Vloggers doing ‘prank’ videos may face raps
Vloggers and content creators behind “prank” videos that disrupt public order may face jail time of from six to 12 years, the Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) of the Philippine National Police warned.
The ACG said it has observed an increase in the number of incident reports about vloggers staging “dangerous” pranks, such as fake robberies or attacks, which have “caused fear and panic in public places, disrupted public services, and endangered the safety of others.”
“We take this issue seriously and will hold those responsible accountable for their actions. Vloggers must be aware that their content can significantly impact the public and ensure that they are not putting anyone’s safety or well-being at risk,” ACG director Brig. Gen. Sidney Hernia said in a statement on Thursday.
Hernia issued the statement shortly after Police Staff Sgt. Ronnie Conmigo of the Integrity Monitoring and Enforcement Group filed a complaint of alarm and scandal against three vloggers at the Las Piñas City prosecutors’ office.
The three vloggers and content creators behind “Tukomi” channel, who were identified as Mark Lester San Rafael, Mark Hiroshi San Rafael and Eleazar Stephen Fuentes, had uploaded a video on Facebook and YouTube where they pretended to be kidnappers.
The eight-minute, 30-second video uploaded on April 6 was titled “Kidnap Prank (Gone Wrong!),” and showed one of the vloggers transacting with street vendors before he was forcibly taken by two purported kidnappers wearing black bonnets over their faces, and taken inside a black sedan. Reactions from onlookers ranged from curiosity to panicked glances and even screams of fear.
Previous videos would end with the “victim” returning to the vendors, telling them he forgot to pay and revealing that the kidnapping was just a prank.
When they tried the same prank at a bakery in Barangay CAA, Las Piñas City, however, an off-duty Conmigo, who lived nearby, pulled out his handgun to stop the “kidnapping.” Profusely apologetic and repeatedly saying that it was all a prank, the vloggers eventually managed to calm down the police officer.
In an interview on PNP’s “Pulis at Ur Serbis” program on April 28, Conmigo, who has been in the service for 26 years, said he was angry because he almost shot the vloggers.
“Thankfully, I did not hurt anyone. But if it was someone else, a trigger-happy police officer or an armed civilian, they could have been shot,” he said.
Conmigo said he filed the criminal complaint to teach the vloggers a lesson, “so that they will not repeat their stunt. Many people, especially children, can become copycats and upload the same content. It is very dangerous,” he said.
6-year prison term
Under Article 153 of the Revised Penal Code, crimes that disturb public order carry a prison term of six years. If a video of the prank was uploaded on social media platforms, the penalty is doubled to 12 years for violation of Republic Act No. 10175, or the Cybercrime Prevention Act, said PNP public information office chief Col. Redrico Maranan.
While acknowledging the popularity of social media and online platforms, the ACG also noted its ever-increasing reach and influence especially among a younger audience. “The prank can be entertaining and amusing, [but] some creators are taking it too far and creating dangerous, harmful or illegal content,” the ACG said, adding that it has already requested YouTube and Facebook to take down the viral video, which already has a combined view of more than 2 million as of Thursday.
“The prank has caused considerable distress to those who witnessed it,” said Hernia, who urged the public to report to the ACG any content they believe may be harmful or dangerous.
The vloggers’ Tukomi channel enjoys a massive following on social media with 4.2 million subscribers on YouTube and another 4.2 million followers on Facebook since it was created in 2017. Its profile describes it as showcasing “pranks, skits, parody, challenges,” and stream content that “only the shameless can do” (“Walang hiya lang nakakagawa”).