From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 22): Stricter measures up as another bus torched in South Cotabato
Stricter measures are up in South Cotabato as another bus was torched by still unidentified gunmen Wednesday night along a major and busy street here.
The burning of Husky Bus of Gen. Santos City-based BIOCOOP transport services occurred at 7:15 p.m. along the national highway in Barangay Morales, according to Supt. Franklin Alvero.
Alvero, South Cotabato police director, said it was the fourth bus burning incident in South Cotabato and the second for Husky Bus firm since Nov. 13.
Alvero said the Husky Bus was heading for Gen. Santos City from Cotabato City via Isulan in Sultan Kudarat and Tacurong City.
Quoting witnesses, police said a man boarded the passenger vehicle in Tacurong City. Upon reaching Barangay Morales, he asked the driver to stop the bus as he would alight.
The driver then pulled over and as the passenger was leaving the bus, about six or eight men armed with hand guns quickly hopped in and, at gun point, told the driver to leave.
A witness told reporters that the man from Tacurong who disembarked told other passengers to alight with him because it would be set on fire.
The men then doused gasoline on the vehicle and set it on fire.
Police said the upper portion of the bus (body number 6833 with temporary licensed plate 1301-658771) was totally burned when responding fire officers arrived.
The bus is owned and operated by the General Santos City BIOCOOP Transport and commonly known as Spartan Bus because it is the only bus plying the Gen. Santos-South Cotabato-Sultan Kudarat-Cotabato City route, passing through Maguindanao's conflict-affected communities.
Mayor Peter Miguel said the burning of Husky Bus was well planned and the attackers could be from outside the city.
It was the second attack against Husky bus since Nov. 27 when gunmen set on fire another Husky bus in Tantangan, South Cotabato.
Two other buses owned by Yellow Bus Lines (YBL) were torched by men who claimed they were communist guerillas in Tupi and Sto. Nino towns since Nov. 13.
The YBL lost four buses in the hands of gunmen since Nov. 13, to include the one torched in Kiamba, Sarangani province and in Magsaysay, Davao del Sur.
Aside from buses, gunmen claiming they were NPAs set ablaze construction and quarry equipment in Koronadal City last week and a Dole Philippines banana plantation packing plant in Surallah, South Cotabato.
Alverto said elements of the 27th Infantry Battalion will provide augmentation force to prevent attacks against bus companies.
He said manhunt has been going on in the mountain borders of Koronadal City and Tantangan, South Cotabato where the suspects fled after the incident.
In last night's attack, the gunmen did not identify themselves as New People's Army like in previous cases.
Police investigation was focused on two motives - extortion by suspected NPA rebels or business rivalry.
Alvero said the police will deploy marshal in all buses plying the province as preventive measure. Other steps are also in the operation plan.
Alvero urged bus firms not to pick up or discharge passengers in between bus stations to avoid similar incident in the future.