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Bomb joker arrested at NAIA; PAL flight delayed

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MANILA, Philippines—Aviation policemen on Friday morning arrested a 56-year-old passenger at Ninoy Aquino International Terminal 3 for making bomb joke while boarding a Butuan City-bound flight.

The Manila International Airport Authority and the Philippine National Police-Aviation Security Group identified the passenger as Bernabe Cuello Jr., a barangay chair in San Pablo City, Laguna, and a passenger at Philippine Airlines Express Flight 2P-967. He remained in police detention as of press time while waiting to be brought for inquest at the Pasay City prosecutor’s office.

According to PNP-AvSeGroup investigators, the boarding officer at the air bridge alerted the pilot after Cuello was overheard by airline staff Efreo Cardano and other passengers as saying: “Maybe there are no people below, someone might put a bomb on the tires.”

The pilot, Captain Richard Sorolla, aborted the flight’s 6:20 a.m. departure and called for police assistance to offload Cuello from the plane.

In accordance with standard operating procedures, the entire aircraft was subjected to inspection by air safety authorities using canine units and explosive-detecting gadgets. All passengers and crew were deplaned while all baggage and cargo were also unloaded from the aircraft.

No bomb or any explosive was found; the flight was able to leave NAIA around 10 a.m.

Cuello is facing charges of violating Presidential Decree No. 1727, issued in 1980, which declares 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.”

Violation of PD 1727 is punishable by up to five years in jail, not more than P40,000 in fines or both, at the court’s discretion.

PD 1727 is not limited to “bomb jokes” made in airplanes or airports. The law also covers “buildings, tenements and other places.”

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