MARAMAG, Bukidnon (MindaNews/11 December) – Police are looking into the possibility that the group behind the bombing of a passenger bus near the Central Mindanao University in Maramag, Bukidnon on Tuesday was the same group that planted an explosive inside another bus, also near CMU, early last month.
Rural Transit of Mindanao Inc. bus number 2640 reportedly just left the main gate of CMU in Musuan, Maramag after it picked up student passengers going home when the explosion took place past 5 p.m. on Dec. 9.
Ten people, five of them CMU students, were killed and 42 others were wounded.
SP04 Fernando Razalo, the officer heading the investigation said they have already identified a suspect but stressed it was too early to give details. As of 3:00 p.m. Wednesday, he refused to give updates citing that the composite investigation team was yet to hold a conference.
A spot report on Tuesday night said police recovered particles that looked like those of a mortar and circuit board of a cellular phone used as triggering device.
The report, which was signed by Bukidnon police director Supt. Glenn dela Torre said they are looking at extortion as one of the motives.
He said the RTMI allegedly refused to give in to an extortion demand.
In an interview over dxDB-Malaybalay on Thursday morning, Inspector Joselle Longakit, information officer of the Bukidnon police office confirmed that the bomb was fashioned out of an 81mm mortar with a mobile phone as detonator.
Meanwhile, law enforcers drew flak in social media such as on Pulbuk group on Facebook and on radio commentary programs with the public questioning their perceived ineptitude in preventing such incident.
The criticisms noted that the previous bus bombing happened only a month ago, just a kilometer away from the present crime scene and also hitting a bus owned by the same company. Nobody was killed but four passengers were wounded in the November 6 bombing.
They blamed the police’s alleged ningas cogon attitude, incompetence, failure to conduct strict checkpoints, among other security measures.
In his weekly radio program Wednesday, Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. condemned the act and blamed RTMI for not addressing security threats even after the bombing incident on Nov. 6. He challenged RTMI management to address the problem and to reach out to the families of the victims and survivors.
According to the Provincial Public Affairs Information and Assistance (PAIA) office, Zubiri met with police and military officials in a closed-door meeting Wednesday afternoon to assess the situation and draw out possible security measures.
Hansel Echavez, PAIA head said one of the proposed measures is the conduct of strict checkpoint inspections upon entry to Bukidnon patterned after that of Davao City.
The military’s Task Force Davao has put up checkpoints at the city’s entry points where male passengers are made to disembark and soldiers inspect the bus and baggage.
Inspections are also made at the city’s bus terminal in Ecoland prior to entry.
Thelma Bagongon, 59, mother of 25-year old grocery worker Junrey, who was among 22 wounded victims brought to Adventist Sanitarium Hospital in Valencia City, cited security lapses in RTMI buses and lack of road inspections as major problems.
She said law enforcers and the bus company must coordinate and put their acts together.
“Louy ang mga tawo,” (The people are in a pitiful situation) she said outside the hospital where reporters were not allowed entry.
Meanwhile, Malaybalay Bishop Jose Cabantan condemned the incident as an act of terrorism. (See separate story)
Late afternoon on Wednesday, hundreds of CMU students, faculty members, officials and staff held an ecumenical prayer rally in front of the administration building. They offered prayers, flowers and balloons for those who died and were wounded in the incident.
Five CMU students were killed and nine others were wounded in the bombing. An instructor and a non-teaching employee were also wounded. (Walter I. Balane/Mindanews)