M’LANG, North Cotabato – The town government has condemned the torching of a passenger bus that killed three and injured six others along Barangay Bialong here Thursday, vowing full cooperation in the investigation by authorities on the incident.
“We are saddened by the incident and strongly condemn the inhumane act of killing civilians. Justice must be served,” Mayor Russel Abonado said in a statement Friday.
The ill-fated Yellow Bus Line (YBL) unit (Body No. A-104) had left Kidapawan City and was passing by the town at 4 p.m. on its way to Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat province when the incident took place.
In a report, Bernardo Tayong III, the municipal disaster management officer, identified those who died in the incident as John Roy Ramil Jr., 28, laborer/ and Hazel Mallo Gallardo, 30, both residents of the town; and Arnold Patron, 18, of Tulunan town.
“All three dead victims were trapped inside the bus,” he said.
Injured were Joseph Lubay, 35, of Tupi, South Cotabato; Norhana Gumbao, 32, of Koronadal City; Abdulhaq Delna, 25, of Datu Paglas, Maguindanao; and Jonah Jane Ramil , 28; Tessie Verdadero, 56; Diane Dancil, 28, all from this town.
Those hurt are undergoing treatment for skin burns at a hospital.
Lt. Col. Bernard Tayong, North Cotabato police deputy chief, said initial investigation showed that a man forced his way into the bus after the inspector was about to alight along the highway in Bialong village.
“A brief argument ensued between the man and the bus inspector but the former still managed to get inside the bus,” the police official said.
It was then, he said, that the man ordered the passengers to move to the rear section of the vehicle as he splashed what was believed to be gasoline inside the bus and lit it with a lighter.
“The surviving passengers said the suspect escaped on board a motorcycle waiting nearby,” Tayong said.
He said the incident was the third time that YBL buses were involved in such attacks by lawless groups.
In 2017, armed men believed to be members of the communist terrorist New Peoples’ Army (NPA) burned a YBL bus in Makilala town after the bus management refused to pay “protection money.”
In January, a bomb attack by the local Al Khobar extortion group shook a YBL bus as it was unloading passengers at a bus stop in Tulunan town, killing a street vendor and injuring five others.
The YBL firm is yet to issue a statement on the incident.