On 12 April 2012, an Airphil Express flight bound for Puerto Princesa, Palawan was forced to abort take-off after a passenger said something about an explosion. The controversy started when one of the passengers requested to have his daughter sit on his lap, but the flight attendant stated that airline rules prohibit more than one passenger from occupying the same seat, prompting the passenger to say, “O sige, kung ayaw mo, may sasabog.” The AirPhil plane was already taxiing on the runway when the pilot requested for assistance from the airport police, stating that “[a] passenger threatened to blow up the plane.”The plane and the baggage were subjected to a 4-hour inspection but no explosive device was found. The plane was later allowed to depart but the subject passengers were held for questioning and potential prosecution.
This kind of utterance, whether or not meant as a joke, is covered by Presidential Decree No. 1727, commonly known as the Bomb Joke Law. PD 1727 is often referred to as the “Anti-bomb Joke Law’ or “Bomb Joke Law”, but the law itself does not use this formal name.
The law punishes “[a]ny 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.”
The law applies even when the culprit is joking. “Pranksters” are covered. This is a malum prohibitum, which means that the mere commission of the act (or utterance/communication of the offending language?), regardless of the intent, is already punishable. And it doesn’t even matter if the culprit didn’t read the warnings or signs at the airport relating to “bomb jokes” — ignorance of the law excuses no one.
Just don’t do it (if authorities say they are serious in enforcing this law at the airports, I wonder if anyone had been convicted under this law).