Dec 292014

A lawmaker has proposed fines of as much as half a million pesos for pranksters who make and spread bomb jokes.

House Bill 5294, filed by Agusan del Norte Rep. Erlpe John Amante, seeks to impose steep fines on people who spread bomb jokes and those who maliciously accuse another person of being the prankster.

The measure, known as the proposed “Anti-Threat Jokes Act of 2014”, imposes a penalty of imprisonment of from six months to a year or a fine of from P100,000 to P500,000 on those who make bomb jokes. 

The bill also proposes a penalty of six months to one-year imprisonment or a fine of P300,000 to P1 million on any person found to have maliciously and willfully accused another person or entity of making bomb jokes with the full knowledge that the charges are false.

Presidential Decree 1727, the existing law penalizing those who make bomb jokes, provides for imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of up to P40,000 for pranksters.

No laughing matter

Aside from penalizing pranksters found guilty of spreading bomb jokes, HB 5294 prohibits any person or entity from maliciously and willfully disseminating the false presence or threats of bombs, explosives, incendiary devices, and other life-threatening materials by word of mouth or in written, printed, electronic communications, such as but not limited to electronic mails and social media. 

Noxious gases, poisonous substances, and biological weapons are considered life-threatening materials that should not be joked about. 

Amante said Congress must legislate tougher laws against those who make bomb jokes since the provisions of the 34-year-old law “are no longer responsive to present times.”

He cited the provisions on jurisdiction of military tribunals on cases involving bomb jokes and the absence of prohibitions on malicious accusation as among those that needed to be updated in the law. 

“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,” the lawmaker said in the bill’s explanatory note. 

The measure is currently pending at the Committee on Public Order and Safety chaired by Negros Occidental Rep. Jeffrey Ferrer. Xianne Arcangel/JDS, GMA News

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