A passenger van was torched by armed men in Maasim town, Sarangani on Tuesday night.
Based on its initial investigation, Maasim Police said the van was burned by alleged members of the New People's Army.
The investigation showed that the passenger van was traveling to Maitum town, Sarangani from General Santos City with three passengers.
One of the passengers asked driver Rey Napili to stop in Barangay Lumasal. As they stopped, several armed men who identified themselves as NPA members came out of nowhere and told the driver and other passengers to get out of the vehicle.
"Ang sabi ng mga nakausap namin, iyong kasabwat ng mga armadong kalalakihan ay iyong bumabang pasahero pero iniimbestigahan pa iyan pero gasolina iyong ginamit nila sa pagsunog," said SFO4 Ramir Lacaba, the acting municipal fire marshall
Sarangani has been hit with a few arson cases involving vehicles this year.
In January, a bus and a passenger van were also torched by alleged NPA members.
On October 16, a delivery van owned by a mall operator in General Santos City was also set on fire in broad daylight in Malapatan town by alleged NPA bandits.
PSSupt. Joseph Semillano, director of the Sarangani Police Provincial Office, said extortion is seen as a motive in arson incidents.
"Lahat ng arson incidents gawa iyon ng NPA and we have filed charges already. Iyong sa Malapatan na delivery truck nilalaliman pa namin ang investigation, hindi man umaamin ang mall na may extortion letter sila," he said.
Sarangani Governor Steve Solon, meanwhile, asked both the government and the rebels to open communication lines so that peace negotiations can be achieved.
"Ang gusto ko sana bumalik tayo ulit sa negotiating table. Kasi para maiwasang mangyari itong mga ganito," he said.
The NPA-Far South Mindanao Region has not claimed responsibility for the incident. ABS-CBN News has also reached out to spokesperson Ka Efren for comment, but he has yet to respond at the time this story was posted.