FORT BONIFACIO, Metro Manila – The Philippine Army celebrates its 118th Founding Anniversary with a static capability display and recognition of outstanding personnel on March 23, Monday, at the Hunters ROTC Parade Ground in Fort Bonifacio.
The Philippine Army showcased, not just its war fighting equipment and humanitarian and disaster response capabilities, but the Army outstanding personnel who had effectively performed their mandate of “Serving the people. Securing the land.” It also recognized the significant contributions of civilian stakeholders who helped the Army win the hearts and minds of the people.
Leading this year’s awardees were Corporal Narding N Pascual who earned the Distinguished Conduct Star, and Lt Col Noel A Vestuir who earned the Distinguished Service Star for their meritorious and valuable service in their areas of responsibility.
Cpl Pascual is a Squad Leader of the Composite Squad from Charlie Company, 26IB and 3rd Platoon, 27th Agusan del Sur CAA Company, the Special Operations Group (SOG) that operates in the hinter barangays of San Luis, Agusan del Sur. His squad were oftentimes designated as the main effort of the company and faced hard times engaging the enemy in counter insurgency operations.
Lt Col Vestuir, on the other hand, transformed his unit into a highly efficient unit that stood the crucial test in the insurgent-infested province of Northern Samar and the 1st District of Western Samar.
The third highest combat award, the Gold Cross Medal, were conferred to 2nd Lieutenant Jeymark Y Mateo and Sgt Benjamin A Garlejo.
As Platoon Leader of the 61st Division Reconnaissance Company, 6th Infantry Division, 2Lt Mateo together with his platoon, reinforced the 84th Special Action Company of the PNP Special Action Force that was engaged in an encounter with undetermined number of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and lawless groups, and was heavily under fire, in Brgy Tukalanipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January 25. His group retrieved eight killed, 11 wounded, and 18 unharmed PNP-SAF troopers from the 84th SAC.
Sgt Benjamin A Garlejo of the 7th Infantry Division was recognized for gallantry in action during an encounter with fully-armed rebels in Brgy. Bubon, Camiling, Tarlac, which resulted in the neutralization of six rebels, the capture of one, and the recovery of 11 assorted firearms.
Sgt Arnel S Labaco was awarded with the Bronze Cross Medal for acts of heroism involving risk of life. As member of the Light Reaction Company pursuing Abu Sayyaf Group bandits, he reinforced the unit from the 2nd Marine Brigade and provided first aid to the wounded marines, which action resulted to the successful casualty evacuation of the wounded personnel.
The Gawad sa Kaunlaran was conferred to Maj Virgilio J Perez for his meritorious and invaluable participation in the conduct of humanitarian civic actions in the Bicol region as part of the RP-US Balikatan Exercises 2014, and humanitarian assistance and disaster response in Southern Leyte.
The Army also commended the exceptional performance of 2Lt Jake Rancel V Guellega and Sgt German A Guerra who received the Military Merit Medal; Cpl Oliver G Ramirez who was hailed as the Enlisted Personnel of the Year; CAA Samuel V Sabanal, named as the CAA of the Year; Engr Wenefredo DC Abalos as the Philippine Army Model Supervisor; and Ms Cristina K Baterbonia as the Philippine Army Model Employee.
Meanwhile, reservists and ROTC cadets were also recognized. Among the awardees were Cpt Hubert Christopher A Dolor, Reservist of the Year; Sgt Donnie L Nietes, Enlisted Personnel Reservist of the Year; Cadet Harold P Blanco, ROTC Male cadet; and Cadette Joy Nathalie M Avelino, ROTC Female Cadet.
The Command Plaque was also given to Hon Mel Senen S Sarmiento, Representative of the 1st District of Western Samar; and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the PNP. Hon Sarmiento provided his expertise and advice on governance and organizational excellence as member of the PA Multi-Sectoral Advisory Board, while the CIDG-PNP is recognized for its support in the intelligence operations of the Army.
The Provincial Government of Ilocos Sur; National Bookstore Foundation, Inc., HERO Foundation, Inc., and the Leonio Group of Companies also received Command Plaques. The above-named civilian stakeholders supported the Army’s community-based peace and development initiative and projects.