MANILA—A bomb ripped through a passenger bus, killing four people and injuring 14 others on Tuesday afternoon in Makati City, police said.
The blast came two months after Western countries warned their citizens against travel in the Philippines, citing terror threats.
The bomb, believed to be an improvised explosive device, left the windshield and side glass windows of Newman Gold Liner bus shattered.
Metro Manila police chief Director Nicanor Bartolome said the 2 p.m. explosion was so powerful that a hole was created on the bus’ floor and walls.
He could not say if the blast was a terror attack or a destabilization plot, saying police would not “make any conclusion yet.”
The bus conductor, Michael Haralde, was among those injured in the blast. The driver, Maximo Peligro, survived the explosion unscathed.
Peligro, who was in police custody to shed light on the attack, told reporters that two men acting strangely got off the bus moments before the explosion that occurred near the Metro Rail Transit Buendia station along Edsa.
The Fairview, Quezon City-bound bus was carrying about 30 passengers.
The 14 injured were rushed to different hospitals in Makati and Taguig City for medical treatment, said Chief Superintendent Agrimero Cruz, Jr., spokesman of the Philippine National Police.
One victim suffered massive head injuries while two were in critical condition, said Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang.
Jhohanson Reyes and an an unidentified female died on the spot, said the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
Mariano Salustiano, 57, from Pasig City, died while being treated at the Ospital ng Makati while another unidentified victim passed away at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City.
Investigator quickly sealed off the area “to preserve every piece of evidence and prevent contamination of the crime scene for an anticipated full-scale forensic examination and crime scene processing,” Cruz said.
The Makati Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team, which will investigate the nature and extent of the explosion, will look into all possibilities “to get to the bottom of the case,” he said.
The entire 136,000-strong police force across the country was placed on highest alert status while the mass transport systems were on heightened alert, Cruz said.
“PNP units were ordered to intensify checkpoints and security operations specifically in soft targets such as vital installations, commercial centers, economic key points, mass transportation systems, such as bus stations, railways and seaports and airports ,” Cruz added.
The PNP deployed special units like the K-9 and the Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams, he said.
In November, the embassies of the United States, Australia, Great Britain, Canada, France and New Zealand advised their citizens not to travel in the Philippines, saying terrorist attacks were imminent.
President Benigno Aquino berated the foreign governments, saying the warnings came just as Manila was about to launch a new country brand in a bid to revitalize the country’s sagging tourism industry.
This prompted some Western allies to downgrade their advisories, but others, like the US, maintained that a terror attack could soon happen in the restive Mindanao region and in Metro Manila.