BOMBING SUSPECT. The facial composite of the suspect and the closed-circuit television footage of the bombed Rural Tours Bus (RTB) captures the image of the suspect alighting from the bus before the Sunday (April 24, 2022) explosion inside the RTB unit in Parang, Maguindanao. Five passengers and the bus conductor were hurt in the blast. (Photo courtesy of PRO-BARMM)

PARANG, Maguindanao – Police authorities in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) released the facial composite (formerly referred to as cartographic sketch) and closed-circuit television (CCTV) security footage of a man suspected to have carried out the bus bombing in Parang, Maguindanao, Sunday.

In an interview Tuesday, Lt. Col. Cristio Lagyop, BARMM police spokesperson, said they hope the images of the suspect's face would lead to his identification and help resolve 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 PHP1,000 per passenger have reportedly been disenfranchised with the entry of Rural Tours Bus (RTB) in its route.

The RTB fare is about PHP850 per passenger while public commuter vans charge P1,500 per client.

Local and military officials have also 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.

Bomb experts also defused a secondary bomb left by the suspect inside the rear section of the bus. They also found a damaged mobile phone, metal sheets, and cut nails that served as the shrapnel of the bomb. (PNA)