THREE Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) personnel, including an officer, led this year’s awardees for the Ten Outstanding Philippine Soldiers (Tops).

Philippine Navy spokesman Edgard Arevalo said the PMC awardees were Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel Casem, Technical Sergeant Marcelo Batingan and Sergeant Vicente Sustiverio Jr.

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Arevalo said the Army and Air Force have three awardees each while the Technical Service has one.

The selection of the 10 from an original pool of 85 nominees, the search’s highest to date, were based from each individual’s exemplary performance, contributions to the service, and involvement in humanitarian and civic action projects, Arevalo said.

He said Casem took an active role in the combat operations against the rogue elements of the Moro National Liberation Front-Misuari Breakaway Group (MNLF-MBG).

He said the operation led to the capture of the MNLF-MBG main camp in the town of Panamao, Sulu in April 2007.

In November 2006, Arevalo said that Casem has led an elite group of Marines, which the latter trained, in neutralizing a group of Abu Sayyaf Group bandits in the town of Panglima Sugala, Tawi-Tawi.

Arevalo said the operation resulted to the death of three bandits and recovery of three high-powered firearms and assorted ammunition.

Casem also introduced the use of a pair of six-volt rechargeable batteries as a power supply for PRC-77 tactical radios that can last for a week of operations and can be recharged for succeeding operations.

Arevalo said Batingan was a member of Marine Battalion Landing Team-4 that successfully launched an all-out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front-Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (MILF-BIAF) in Kauswagan town, Lanao Del Norte.

Arevalo said Batingan directed and led his squad to move towards the enemies’ position and provided suppressive volume of fire that paved the way for advancing troops to neutralize the enemy.

The operation resulted to the capture and control of the satellite camp from the remnants of the MILF’s 303rd Brigade and cleared the area of the presence of MILF rebels.

Arevalo said that Sustiverio’s vast experience in the field of intelligence led to the solution of 17 high-profile robbery and hold-up cases in 2008 and the neutralization of the Waray-Waray and Ozamis Organized Crime Group, recovery of critical firepower an mobility assets, and uncovering their financiers.

He said Sustiverio was also among those awarded for his pursuit of socio-economic development during the entire conduct of intelligence operations against blast fishing in Manila Bay.

He said this culminated to a series of successful counteraction operations with the National Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Naval Special Operations Group, and the 202nd Naval Reserve Squadron, and subsequently, to the apprehension of a bigtime supplier of illegal chemical component for explosives in National Capital Region and adjoining provinces, and homemade explosives used for blast fishing.

The Search for Tops, now on its 15th year, is an annual undertaking of the Metrobank Foundation Inc. and the Rotary Club of Makati Metro that honors the career achievements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The Search for Tops has already named 116 awardees.

The Search for Tops is Metrobank's way of showing appreciation for the sacrifices of the men and women of the AFP to protect the Filipino nation. (Bong Garcia)