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Pinoy convicted, fined $2,000 for bomb joke aboard PAL plane

21 January 2019

The incident happened in a PAL plane.

By Vir B. Lumicao

A Filipino seafarer who joked about having a bomb in his hand-carried bag on a Manila-bound flight last Dec 20 has been fined $2,000 by a magistrate in West Kowloon Court following his admission of guilt.

Mateo F. Sumague, 42, was convicted on Jan 21 by Magistrate Ada Yim of a charge of “communicating false information on the existence of a bomb” after he pleaded guilty to the offense.

In mitigation, the duty lawyer assigned to Sumague’s defense said his client, who worked in Hong Kong earning $13,500 a month, had a wife and a daughter in the Philippines and begged for a suspended sentence or a fine.

The lawyer said the defendant, who was very remorseful for his offense, had a clear record both in Hong Kong and the Philippines, and that his employer would rehire him after his case was resolved because of his good performance.

The counsel said Sumague was only joking when he told a cabin crew of Philippine Airlines’ Flight PR311 there was a grenade in his hand-carried luggage.

Sumague made the quip to a female passenger after he was asked by the stewardess to put his bag in the overhead luggage storage while the aircraft was still on the tarmac.

The passenger told the cabin crew, who took the joke seriously and called aviation security. Sumague was arrested and the flight was delayed for an hour as officers searched for the grenade.

The flight was allowed to depart an hour late at 11pm, minus the defendant, only after the officers had made sure no explosive was on board.

The prosecutor said the case was a serious offense that normally calls for a minimum sentence of six months in jail and a maximum of two years in prison plus a fine.

Magistrate Yim said she had considered the defendant’s admission of guilt and his clear record, so she decided to impose a fine of $2,000 to be taken from Sumague’s money in hand. He had been held in custody without bail since his arrest.
But she told Sumague that causing a bomb scare on a plane, even if it was just a joke, was a serious offense because of the alarm that it caused the passengers and crew as well as the costs that the airline incurred for the delayed flight.

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