Bomb joke on flight leads to passenger arrest in Davao City

A parked Cebu Pafific Airbus A320neo
LMP 2001, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

LONDON – A joke about a bomb on a Cebu Pacific flight has led to the arrest of a passenger in the Philippines Davao City over the weekend.

According to local news source GMA News, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) have advised that police boarded a Cebu Pacific flight on Sunday and arrested a passenger after they were summoned by security.

A 59-year-old female passenger on board Cebu Pacific flight 5J97 was placed under arrest after the Philippine National Police Aviation Security Group (PNP-AVSEU) boarded the aircraft at Davao International Airport.

The airline’s flight crew had reportedly raised the alert via the airport control tower, which led to the subsequent police response.

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The flight with 221 passengers on board was preparing to depart for Manila at 6:45 PM on Sunday local time.

As a standard precautionary measure, the passengers were disembarked and the aircraft was relocated to an isolation bay for investigation.

The flight subsequently departed for Manila at 9:11 PM local time, after a delay of almost 3 hours.

A serious matter

Sunday’s incident in the Philippines highlights just how seriously a comment with regards to a bomb or similar threat is taken by the global aviation and air travel sector.

In the United States, the United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) routinely broadcasts the following warning in airports around the country:

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‘Making jokes or statements regarding bombs and/or threats during the screening process may be grounds for both civil and criminal penalties and could cause you to miss your flight.’

Despite this warning, individuals are routinely found in breach of the requirement. It appears that a similar dynamic exists in the Philippines, with instances of passengers making jokes about bombs arising over the past few years.

A similar incident in 2019 as reported by local news source The Manila Standard saw in the civil aviation authority of the Philippines issue a plea to passengers and air travellers to refrain from making comments even when issued as a joke or a prank.

The 2019 incident also occurred at Davao City International Airport.

Under Philippines Presidential Decree 1727, or what is known as the “Anti-Bomb Joke” law, violations can result in imprisonment of up to 5 years, or a fine of up to P40,000, applied at the discretion of the court.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 3 Min Read
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