Police, military on alert as bus blast kills boy, hurts 6 others in Cotabato province

Rommel Rebollido

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Police, military on alert as bus blast kills boy, hurts 6 others in Cotabato province

SECURITY. Soldiers take their post at the Bulaong Public Transport Terminal in General Santos City as part of strict security measures following a bus explosion in Cotabato province on January 11.

Rommel Rebollido/Rappler

Brigadier General Alexander Tagum, Soccsksargen police director, orders police units to raise alert levels in the provinces of Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, and Sarangani

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – Police and military authorities in Soccsksargen raised the alert level in the region following an explosion that killed a five-year-old child and hurt six others in a bus in Cotabato province on Tuesday, January 11.

The explosion took place near a checkpoint along the Davao-Cotabato highway in Barangay San Mateo in Aleosan town, Cotabato, two days after authorities started to implement the January 9 to June 8 elections gun ban.

Soccsksargen police director Brigadier General Alexander Tagum ordered all police units in the region to be on alert and prevent a repeat of the incident.

He also ordered police directors in the provinces of Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, and Sarangani to review their security processes and implement necessary adjustments.

Army officials in the Soccsksargen region also deployed soldiers to augment police forces in terminals, including the Bulaong Public Terminal in General Santos City, in the wake of the Tuesday morning bus explosion.

Army Colonel John Paul Baldomar, the spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the explosion shattered windows at the rear portion of a Mindanao Star-owned bus past 8 am. The bus was bound for Cotabato City from Davao.

Many of the victims were minors. Baldomar identified the fatality as five-year-old Benjamin Solaiman whose family boarded the bus in Kabacan town, Cotabato province. The family took seats near the bus’ rear.

Others hurt were Haron Solaiman, five-month-old Haira Solaiman, Masid Piang, three-year-old Yushira Solaiman, 67-year-old Rodolfo Castillo, and Lester Bautista Alcare. 

Benjamin died while being treated in a hospital, Marineth Karim, a relative, told Rappler. 

Baldomar said no group has claimed responsibility for the incident, and bomb experts were still investigating to determine what caused the explosion and who was behind it.

“Mahirap kasi mag-come up ng suspect until such time na ma-identify namin ‘yung mga components at saka ‘yung klase ng pampasabog. May nagsasabi kasi na possible na IED, may nagsasabi naman na granada. So ongoing pa rin yung post-blast investigation para masigurado kung anong explosive talaga ang sumabog,” Baldomar said during a pooled interview by reporters. 

(It’s difficult to name a suspect until we know the components and what exactly was used in the explosion. Some are saying it’s possible that it was an improvised explosive device but others think it was a grenade. The post-blast investigation is ongoing to determine exactly what explosive was used.) –

Rommel Rebollido is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship

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