The Anti-Bomb Joke Law and Drew Olivar

A criminal case for violation of the “Anti-Bomb Joke Law” will be filed against blogger Drew Olivar, reports quote Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Albayalde. Drew Olivar reportedly stated, in a Facebook post which has been taken down: “Ay nakakatakot naman mag-rally sa EDSA, kasi may kumakalat na baka maulit daw yung pagbomba kagaya ng Plaza Miranda! Kung ako sa inyo, hindi na ako pupunta.”

This refers to Presidential Decree No. 1727 (full text), declaring as unlawful the malicious dissemination of false information or the willful making of any threat concerning bombs, explosives or any similar device or means of destruction.

P.D. 1727 was issued by President Ferdinand Marcos. While it is a Presidential Decree, it has the force of law, having been issued under the law-making power of President Marcos during Martial Law. P.D. 1727 has not been repealed. It is still valid.

There’s a misconception that the “Anti-Bomb Joke Law” is only applicable to airlines, probably due the usual reports of arrests of passengers who make utter anything related to “bombs” in airports or airplanes. The “Anti-Bomb Joke Law,” however, is applicable in other situations anywhere in the Philippines. It is equally applicable to “pranksters,” students or not, who call the school and make bomb threats to avoid exams or just for the fun of it.

It doesn’t matter whether the prankster is serious or not. While P.D. 1727 does not include a formal designation as the “Anti-Bomb Joke Law,” the label stuck on account of the law’s Whereas Clause which makes reference to “persons popularly known or described as “pranksters”.

The PNP can always charge Drew Oliver for violation of the “Anti-Bomb Joke Law,” but the pubic prosecutor can also dismiss the complaint if he/she thinks that there is no probable cause to charge Drew Olivar in court.

The defense would be interesting. P.D. 1727 reads:

SECTION 1. 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 (5) years, or a fine of not more than forty thousand pesos (P40,000.00) or both at the discretion of the court having jurisdiction over the offense herein defined and penalized.

Let’s look at the elements of this crime. The act can be done “by word of mouth or through the use of the mail, telephone, telegraph, printed materials and other instrument or means of communication.” A Facebook post is covered by the “Anti-Bomb Joke Law.”

The information relates to “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.” Drew Oliver’s statement includes this — “kumakalat na baka maulit daw yung pagbomba kagaya ng Plaza Miranda!”

The “Anti-Bomb Joke Law” requires that the person “willfully makes any threat or maliciously conveys, communicates, transmits, imparts, passes on, or otherwise disseminates false information.” This is probably the reason why the news article makes reference to the PNP’s claim that it did not receive any verified information of any threat. If so, the information is false.

Lastly, the “Anti-Bomb Joke Law,” requires that the person must know the information to be false. Drew Olivar did say that he received reports of the threat, but there is yet no proof that he knew that the information is false. The investigating prosecutor can resolve it either way. The prosecutor can dismiss the complaint because there is no proof that Drew Olivar knew the information to be false. On the other hand, the prosecutor can conclude that it is evidentiary in nature, properly resolved by the court after a full-blown trial. Let’s see.

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