CAMP PACIANO RIZAL, Laguna—Armed men in camouflage uniforms and military hats attacked a bus company owned by a former partylist lawmaker in Pagsanjan town, this province, early on Monday, setting on fire 11 of its buses valued at almost P50 million.
Numbering 15, the gunmen entered the compound of HM Transport Inc. in Barangay (village) Biñan onboard two vehicles at around 1:15 a.m. and introduced themselves to the security guards as members of a police raiding team, said Senior Superintendent Pascual Muñoz, provincial police director.
HM buses ply the route from Cubao in Quezon City to
Sta. Cruz town in Laguna.
“They held the security guards at gunpoint and collected the guards’ cell phones as they set the buses on fire,” Col. Ivan Samarita, commander of the Army’s 202nd Infantry Brigade, said in a phone interview. The Army took part in the investigation to determine the involvement of rebel groups.
Samarita said there were “slim chances” that the attack was carried out by the communist New People’s Army (NPA).
“So far, there are no indicators pointing to that, although we cannot rule out yet the possibility that leftist groups might be involved,” he said.
The company owner, Homer Mercado, a former representative of the party-list 1-United Transport Koalisyon, did not receive any extortion letter or threat from the NPA, Samarita said.
But the official said it was clear that the intruders targeted Mercado’s company “because they did not touch the other buses, which were parked right in front of those of HM.”
Reached by phone from his office in San Pedro town, also in Laguna, Mercado said he was still at a loss as to who were behind the bus burning. Each bus was estimated to cost at least P4 million, so the total loss was some P44 million.
“I have not received any threat [from any group, prior to the attack],” Mercado said.
He said he was offering a P300,000 reward for any information that could lead to the arrest of the perpetrators.
Samarita noted that the power supply was cut off only at the motor pool, preventing security cameras from capturing the fire.
Investigators were trying to figure out if an ongoing dispute between two labor unions in the company had any connection to the attack, he said.
No one was hurt from the incident. The armed men also returned the guards’ cell phones before they escaped, he said.