Congress pushes for stiffer penalties vs hoax bomb threats

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 07 2016 06:15 PM

MANILA - A measure pushing for heftier penalties against false tips on bomb threats has been filed in Congress after a series of hoax bomb threat rattled educational institutions and public areas.

READ: Fresh bomb threats prompt class cancellations, evacuations

An existing law, Presidential Decree No. 1727 enacted in 1980, penalizes those found guilty of "communicating false information on attempts to damage or destroy any property through explosives."

But House Deputy Speaker Miro Quimbo, who authored the bill, said the law needs to be amended as current penalties are minimal with "imprisonment of not more than five years and/or a fine of not more than P40,000."

House Bill No. 421 or the "False Bomb Threat Prohibition Act of 2016" seeks to raise the fine to "P1 million to P5 million," and lengthen the jail term to "six to twelve months" for people found guilty of disseminating false information on the presence of bombs" in populated places including public parks, airports, seaports, hotels, malls, educational institutions, offices, government institutions, and churches.

"False bomb threats lead to unnecessary anxiety for the people, disruption of regular activities, economic costs from opportunity lost for productivity due to evacuation, and waste of law enforcement and emergency response resources," Quimbo said.

READ: SM asks authorities to probe viral 'bomb' warning

"Time is wasted only to the whim of pranksters who deliberately plant false bomb messages just to disturb the area. More importantly, it puts children at risk to stampedes and psychological trauma," Quimbo added.

READ: DepEd seeks more cops as bomb threats hit schools

Lawmakers emphasized the necessity to pass the measure as in the first week of September alone, supposed bomb threats have rocked Makati City Hall, Don Alejandro Roces Science Technology High School in Quezon City, University of Southeastern Philippines in Davao City, University of the Philippines-Diliman in Quezon City, and schools near Malacañan Palace in Manila.