MANILA — A lawmaker has proposed heftier fine for people who spread bomb jokes and to punish also those who maliciously accuse another person of being a prankster.
Rep. Erlpe John H. Amante (2nd District, Agusan del Norte) said there should be a heavier fine for peddlers of bomb jokes because of the undue inconveniences this false information has caused to the public.
“It may be a joke, but a bomb joke is no laughing matter. Some bomb jokes caused the delay or suspension of flights and ship travels, while some disrupted schools and workplaces. Such disturbances to the normal activities of the people not only cause panic and anxiety but also take a toll on the people’s economic productivity,” said Amante.
Furthermore, Amante said while bomb jokes are being handled seriously and strictly by authorities, the provisions of the present law pertaining to bomb jokes, which is Presidential Decree 1727, are no longer responsive to the present times, making conviction of its violators challenging. Former President Marcos signed the decree on Oct. 8, 1980.
“In fact, there is confusion on who shall acquire jurisdiction of related cases because P.D. 1727 has assigned them to military tribunals or military courts,” he said.
Moreover, the lawmaker said there is a threat that provisions of P.D. 1727 may be used by unscrupulous individuals to maliciously accuse other people because there are not enough safeguards against this action.
“These scenarios clearly show that there exists a pressing need to reinforce P.D. 1727 by updating existing provisions, removing jurisdiction from military tribunals or military courts and setting prohibitions on malicious accusations,” said Amante, a Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources.
Amante filed House Bill 5294 or the proposed “Anti-Threat Jokes Act of 2014,” which provides the State shall ensure public protection from the unnecessary yet damaging effects to life and property of the malicious and willful dissemination of false information on the presence or threats of bombs, explosives, or any life-threatening and destructive materials.
The bill provides that no person or entity shall maliciously and willfully disseminate, by word of mouth or in written, printed, electronic communications, such as but not limited to electronic mails and social media, or other means, the false presence or threats of bombs, explosives, incendiary devices, and other life-threatening materials such as, but not limited to, noxious gases, poisonous substances, and biological weapons.
The bill now pending at the Committee on Public Order and Safety chaired by Rep. Jeffrey P. Ferrer (4th District, Negros Occidental) provides for a penalty of six months to one-year imprisonment or a fine of P100,000 to P500,000 to violators of the Act. Furthermore, it provides for a penalty of six months to one-year imprisonment or a fine of P300,000 to P1 million to any person found to have maliciously and willfully accused another person or entity of violating the Act, knowing that the said charges are false and groundless.
At present, Presidential Decree 1727 provides 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 or not more than P40,000 or both at the discretion of the court having jurisdiction over the offense herein defined and penalized.”
The decree further provides that the offender shall be arrested by means of an Arrest, Search and Seizure Order (ASSO) and shall not be entitled to bail pending trial by the military tribunals or military courts which shall have exclusive jurisdiction over cases involving any violation of the provisions of P.D. 1727.