as the seizure of high-powered firearms during the siege through his strategic direction and experience in hostage rescue and urban combat.
Llamas also led the Light Reaction Company, the primary counter-terrorist unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), before it was activated as regiment under the Special Operations Command.
Magno received the “best enlisted personnel” award from the 1st Scount Ranger Regiment for his role in the capture of 42 MNLF rebels, also in Zamboanga City.
Magno also received his first Gold Cross Medal for his bravery in an encounter with the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group during a rescue operation for abducted foreign tourists in Palawan.
Dofitas is a seasoned photographer and analyst assigned with the 306th Air Reconnaissance Squadron of the 300th Air Intelligence and Security Group.
His aerial reconnaissance missions provided images of enemy activity and positions that gave the operating ground troops leverage through intelligence support and field awareness.
Military spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said that the trio’s individual achievement, along with the collective heroism of hundreds of soldiers, were instrumental in the neutralization of over 500 MNLF rebels, rescue of over 170 hostages, and the restoration of peace and security in Zamboanga.
Other TOPS awardees were Master Sergeant Aladin S Dacayanan, Group Sergeant Major in the Intelligence Service AFP, for his role in organizing the first ever Association of Southeast Asian Nations administrative assistants; Navy Captain Alberto B. Carlos for his role in addressing the Navy’s fuel deficit as assistant chief of Naval Staff for Logistics; Marines Sgt. Eugene Padilla for his innovative invention of a jungle antenna that helped clear lines of communication during operations; Commissary Second Class Felix B Guaves II for exposing ASG positions, strengths, and equipment after his escape from captivity;
Lt. Col. Adriano SJ Duadico for his role as presidential pilot during the defense of Zamboanga City and aftermath of typhoon Yolanda; Staff Sergeant Sheryl P. Toribio, first female specialist in the 410th Maintenance Wing, for her role in the refurbishing of PAF C-130 planes; and Maj. Florencio Ritchie I Capulong III for helping over 3000 patients by establishing the Primary Health Care Program in Sta. Lucia, Capas, Tarlac.