GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 28 Nov) – Police and Army personnel have launched pursuit operations against a group of armed men who attempted to burn another passenger bus in the outskirts of Tantangan town in South Cotabato on Sunday night.
Sr. Supt. Franklin Alvero, South Cotabato police director, said Monday armed men claiming to be members of the New People’s Army (NPA) tried but failed to set afire a Husky Bus Line unit with license plate 658-756 at a portion of Barangay Maibo in Tantangan town at past 7 p.m.
He said no one was reported hurt from among the six passengers, driver and conductor of the bus, which originated from Tacurong City and was en route to Koronadal City when the incident happened.
Citing accounts from witnesses, the police official said one of the still unidentified suspects initially boarded the airconditioned bus in front of the Fit Mart department store in Tacurong.
Alvero said the suspect then asked to get off along the national highway in Barangay Maibo in Tantangan.
Upon stopping, Alvero said several armed men boarded the bus, directed the passengers to disembark and commandeered it towards a portion of the nearby Lagos farm located about 50 meters away from the highway.
“They poured five gallons of gasoline on the bus and tried to set it on fire but did not ignite as they were reportedly rushing to leave the area,” he said.
Alvero said the circumstances of the incident was similar to the burning in the last two weeks of three passenger bus units of Yellow Bus Line Inc. (YBL) and heavy equipment of four companies working on government projects in parts of the region and neighboring areas.
A YBL bus unit was burned last Saturday in Magsaysay town in Davao del Sur. Two other bus units of the company were torched in Tupi, South Cotabato and Kiamba, Sarangani on Nov. 14 and 24.
Four heavy equipment were burned at government project sites in Barangay Alegria in Alabel, Sarangani, Barangay San Jose in this city, Bagumbayan in Sultan Kudarat and Matanao in Davao del Sur.
The suspects declared during the attacks that the owners of the concerned companies had failed to pay revolutionary taxes to their group.
“The modus was the same as in all these previous attacks,” Alvero said.
Husky Bus Line, which services routes in parts of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao, is owned and operated by the Biocoop Husky Transport Services Inc. based in this city.
Alvero said officials of the bus company did not report threats from any group prior to the incident.
He said they could not yet conclude whether the attacks were carried out by the NPA, which has not yet issued any statement or declaration on the incidents.
“Our investigation has been continuing and there are ongoing operations against the possible suspects,” Alvero said.
He said the operations are backed by troops from the Army’s 1002nd and 601st Infantry Brigades.
But Alvero assured that they strictly abide by the government’s declared ceasefire with the NPA in line with the ongoing peace process. (MindaNews)