THE Philippine National Police leadership headed by Director Ronald “Bato” M. dela Rosa yesterday warned the public anew that making false bomb reports is a crime in the country that could send offenders to at least five years in jail.
The warning was issued in the wake of a bomb threat that hit a diagnostics clinic in United Nations Avenue in Manila last Thursday, three days after police foiled a bomb attack by Islamic State-linked militants in nearby Roxas Boulevard.
The Manila Police District headed by Senior Superintendent Joel Napoleon M. Coronel said that the administrator of Physicians Diagnostic Center received a call before 11 a.m. last Thursday from a man claiming that an explosion will rock the building.
The call prompted the MPD bomb squad to evacuate occupants of the building to a safer place and inspect it. After more than an hour of inspection, the MPD Explosives and Ordnance Disposal Division found no bomb or any improvised explosive device in the area.
Bomb hoax like that in UN Avenue is not new to authorities and the public in Metro Manila. However, authorities continue to warn bomb pranksters that they are in for a lot of trouble should they be identified.
PNP spokesman, Senior Supt. Dionardo B. Carlos, said that making any bomb threat or joke is a crime under Presidential Decree 1727.
The law declared 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. Bomb joke is punishable with imprisonment of not more than 5 years or a fine of not more than P40,000 or both at the discretion of the court
Responding to bomb hoax, unknown to the public, wastes a lot of government and private time and resources. For instance, bomb hoax that hit a number of universities and even call centers in Metro Manila sent dozens of bomb technicians and uniformed officers in those areas to secure the place and the public. Just imagine the amount of money spent by the government in order to respond to such false report.
The Duterte government has ordered a nationwide security lockdown following a foiled attempt by a group of ISIS sympathizers to detonate a bomb, first at the crowded Rizal Park in Manila before transferring a powerful IED fashioned out from an 81mm mortar round near the United States Embassy along Roxas Boulevard last Monday.
“We’re on full alert, we’re on Terror Alert 3,” Gen. Dela Rosa told newsmen after presenting two suspects in the foiled plot to unleash an IED fashioned out from an 81mm mortar round some 100 meters away from the U.S. Embassy early morning last Monday.
“We’re conducting checkpoints, mobile and random checkpoints in Metro Manila and other metropolitan and highly-urbanized centers in the Philippines,” the top cop said. However, he said that the checkpoints won’t be fixed or stationary since President Duterte has ordered the dismantling of those checkpoints amid charges they were being used by some rogues in uniform to extort money from civilians.
The PNP chief said that with the Terror Alert Level 3 already raised, the public should expect much stronger checks in the streets under the PNP Oplan: Sita. “Expect some raids to be conducted by our security forces on suspected terrorist lairs,” he said.
“We’re worried and that’s why we react accordingly but there’s no cause for alarm. I’m advising the public to be vigilant, to be cautious but don’t be alarmed, let’s enjoy Christmas,” he said.
Dela Rosa also said that he can’t say that the foiled terror plot won’t be repeated. “We can’t read everyone’s mind but I assure the public that the PNP and the Armed Forces are trying their very best to secure the country. We are doing all we can. We are doing our best to secure the country but we cannot guarantee there will be no repeat of this incident,” he said.
The PNP leadership last September also said that safeguards are in place against hoax and malicious reports particularly bomb messages sent through the ‘Itaga mo sa Bato’ hotline launched officially by the PNP.
As a counter-measure against hoax and malicious reports, apps were integrated with a registration module where responsible citizens will be registered, said Carlos.
The official said that reports from two registered numbers will be identified by the system and be given greater priority over reports from unregistered numbers that need to be validated. A compliance monitoring module is also available to monitor the compliance of the concerned offices in relation to the reports forwarded to them, Carlos said.
Gen. Dela Rosa led the launching of the mobile telecommunication application that can connect subscribers directly to an emergency hotline platform for quick response to emergency services.
The PNP, with telecommunication giants Smart and Globe, formalized a memorandum of agreement setting into motion a Police Quick Response System accessible through the mobile app “Itaga mo sa Bato.”
Gen. Dela Rosa; Smart vice-president for public affairs Mon Isberto; and Globe Telecom general counsel, lawyer Vicente Froilan Castelo signed the joint accord during symbolic ceremonies in Camp Crame.
The ‘Itaga Mo Sa Bato App’ (PNP Reporting App)/ Police Quick Response System is intended to supplement the national Emergency Hotline 911, said Police-Community Relations Group director, Senior Supt. Gilberto DC Cruz.
These systems are mobile apps that will be installed in Smart phones of residents in a community, he said. The Itaga Mo Sa Bato App is a mobile android app that has accessible buttons, Cruz explained. The first button allows the users to send text reports via SMS or the Internet. The second button allows them to auto call Emergency Hotline 911.
For emergency situations where the victims don’t have the opportunity to make a call to Emergency Hotline 911, a press of a button of the Police Alert App will alert the server at the PNP Command Center indicating the nature of emergency, name and address of establishment, contact number of reporter, contact number of nearest police/fire station, and other vital information.
This information will allow the command center to quickly coordinate with the concerned authorities for the needed assistance, Cruz said.