THE Philippine National Police leadership yesterday called anew on the public to be wary of bomb pranks and warned that making or circulating any bomb joke in the country is punishable by law.
PNP spokesman, Chief Superintendent Wilben M. Mayor, said that under the law, those circulating hoax warning through email and text messages can be held criminally liable as it constitutes a willful dissemination of false information which is punishable by law.
A lawyer-member of Philippine Military Academy Class 1985, Mayor said the perpetrator of the hoax could be charged with unlawful rumor mongering and even those who apologize for circulating the hoax can still be held liable.
The PNP spokesperson said many people who have made bomb pranks in the past have paid for their terrible misdeeds. In August 2015, a Saudi-bound Filipina who cracked a bomb joke at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport was arrested and detained. She was not allowed to board her flight and was charged with the offense which is punishable by a 5-year jail term, a fine, or both.
Last week, an Armed Forces enlisted personnel identified as James Anthony de la Cruz was arrested for cracking a bomb joke at an MRT station. The soldier begged on his knees and asked authorities to forgive him to no avail. He is now facing criminal and administrative charges.
Police are also investigating the person or persons behind the bomb hoax that forced the suspension of classes at the Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) campus on Katipunan Avenue in Loyola Heights, Quezon City last March 28. College students were scheduled to take their exams that day when an employee received the bomb threat.
“It’s difficult to determine what the motives are, but you already know [this happens] whenever there are exams,” said Senior Inspector Noel Sublay, the chief of the bomb squad of the Q.C. Police District. The bomb threat caused a schoolwide evacuation and the suspension of all classes by 10 a.m., resulting in hours of heavy traffic on the northbound lane of Katipunan.
A search of the 84 buildings on the 60-hectare campus kept the QCPD bomb squad, backed up by other explosives and ordnance disposal teams from the National Capital Region Police Office, the PNP headquarters and the Philippine Army busy until late afternoon. At 2:55 in the afternoon, the school was declared safe and officials allowed the faculty, staff and students to retrieve any belongings they had left behind in any building, QCPD director, Chief Supt. Edgardo G. Tinio said.
ADMU had been subjected to a similar bomb threat in February 2014 causing a similar situation. Officials said that some people believe bomb threats to be an extravagant prank while others use them to avoid responsibilities like exams or bills. There are also some people who use bomb pranks to hide some other nefarious purpose. But still, these ‘pranks’ easily cost taxpayers tens of thousands of pesos in a single day and divert resources from other, more important tasks associated with investigating real crimes.
Presently, the Philippines prohibit making bomb jokes in the country. Under Presidential Decree No. 1727 or the Anti-Bomb Joke Law, the malicious dissemination of false information concerning threats of bombs, explosives, or any similar devices is unlawful and carries penalties.
PD No. 1727 was passed in the wake of bombing and terrorist attacks including those by pranksters conveying false information about the presence of bombs for the purpose of causing or creating public confusion and disorder.
The law states that “any person who, by word of mouth or through the use of the mail, telephone, telegraph, printed materials and other instrument or means of communication, willfully makes any threat or maliciously conveys, communicates, transmits, imparts, passes on, or otherwise disseminates false information, knowing the same to be false, concerning an attempt or alleged attempt being made to kill, injure, or intimidate any individual or unlawfully to damage or destroy any building, vehicle, or other real or personal property, by means of explosives, incendiary devices, and other destructive forces of similar nature or characteristics, shall upon conviction be punished with imprisonment of not more than five years, or a fine of not more than P40,000 or both at the discretion of the court having jurisdiction over the offense herein defined and penalized” (Section 1, RA 1727).
As clearly provided by the law, verbal or written communication that conveys false information about the presence of bombs or similar devices is punishable upon conviction with imprisonment of up to five (5) years and/or a fine of up to Forty Thousand Pesos (P40,000).
An offender who claims he/she was only joking when he/she made the bomb joke won’t be spared by the law since his/her act of knowingly giving a false information, which he/she himself or herself knows to be false, is already an act that maliciously conveys a threat to the public involving explosives which is exactly what is prohibited by the law.
The PNP leadership headed by Director General Ricardo C. Marquez also called on the public anew to remain vigilant and report bomb pranksters in the wake of a bomb scare that triggered a major traffic jam along Cubao EDSA last week.
The scare was triggered by the discovery of an unattended package inside a bus. The bus driver parked the vehicle in the middle of the road and reported the incident to the police and called on the bomb squad which cordoned off the scene and stopped traffic.
Mayor urged the public to remain calm and refrain from spreading speculations and wrong information which only bring confusion and fear as he assured the citizenry that all security measures are being done by the PNP to ensure their safety.
The official asked the citizenry to send any information regarding the presence of suspected bombers, bombs and even persons sending bomb hoax to the DILG Patrol 117 and the PNP hotline 0917-8475757 and even their Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Mayor also asked the citizenry to remain calm and avoid being part of ‘bomb jokes’ or prank calls regarding bombs in the country particularly in Metro Manila.
The PNP said the public must do the following when confronted with a bomb situation:
Always keep an eye for suspicious-looking object. Familiarize to an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). Never handle a suspected IED object. Call an expert or a bomb disposal squad to handle it. If there is no expert in your locality, call the police.
Be exceptionally observant on your surroundings for anything out of place. Evacuate all the women and children immediately to a safer distance. Open all windows and doors. Remove all volatile substances and unstable articles like fuel and electronic devices.
Put sand bags around the suspected object. The height of sand bags should be three times the height of the suspected object. Inform the fire brigade, the hospital and other emergency services. Handle the package alone if you are duty-bound to handle the object.
Mayor said that most importantly, they are asking the citizenry to always be watchful of unattended or left-behind baggage particularly inside public markets, parks, shopping malls, business centers, airports, piers, universities, churches, commercial buildings and other places of public convergence.