Seares: Flash report: Rap on fake news a dud? | SunStar

Seares: Flash report: Rap on fake news a dud?

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Seares: Flash report: Rap on fake news a dud?

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Related News Sense columns:

“They’re joking. It’s not a bomb joke law.” Sept. 11, 2016

“Let’s make bomb joke law clear. Seriously.” Sept. 12, 2016


IDENTIFYING the people who were responsible for the news posted on Facebook last July 4 about a bomb placed near a store in Lapu-Lapu City is just the initial task of the police.

Who wrote it, approved it and posted it: in other words, the people responsible for spreading the story. Not like in a newsroom, broadcast or print, the Facebook site that calls itself “Cebu Flash Report” is not as organized and as transparent as the regular media outlet.


Police got names of five “persons in interest,” witnesses who could become suspects, from the CFR page and from some of those who must have talked. (The CFR Five include Alan Tangcawan, a SunStar Superbalita photo correspondent, who denied he had any part in posting the bogus item.)

But investigators must zero in on the persons who were actually responsible, not just names in CFR’s equivalent to a staff box. This is not a case of libel. This is, from what Police Region Chief Noli Taliño said, is a violation of Presidential Decree 1727, or the Anti-Bomb Joke Law.

‘Willfully, maliciously’

Which raises the problem of building up evidence against the suspects. Investigators must have evidence of:

● “Willfully” making a threat to kill or injure a person or to destroy property with a bomb or explosives; or

● “Maliciously” communicating false information, “knowing it to be false,” concerning an attempt or threat to kill a person or destroy property with the same incendiary devices.

What did the CFR report, or what passed for a news bulletin, say? “Nagkaguliyang ang mga tawo sa basak lapu2 tungod sa bomba gibutang atubangan store ug confirmed jud nga bomba. Salamat sa Swat nga giaksyonan nila.”

No threat to bomb

CFR said there was a bomb, “confirmed jud.” It was false but there’s no threat against any person or property. It said Swat acted on the problem.

Not only must there be a threat. The threat must relate to the use of “explosives or incendiary devices” or similar weapons. There was a false story but it wasn’t used in relation to an attempt or a threat to kill.

Will any criminal charge stick against CFR workers? Most likely not under the Anti-Bomb Joke Law. The joke part is actually only in the name given the law. An essential element of the crime is malice or ill-will, which a joke is not.

2016 bomb jokes

The Marcos Sr. decree was used to scare those who made bomb jokes last year. A man and a woman were separately arrested in Cebu City malls. In Iloilo and Metro Manila, there were similar incidents. We seriously doubt if any of the suspects, particularly the pranksters, was convicted under the Anti-Bomb Joke Law. (Unless one pleaded guilty or had a disoriented lawyer.)

Now they’re using the same law against fake news or information? Come on. Sen. Joel Villanueva’s proposal (Senate Bill 1492, corrected of its flaws) might do much better than Marcos’s bomb joke law.

As to bomb jokes, the Marcos decree won’t do to prosecute jokers and pranksters. There must be a law that explicitly punishes it, regardless of whether harm or damage results.

Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on July 10, 2017.

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