Tuesday Jun, 15 2021 05:47:53 AM

Police, military together probing on deadly bus arson attack

Mindanao Armed Conflict • 12:00 PM Fri Jun 4, 2021
John M. Unson
The burning of a bus in Mlang, North Cotabato scared Muslim and Christian residents in the area.(Photo from Mlang Vice Mayor Lito Piñol)

NORTH COTABATO --- Tension remained high in Mlang municipality, where arsonists set a bus on fire Thursday, burning three passengers alive and causing six others third degree burns. 

Mlang Mayor Russel Abonado, chairperson of the municipal peace and order council, on Friday offered a P100,000 incentive in exchange for any information that would lead to the arrest of the culprits.

“I condemn the incident. We want a full closure on this,” Abonado said.

North Cotabato Gov. Nancy Catamco also reportedly offered an additional P100,000 cash reward for the arrest of the suspects.

Police Col. Henry Villar, North Cotabato police director, on Friday morning identified the fatalities in the gruesome incident as Johnny Roy Tadeo Ramil, 28,  Hazel Mallo Galardo, 30, and the 18-year-old  Arnold Patron.

They were inside a unit of the Yellow Bus Company that three men burned using gasoline in a quick attack after its driver pulled over along a highway in Barangay Bialong in Mlang, North Cotabato to pick up their route and ticket inspector waiting by.

Six other passengers ---  Joseph Lubay, 35, Norhana Gumbao,  32, Jonah Jane Ramil,  28,  Tessie Tabora Verdadero, 56, Diane Dancil, 28, and Abdulhaq Rabpani Delna, 25 --- sustained serious burns in different parts of their bodies, now confined in a hospital.

In January, a passenger was killed while five others were hurt when suspected extortionists bombed a unit of the same bus company in nearby Tulunan town, also in North Cotabato.

Mlang and Tulunan are near Maguindanao province where there are local terrorists, using the flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria as banner, extorting money from operators of public conveyances and commercial establishments.

Talks have been spreading around since Thursday night purporting that an extortion gang was behind the attacks on the two buses, pulled off after the company management declined to shell out “protection money.” 

In a text message, Armed Forces chief Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said he has ordered the Eastern Mindanao Command to help the Police Regional Office-12 identify the suspects in Thursday’s arson attack.

Police probers are also looking into the possibility that a conductor booted out from the Yellow Bus Company for irregularities could have masterminded the arson attack.

Villar said they have enlisted the help of municipal and barangay officials in identifying the arsonists.


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