Elderly priest’s lunchbox sparks bomb scare on plane

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Passengers disembark yesterday following the bomb scare. Picture courtesy of Headz Up Dumaguete, via Facebook.

An elderly priest’s quip about his packed lunch caused a bomb scare at Dumaguete Airport, stranding more than 100 passengers for some four hours.

Police Chief Inspector Ruel Baganes said it was a 69-year-old clergyman who caused the delay for Manila-bound passengers yesterday (Wednesday, May 9). His name has been withheld.

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Cf. Insp. Baganes said the suspect was aboard Philippine Airlines flight 2546, which was scheduled to leave for Manila at about 11am.

The commotion began when a flight attendant told the priest to move his packed lunch, which he had placed on an empty seat beside him, into the designated storage space under his seat. 

After he initially expressed reluctance, the flight attendant told him more firmly to follow his instructions. This led the priest to snap back at him, saying: “Huwag kang mag-alala. Pagkain naman ito, hindi bomba.” [Do not worry. This is a meal, not a bomb.]

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The flight attendant immediately reported the incident to his supervisor, who then passed the message to the plane’s pilot. 

After the pilot notified the airport’s control tower, police and security officers from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines rushed to the scene.

Passengers were ordered off plane, and bomb squad officers conducted a search. The plane was eventually cleared from any threat of explosives.

The flight attendant and the flight supervisor were then questioned by airport police. It was soon confirmed that the clergyman had not in fact made a bomb joke.

However, because he allegedly failed to obey instructions given by an aircraft employee, he could face charges of under Republic Act 9497 or the Civil Aviation Authority Act of 2008. PAL’s legal department in Manila is now considering filing charges against him.

“That may have not been a bomb joke, but given our response to the incident, it can even be called a bomb threat,” Ch. Insp. Baganes said.

The priest’s fellow passengers eventually left the airport at 3.05pm — four hours after their scheduled departure time.

The priest also made to it Manila, but only after booking a last-minute ticket on a Cebu Pacific flight.

Making bomb jokes is a specific offence under Presidential Decree 1727, or Anti-Bomb Joke Law.

Earlier this month, we reported how an Australian tourist and his two female companions were arrested for writing the word “bombing” on a Cebu City hotel room mirror.

Jamie Allan Morgan, aged 48, Carmiel Pasco, 19, and Myla Tugbong, 20, are now facing charges under the presidential decree, as well as causing alarm and scandal under the Revised Penal Code.

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