MANILA, Philippines - A Marine colonel who defied President Arroyo's order not to testify in a Senate probe on alleged military involvement in electoral fraud has been chosen as one of The Outstanding Philippine Soldiers (TOPS) by the Metrobank Foundation.
Marine Col. Alexander Balutan, commander of the 1st Marine Brigade in Lebak, Sultan Kudarat, was praised by no less than President Aquino during a ceremony in Malacañang.
In the citation, the foundation praised Balutan for committing political leaders in Lanao del Sur and Marawi City to a peace covenant before the 2004 polls. The covenant resulted in peaceful conduct of elections in both areas.
"He earned the honors for the Navy when he seized the third-largest Moro Islamic Liberation Front camp, neutralizing 300 MILF bunkers, and felling Camp Belal, among many other accomplishments. In addition, Col. Balutan created a Student Regulation Manual for the Military Training Group and organized the conduct of marksmanship training and crowd control training, among others," the foundation said.
Balutan graduated from the Philippine Military Academy in 1983, holds a Masters Degree from Manuel L. Quezon University and is married with six children.
The other awardees are Colonel Daniel A. Lucero, Master Sergeant Sixto P. Navarrosa, Chief Master Sergeant Billy C. Benebile all from the Philippine Army; Technical Sergeant Rommel Carbon, Data Processor 3 Jairus M. Cenabre all from the Philippine Navy; Colonel Raul del Rosario, Master Sergeant Maria Teresa M. Bitong, Master Sergeant Nelson S. Mercado all from the Philippine Air Force, and Colonel Alexis Tamondong from the Technical Services.
In his speech, Aquino praised soldiers and policemen who repelled an attack by New People's Army rebels on a police station in Misamis Oriental Thursday.