Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Dionardo Carlos ordered Bangsamoro police to hunt down those responsible for a bomb attack on a bus that wounded 23 passengers in Parang, Maguindanao, on Sunday.
In a statement on Monday, Carlos said he instructed Bangsamoro regional director Police Brigadier General Arthur Cabalona to intensify checkpoints, police patrols, focused intelligence, and law enforcement operations to identify and arrest the perpetrators.
“While we express our heartfelt sympathy to the wounded, we assure them of our keen resolve and commitment to bring to justice those responsible for this uncivil attack on persons,” Carlos said.
He said police were reviewing CCTV footage as part of its ongoing investigation.
Citing initial reports, the PNP said an improvised bomb went off in the back of a passenger bus heading to Dipolog City from General Santos City at around 6:40 a.m. Sunday.
Police said they found and diffused a second bomb inside the bus. They also found a damaged mobile phone, metal sheets, and cut nails that served as the shrapnel of the bomb.
Police in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) have released a facial composite and CCTV security footage of a man suspected to have carried out the bus bombing in Parang, Maguindanao, Sunday.
Lt. Col. Cristio Lagyop, BARMM police spokesman, said they hope the images of the suspect’s face would lead to his identification and help solve the case faster.
Initial findings from the special investigation task group pointed to business rivalry as a possible motive for the attack.
Passenger van operators and drivers plying the Cotabato-Pagadian route that collect P1,000 per passenger have reportedly been disenfranchised with the entry of Rural Tours Bus (RTB) in its route.
The RTB fare is about P850 per passenger, while public commuter vans charge P1,500 per client.
Local and military officials condemned the bomb attack.
“An act of cowardice and unprovoked aggression targeting innocent civilians in the middle of the observance of the Holy Month of Ramadan,” Maj. Gen. Juvymax Uy, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said in a statement Tuesday.
Uy, also the commander of the Army’s Joint Task Force Central (JTFC), urged all the security forces in Central Mindanao and BARMM to always stay on alert and vigilant against peace saboteurs.
“I also call on all residents of Central Mindanao to cooperate with the government in identifying those responsible for this attack in order for us to preempt and thwart similar attacks against our communities and forces,” he said.
BARMM Transportation and Communication Minister Dickson P. Hermoso also condemned the incident.
“This dastardly act happened at a time when we are beginning to reap the fruits of peace brought about by the establishment of the new BARMM,” he said.
Hermoso said BARMM is working hard with other government agencies and the private transport sector to open the travel routes that will connect the new region to other areas in Mindanao.
“This is crucial in bringing about peace and development to a region recovering from several decades of armed conflict that stunted its economic growth and mired its people deeper into poverty,” Hermoso said.
He recalled that the newly opened bus route was greeted with so much enthusiasm and hope for better mobility of people and goods, especially in the BARMM.
Injured in the blast while the bus was parked in Barangay Making, Parang, Maguindanao, were Fesel Culag, 40; John Paul Capio, 18; Expedito Ocay, 45; and Benjamin Wahab, 32, all from Cotabato City; and also Pastor Bularon, 53; and bus conductor Elgen Palma, 30, both from Dipolog City.