By Benjie Lim Vergara
A BAD joke from an Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao employee caused a seven hour delay on a Cotabato bound Philippine airlines flight, airport authorities said on Thursday.
Saidona Singgon’s alleged bomb joke caused PAL Flight PR2959 to be delayed as all of its passengers were told to disembark. Their luggage were also offloaded and rigorously inspected by the Philippine National Police Aviation Security Group.
Singgon, who claimed to be an Airport Manager 3 of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), was immediately arrested after the plane parked at the airport’s remote area.
The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) said PR2959 has 139 passengers and four crew. It was supposed to depart at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) at 7:30 a.m. but had to return to the terminal because its air-conditioning bogged down.
The MIAA said that shortly thereafter, the airport’s command center has received a call from PAL Station at the NAIA Terminal 2 informing them that a passenger, later identified as Singgon, cracked a bomb joke. The joke prompted the police to conduct a thorough inspection of all the luggage brought on board.
Meanwhile, CAAP spokesman Eric Apolonio denied that Singgon is an employee of the CAAP.
“The CAAP and DOTr (Department of Transportation) deny any connection with the passenger who claimed that he is a DOTr-CAAP employee. Upon verification, Mr. Singgon is identified to be an employee of the autonomous DOTC (Department of Transportation and Communication) under ARMM,” the CAAP statement said.
Under the law, the consequences for a bomb joke include a fine of not more than PhP40,000 or jail term of not more than five years, or both, depending on the decision of the courts if a case is filed.
PAL Spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said the airline has apologized for the inconvenience to the rest of the passengers, who had to disembark so that authorities could inspect the aircraft thoroughly. These incidents are taken very seriously, as the security and safety of the passengers is the topmost concern of the airline and the authorities.
“PAL takes this opportunity to remind all passengers to refrain from making any jokes about bombs and security threats. The authorities are duty-bound to take appropriate action to safeguard the passengers and all flights. There is no compromise when it comes to ensuring the security of Philippine aviation and all the people who entrust the airlines with their safety and well-being,” a PAL statement said.
Villaluna said PAL management will file a case against the passenger.
MIAA Assistant General for Operation Octavio Lina said PR2959 was allowed to takeoff at 2:49 p.m. towards its destination after it was cleared from any explosive.