KIDAPAWAN CITY — Authorities have put up a P200,000 reward for those who can help law enforcers arrest the suspects in the burning of a bus in Cotabato province on Thursday afternoon.
Mlang Mayor Russel Abonado and Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco each offered P100,000 for the reward money.
Catamco on Friday condemned the recent attack against the Yellow Bus Line (YBL) which owned the torched bus, and vowed to provide financial aid to the victims.
She also directed Col. Henry Villar, Cotabato police director, to create a special task group to probe the incident that killed three passengers.
Lt. Col. Realan Mamon, Mlang police chief, identified the fatalities as Johny Roy Tadeo Ramil, 28, and Hazel Gallardo, 30, both of Barangay Poblacion in Mlang, and Arnold Patron, 49 of La Esperanza in nearby Tulunan town.
Six other passengers sustained first degree burns and are now in the hospital, Mamon added.
The bus was traveling from Kidapawan City to Mlang en route to Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat province when it was set ablaze.
According to Diane, one of the passengers who survived the ordeal, two men boarded the bus after an inspector alighted. She recalled that one of the men and the bus conductor had a heated argument while they were traveling along the route.
“I thought (at first) they were only joking with each other,” said Diane.
The man then splashed liquid on the bus seats and told passengers to go to the rear portion of the bus “because he will set the bus on fire,” Dianne further recalled.
As soon as the fire started, the suspect fled along with another man and boarded a motorcycle waiting nearby.
The conductor smashed the glass window at the rear of the bus so the passengers could jump out.
Mayor Abonado said that extortion was among the motives being eyed by police investigators.
Last January, another YBL bus was bombed by suspected extortionists in Tulunan town, leaving two people dead and six hurt. Police probers have also eyed extortion as the reason for the attack.
Last year, an improvised bomb was planted in a YBL bus traveling from Tacurong City to Kidapawan City via Tulunan and Mlang towns. The bomb was discovered while the bus was parked in the Kidapawan terminal.
The Koronadal City-based YBL has reportedly been receiving extortion demands from an armed group in Maguindanao.
The YBL management has yet to issue a statement on Thursday’s incident.