A suspected New People’s Army (NPA) member got killed while a junior military officer was wounded in a clash in Arakan, North Cotabato, early Thursday.

Members of the 10th Special Forces Battalion (10SFB) encountered an undetermined number of rebels at Sitio Upper Lumbo, Brgy. Cabalantian, around 5:45 a.m., Army chief Lt. Gen. Arturo Ortiz said.

An officer, identified as 2lt. Malucon, was injured while troops recovered the body of a slain rebel and three high-powered firearms, Ortiz said.

Lieutenant Col. Jovencio Gonzales, commander of the 57th Infantry Battalion which has operational control of the 10SFB, said the soldiers were sent to the area to search for landmines.

“Almost 10 days ago, may nireport kasi na may mga binaon na landmines, so nagclearing sila (soldiers) doon… nagki-clear sila dun sa suspected landmine, nagkataon na may nahagip sila, na-engage nila ‘yung grupo ng Front Committee 53 ng NPA,” Gonzales said in a phone interview.

The operation had nothing to do with the killing of Arakan parish priest Fr. Fausto Tentorio in the town proper last week, according to the military official.

“Hindi natin ma-discount pero di din natin ma-prove,” Gonzales said when asked if the military sees any possibility that rebels were involved in the priest’s killing.

“How I wish na ma-put to justice talaga kung sino gumawa nitong karumal-dumal na murder na ito,” he said, adding that insinuations that the military was involved were “disheartening.” (John Roson)

– end –