• Bomb jokes in public places can land you in jail

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    Persida Acosta

    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    My workmates and I usually take the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3 when we go home from work. One time while entering the MRT 3 station, one of my officemates jokingly told the guard that she should check our shoes instead because that’s where we keep the bomb, not in the bag. We were surprised at the reaction of the female guard since despite my officemate’s obvious joke, she immediately radioed her supervisor and called the police. Before my officemate knew it, the police officers were already accosting him, and then, he was brought to a police station.

    We found out later on that a criminal case was filed against him for that joke. Isn’t this too excessive for a joke? I know they take things like this seriously in airports and airplanes but my officemate was just making a joke. Is there really a reason for him to be criminally charged? Is there a difference between jokes like this when it is done in an airplane compared to the MRT 3, since I think what they did to my officemate was severe and perhaps an overreaction to a stupid joke? Thanks!
    Ari

    Dear Ari,
    Bomb jokes especially when made in public places are no laughing matter. Presidential Decree (PD) 1727, or the Anti-Bomb Joke Law, declares as unlawful the malicious dissemination of false information concerning threats of bombs, explosives or similar devices and imposes the penalties for it. This law was passed to deter pranksters who convey false information about presence of bombs for the purpose of causing or creating public confusion and disorder.
    According to this law:

    “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 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 or not more than P40,000 or both at the discretion of the court having jurisdiction over the offense herein defined and penalized” (Section 1, PD 1727).

    Based on this 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). This shows how bomb jokes are taken seriously considering the panic it can cause to the public. This also explains why the authorities acted the way they did in handling the joke of your officemate. The law does not distinguish whether the bomb joke was made in an airport or at the MRT 3 station since both are public places and public transports where such jokes are prohibited.

    Furthermore, PD 1727 does not consider the intention of the person making the bomb joke. The mere act of making such jokes is what is prohibited and punished by this law. Therefore, the action of the authorities in apprehending and filing a case against your officemate is proper and legal, since his bomb joke, regardless of his intentions, falsely conveys a threat to the public involving explosives which is exactly what the law penalizes.

    Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed.

    Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net

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