SENATORIAL bet and House independent bloc leader Rep. Martin Romualdez yesterday joined House leaders in urging stiffer penalties on those responsible behind hoax bomb threat in populated areas.
Quezon City Reps. Alfred Vargas and Winston “Winnie” Castelo and Marikina City Rep. Miro Quimbo joined Romualdez in saying it is high time for Congress to impose harsh punishment against persons behind prank bomb threats.
“Congress should work on posing severe penalties against a person who sows fear and economic loss to the country. Let us address false bomb threats with iron fist,” said Romualdez, head of the House Independent Bloc, following the latest bomb threat at Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City.
Vargas agreed with Romualdez, adding that hoax bomb threats also leave many students trauma.
“These prank calls, prank bomb threats are no joke. The public, not only the students, are not only inconvenienced because of the traffic, but addressing such incidents cost the government and the public in terms of resources, time wasted, and lost opportunities,” said Vargas in underscoring the necessity to amend or supplement Presidential Decree No. 1727, which penalizes any person who communicates false information or attempts to damage or destroy any property through explosives.
Romualdez, a lawyer and president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa), noted that PD No. 1727 only imposes imprisonment of not more than five years or a fine of not more than P40,000 or both on those behind bomb hoaxes.
Castelo, chairman of the House committee on Metro Manila development who supports the “malasakit” (compassionate) advocacy of Romualdez to the Senate, said authorities should also make sure that prank callers are penalized.
“They (prank callers) should be arrested and placed behind bars because they sow panic and terror to many, especially to the innocent minds of students,” said Castelo who is running unopposed in the coming election and is a stalwart of the ruling Liberal Party (LP).
Quimbo, who chairs the House committee on ways and means, said the call of his colleagues led by Romualdez in imposing stiffer penalties should be given highest priority by the incoming 17th Congress.
He proposed six to 12 years imprisonment or a fine of P1 million to P5 million or both against persons behind hoax bomb threat in populated areas, including the act of disseminating false information to social media.
Quimbo filed House Bill (HB) No. 4030 imposing stiffer penalties against the “dissemination of false information on the presence of bombs, explosives and other incendiary devices in high density or sensitive places.”
“Every false bomb threat which alarms an area leads to unnecessary anxiety for the people, disruption of its regular activities, economic costs from the opportunity lost for productivity due to evacuation activities, waste of law enforcement and emergency response resources as well as time spent which should have been used for more pressing public concerns, among others,” Quimbo pointed out.