Armed men torch passenger bus in South Cotabato

STO. NINO, South Cotabato –- Armed men claiming to be New Peoples’ Army (NPA) guerillas torched Tuesday night another unit of Yellow Bus Lines (YBL) in Sto. Nino, South Cotabato, police said.

Supt. Franklin Alvero, South Cotabato police director, said the bus with body number 7225 was from Isulan, Sultan Kudarat and bound for Gen. Santos City, was attacked at about 6:30 p.m.

Alvero said the fully air conditioned bus has 17 passengers, plus driver and bus conductor.

Two of the suspects boarded in Isulan terminal while four others boarded at Sto Nino terminal, he said.

About five minutes after it left the Sto Nino bus terminal, the suspects declared they were NPAs and directed the driver to divert toward a dirt road leading to the public cemetery in Barangay Poblacion.

The site was less than a kilometer from Sto Nino town hall and police station.

In front of the cemetery, more armed men emerged from nowhere. The gunmen then ordered all passengers while other gunmen doused gasoline around the bus. As soon as all the passengers have alighted, they put on the vehicle in flames.

It was the fourth YBL bus torch since Nov. 13 allegedly by gunmen claiming to be communist rebels. Two YBL units have been set on fire in Tupi, South Cotabato on Nov. 13 and last night.

Another YBL bus was also burned by suspected NPAs in Kiamba, Sarangani and Barangay Kanapulo, Magsaysay, Davao del Sur.

Gunmen also tried but failed to set on fire on Nov. 27 a Husky in Barangay Bukay Pait, Tantangan, South Cotabato.

Alvero said all the arson incidents have the same modus operandi with the suspects posing as passengers, declare they were NPAs, direct drivers to divert and set the unit on fire.

Other bus firms plying South Cotabato, the Mindanao Star and Rural Bus Lines, have not been attacked by any armed group from Nov. 13 to Dec. 13.

Alvero could not say what really motivated the suspects to attack buses and heavy construction equipment in the province and nearby areas. Extortion and business rivalry were among the motives being looked into by arson probers.