Press Release
August 7, 2019

Bong Go: Prank callers to spend jail time

Senator Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go wants prank callers to spend jail time and fined for mischievous and malicious calls, especially using emergency hotlines.

Go said emergency hotlines are being used to improve public safety and to facilitate a prompt deployment of emergency hotlines and should not be misused and abused.

In his Senate Bill 400, or the "Anti-Prank Callers Act of 2019," the senator defined prank call as "a mischievous or maliscious telephone call made to trick or fool someone with the intention to annoy, abuse, threaten, harass, or solicit any comment, request, suggestion or sound which is obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy or indecent, or a call intending to make false requests or false alarm of an emergency, knowing the report or information or alarm to be false."

The neophyte senator noted that President Rodrigo Duterte issued Executive Order No. 56 to institutionalize the Emergency 911 Hotline as the nationwide emergency hotline number for people needing assistance during emergency situations.

Upon the activation of emergency hotline nationwide in 2018, the dispatcher had received 2,475 calls that day, but only 75 of the calls were legitimate. More than 1,000 of the calls were dropped calls and about 300 were pranked calls.

"By its very nature and purpose, calls accommodated by the emergency 911 should only be for legitimate and immediate emergency concerns. There is no room for mischievous or malicious calls as the time spent in answering these prank calls may spell the difference in saving the life of someone in dire need of help," Go said.

"Anytime a prank call comes in, it takes away from the dispatcher's opportunity to help somebody who is in distress," the former Special Assistant to the President added, stressing that every second delayed equates to lives wasted.

The proposed measure stated that "emergency hotlines established for the purpose of responding to emergency situations shall, at all times, be free from receiving unnecessary calls."

"It shall be prohibited for any individual to make prank calls to any hotline at any time," it said, adding that violators shall be penalized with an imprisonment of one day to 30 days and a fine of P5,000 for the first offense.

For the second offense, violators shall be penalized with an imprisonment of one month and one day to six months and a fine of P10,000.

For the third and succeeding offenses, any violator would face six months and one day to six years imprisonment and a fine of P20,000.

Go's bill also stated that "all acts and decrees, executive orders implementing rules and regulations or parts thereof, inconsistent with the provisions of this act are hereby repealed, amended or modified accordingly."

The prohibition against prank calls is actually not new.

During the administration of former President Ferdinand Marcos, dissemination of false information "or the willful making of any threat concerning bombs, explosives or any similar device" is unlawful under Presidential Decree No. 1727 issued in 1980.

The presidential issuance declared that making prank calls is illegal "in the wake of recent bombings, arsons, and other terroristic acts committed by radicals and other lawless elements in the country, such radical and lawless elements, and other persons popularly known or described as "pranksters", have been conveying, propagating or otherwise disseminating false information or willfully making threats regarding the alleged presence of bombs, explosives, incendiary devices, or any similar device or means of destruction in buildings, tenements, and other places, by word of mouth or through the use of telephones, telegraph, the mail, and other means of communication, for the purpose of causing or creating public confusion and disorder."

"Any person who, by word of mouth or through the use of the mail, telephone, telegraph, printed materials and other instrument or means of communication, willfully makes any threat or maliciously conveys, communicates, transmits, imparts, passes on, or otherwise disseminates false information, knowing the same to be false, concerning an attempt or alleged attempt being made to kill, injure, or intimidate any individual or unlawfully to damage or destroy any building, vehicle, or other real or personal property, by means of explosives, incendiary devices, and other destructive forces of similar nature or characteristics, shall upon conviction be punished with imprisonment of not more than five (5) years, or a fine of not more than forty thousand pesos (₱40,000.00) or both at the discretion of the court having jurisdiction over the offense herein defined and penalized," it stated.

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