KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/07 March) – Two soldiers were killed after being hit by a landmine while conducting pursuit operations in Barangay Buhay in Makilala, North Cotabato, around 10 am Monday, military official said.
Col. Leopoldo Galon, spokesperson of the Eastern Mindanao Command identified the casualties as Pfc. Celestino Alejandro and Pfc. Ismirol Musa, both elements of the 40th Infantry Battalion.
Galon said the soldiers were deployed in the area as reinforcement against New People’s Army guerrillas who had reportedly launched a series of landmine attacks in since Sunday.
Also killed in the landmine attack was a Manuvu farmer identified as Postelo ‘Boy’ Egkil from Sitio Ilian, Barangay Buhay.
Egkil’s younger brother Jomer has remained missing. He and Postelo were used as guides by the military in locating NPA camps, according to Ela Egkil, Postelo’s widow.
Lt. Manuel Gatus, civil military operations chief of the 57th IB, said at least 10 landmines were blasted by the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) rebels from 9:45 to 1030 am Monday.
Reports from Makilala police said the soldiers encountered two front committees under the NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command led by Commanders Budong and a certain Enoy.
Gatus said the rebels were having a “plenum” in preparation for their 43rd founding anniversary on March 29, he said.
“Our informants told us the rebels were again sighted in the area. So immediately, after we learned that, we sent troops in the area. While conducting patrol, our men encountered the rebels,” he said.
In Sunday’s reported landmine attack, five soldiers were wounded, one of whom was identified as Pfc. Alfie Bantulo of the 57th IB.
Gatus admitted having used artillery to drive the rebels out of barangays of Buhay, Batasan, and Buenavida, all in Makilala.
The fighting that started Sunday has displaced 56 families – 41 from Purok 6, Barangay Batasan, and 15 from Sitio Apoy-Apoy, Barangay Buenavida, according to the social welfare office of Makilala.
Municipal social welfare officer Lina Canedo said many of the evacuees temporarily stayed in their relatives’ homes in Purok 4 in Batasan, and others stayed at the social hall of Buenavida. (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)