Bus firm told to stick to antiterror deal

By Edwin Fernandez
Last updated 03:29am (Mla time) 07/07/2007

COTABATO CITY—Police authorities in North Cotabato have appealed to the management of Weena bus company to stick to the security arrangement between the police and bus firm officials to avoid a repeat of bomb attacks on the buses.


Senior Insp. Joyce Berrey, North Cotabato police spokesperson, said bus units of Weena violated the firm’s own policies when it started picking up passengers in between terminals along the Davao-Cotabato route.


“We appeal to them to observe self-restraint to save passengers’ lives,” she told radio station dxND in Kidapawan City.


Following the series of bomb attacks against the bus firm last month that claimed at least 10 lives, the Weena bus company decided to allow passengers to board and disembark only in bus terminals.


Bomb attacks occurred in Bansalan, Davao del Sur, Cotabato City and Matalam, North Cotabato in June.


But lately, Berrey said, drivers have been violating the police-bus firm arrangement.


Eduardo Soledad, Weena bus company terminal manager in Cotabato City, said he will act on the police authorities’ appeal.


Bus drivers, especially of the non-airconditioned units, have been taking in passengers along the highway, a practice that makes the bus firm vulnerable to bomb attacks.


Police have deployed marshals aboard the bus to check on all bags and boxes carried by passengers. Bomb-sniffing dogs were also deployed at every bus terminal.


“The bus company has lowered its guard,” Berrey said, citing complaints from commuters.


Alejandro Simbulan, a regular bus passenger of the Davao bound buses from here, said he overheard bus drivers saying that they have to pick passengers “to earn more.”


“This is dangerous because some buses have no marshals, and passengers noticed that the bus conductors do not check the boxes and back packs carried by riding individuals,” he told the Inquirer.


He said security only becomes tight after a bomb attack.


North Cotabato Vice Gov. Emmanuel Piñol has directed the local police to conduct mobile checkpoints to check on buses in between terminals.


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