Number of victims injured in Cotabato blast climbs to 6

MindaNews earlier reported the blast wounded two persons.

Injured were Joseph Ere, driver of the target bus; retired Army M/Sgt. Leopoldo Cabañog, a security officer of the People’s Transport; bus conductor Karim Lawan; bus driver Nestor Bayog; Esmael Makakena, 35; and Mama Kadalum, 39.

Bernardo Valdeviezo, owner of People’s Transport, said that a man who identified himself as a member of a so-called Hezbollah Group called him up minutes before the incident and told him that a bomb would explode near the terminal gate.

The caller demanded P1 million in protection money, said Valdeviezo.

But police investigators were not discounting the possibility that intense business rivalry could be behind the explosion.

Valdeviezo said the caller also warned him that more of his buses would be bombed if they continued to ply the Cotabato-Davao route.

The ‘Hezbollah’ man further warned that government officials in Cotabato City and other local government units in North Cotabato and Shariff Kabungsuan “must take a cue from the message.”

Many L300 vans compete with People’s Transport in servicing the Cotabato-Davao route. Most passengers, however, prefer to ride the buses because of convenience, wide space, and lower fare rates.

Since January this year the bus company has been victimized by several incidents of bombing. The attacks stopped when it decided to cut short its trip last month.

People’s Transport resumed plying the Cotabato-Davao route last May 1 after numerous requests from passengers and local government units in North Cotabato and Shariff Kabungsuan. The bombings have also resumed since, damaging a number of its buses.

The attack against the bus company came a day after a bomb fashioned from a rifle grenade with mechanical timing device was found in front of the town hall in Midsayap, North Cotabato.

Alert village guards and members of the Bantay-Bayan discovered the explosive placed near the entrance of the town hall, according to Supt. Chino Mamburam, town police chief.

On May 8, a powerful bomb left by a van passenger went off at Midsayap terminal leaving five persons injured. (MindaNews)