A JUNIOR officer of the Philippine Army and two soldiers were killed while three others were wounded in a series of encounters with suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Pantukan town, Compostela Valley on Wednesday, reports reaching Camp Aguinaldo said on Thursday.
The fatalities were 1st Lt. Ralph Pantonial, Pfc. Eulezys Bantolo and Pfc. William Moreno, as identified by Capt. Rhyan Batchar, chief of the public affairs office of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division.
Pantonial, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 2010, was the commander of the Charlie Company of the Army’s 46th Infantry Battalion.
Wounded were identified only through their surnames as Corporals Velunta and Aquino, and Pfc. Sabido.
Batchar said the first encounter took place in Sitio Sapang Tin-aw, Barangay Tibagon in Pantukan at about 1 p.m. when the soldiers responded to a report of a civilian about the harassment by several armed men said to be belonging to the NPA’s Pulang Bagani Command 3, Southern Mindanao Regional Committee.
The firefight lasted for about 30 minutes. The rebels later withdrew.
While the soldiers were clearing the area, an improvised explosive device (IED) went off, hitting Pantonial, Bantolo, Velunta and Sabido.
“Habang kini-clear nila ‘yung position ng kalaban meron pa palang naiwan na NPA dun, na syang nag-detonate nung IED (While they were clearing the position of the enemy, they were not aware that an NPA rebel was left to detonate the IED),” said Batchar.
Four hours later, another encounter occurred – the rebels harassed the patrol base of the 46th IB’s Bravo Company in Sitio Biasong, Barangay Napnapan, also in Pantukan where Moreno was killed.
At about 8 p.m., while a medical team was deployed to recover the dead bodies and the wounded personnel, the NPA detonated a landmine in Barangay Tibagon Road, wounding Aquino.