LTFRB on Bukidnon bus blast: RTMI’s lapses won’t affect its franchise

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/13 December) — The franchise of Rural Transit Mindanao Inc. (RTMI) won’t be affected despite having committed “lapses” in relation to the bombing of one of its buses Tuesday in Maramag, Bukidnon that killed 10 people and wounded 42 others, an official of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) in Northern Mindanao said Friday.

Mandangan Darimbang, LTFRB regional director was referring to the failure of RTMI to report to police the threats that one of their buses would be bombed if the company did not pay P50,000 to unknown individuals.

The threats were received through text messages as revealed by a company official during the Regional Peace and Order Council meeting in Cagayan de Oro City Thursday, Darimbang said.

The RTMI official claimed there was not enough time for them to report the threat and respond to it, Darimbang said.

RTMI allegedly ignored the first text message because it did not indicate any bus number, it was hard to trace, and they “did not know whom to report it”.

Darimbang said the next text message already mentioned the bus number, but that there was no enough time to alert the bus unit.

The LTFRB official said RTMI was answerable to the police for its failure to report the threat, but added that the “lapse” will not affect its franchise.

On Thursday, Darimbang said RTMI is obliged to ensure “safe, convenient, and reliable” public transport as provided for in its franchise.

MindaNews tried to contact the RTMI branch manager but the latter did not take the calls as of Friday 6 p.m.

If this is true, then RTMI should face sanctions to ensure public safety in the future, Malaybalay Bishop Jose Cabantan said Friday afternoon.

Cabantan earlier condemned the bombing as “an act of terrorism” and called on law enforcers to be proactive, not only reactive, to solve the crimes in Bukidnon.

In a meeting yesterday, Darimbang said they have agreed with law enforces and RTMI that they will take two “very urgent” measures to address security threats concerning buses.

He cited that he has issued an order asking RTMI to submit on or before December 19, a list of their loading and unloading areas throughout the coverage of their operations. He said it will be submitted to police so they can assign personnel who will frisk passengers and inspect baggage, which will be tagged.

“But we still have to discuss it further since it (tagging) entails additional costs,” he said.

“No more pickup of passengers outside these areas will be allowed,” he said, adding the order will take effect as soon as police can assign personnel to the designated areas and after they coordinate with other bus operators.

He said they have also required RTMI to submit on or before December 17 a proposed schedule of their in-house anti-crime prevention training.

Darimbang said officials from the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, military, police, LTFRB, and Land Transportation Office will serve as resource persons in these sessions.

An RTMI bus bearing body number 2640 was bombed late Tuesday afternoon in Musuan, Maramag town, Bukidnon, near Central Mindanao University killing 10 people, including five students, and wounding 42 others. The bus had come from Banisilan, North Cotabato bound for Cagayan de Oro.

Hansel Echavez, head of the Bukidnon provincial public affairs, information, and assistance office, said the P150,000 insurance for those who died in the bombing will be handed over to representatives of the families of the victims on December 17, Wednesday.

Darimbang earlier said the Philippine Accident Managers Inc. will right away pay the claims of the 10 casualties, as death due to bombing incidents is included in “no-fault” insurance coverage. He added that payment to those who were wounded will depend on the gravity of injuries.

The CMU administration “strongly condemned the act” in a statement Wednesday.

To address possible trauma among students, the university has made available its buses and coasters to shuttle students to and from Valencia City. Leo Aribal, CMU public information officer, said it will not be for free but should provide options for some students who may feel unsafe taking RTMI buses or multi-cabs. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)