A 33-YEAR-OLD bus driver and his fare collector were shot dead by three armed men in front of the passengers along the National Highway of Wao town in Lanao del Sur early Thursday.

Police identified the victims as Ronnie Poblacion, driver of the Rural Transit Mindanao Inc. (RTMI) bus bearing body number 2546, and Catsteven Lacorda, the fare collector. Both succumbed to gunshot wounds in the head.

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Margarito Igagamao, a bus inspector, also suffered gunshot wounds and was rushed to the Bukidnon Provincial Hospital in nearby Maramag town.

The incident occurred at around 4:40 a.m. along the boundary of Bukidnon and Lanao del Sur, said Police Senior Supt. T. Nerio Bermudo, Bukidnon provincial police director.

Bermudo said the RTMI bus was en route to Cagayan de Oro City from Wao when three armed men ordered Poblacion to stop the bus. Seconds after, one of the men shot Poblacion in the head.

Another gunman shot Lacorda in the head when he reacted to the shooting.

Igagamao, on the other hand, was shot by the suspects as they were about to flee, police said.

The three suspects then fled on board a motorcycle towards the town of Bumbaran in Lanao del Sur.

Police said it could not have been plain robbery as the suspects did not harm any of the passengers nor took their personal belongings.

Bermudo said the police have yet to determine the motive in the killings.

Jess Ortega of the RTMI management said he could not speculate on the possible reasons in the shooting. He denied that it had something to do with the demands of the New People's Army for "revolutionary tax" from the bus company.

Ortega said RTMI will extend financial assistance to the victims. (Annabelle L. Ricalde)