Concerns prevailed over the so-called “arrestoguinaldo” prank done by the Cebu City Police Office and the Philippine Air Force to unsuspecting citizens who initially thought they were being arrested by the uniformed personnel.
Local reports note that among the individuals they played the prank on with were two employees of a fast-food chain in General Maxilom Avenue, Cebu on Tuesday.
The employees were surrounded by state forces, some wielding weapons, and then informed they were issued a “warrant of arrest” due to estafa or swindling. They were also told to come to the police station.
The employees were visibly scared but by the time they approached the police car, they were greeted by a Christmas song and cheering personnel who handed them gift packs.
It took a while for them to accept the gifts as they attempted to calm themselves following the fake arrest.
A video of the incident was shared by The Freeman on Facebook, where it has earned 2,600 likes and reactions as of this writing.
The Freeman noted that eight employees became beneficiaries in the gift-giving activity.
Eleven other police stations also conducted simultaneous checkpoints on the road but instead of enforcing the law, they sang Christmas carols and gave gift packs to jeepney drivers.
According to Police Colonel Josefino Ligan, the director of CCPO, the activity was their way of sharing the Christmas spirit to the public, which was a welcome respite to their usual law enforcement functions.
Reports said that the prank is conducted by the police every Christmas season.
While the intention behind the “arrestoguinaldo” was for fun, it only earned criticisms from social media users who called it “foolery.”
“It’s never a joke to abuse one’s power and deprive one of his liberty. Anong kalokohan ‘to,” a Twitter user said, referring to being put imprisoned or detained in a jail.
A Twitter micro-influencer said that the “fanfare” could’ve been avoided if the only intention was to give gifts to the public.
“I don’t understand why the police, who usually prohibits pranking people, would be the one to do this. If they want to give a Christmas gift, they should do it without fanfare,” Kevin Manalo tweeted.
Another Twitter user was concerned about the potential psychological consequences that the prank could’ve caused.
“Falsification for laughs??? Imagine the psychological distress they caused,” she wrote, referring to the employees.
Bar 2019 topnotcher Diane Azores likewise tweeted that the incident “may also constitute as falsification of public document,” referring to the arrest warrant.
The Revised Penal Code sanctions a public officer for falsification of documents under Article 171, although a policeman is considered a civil servant.
In a 2017 interview, lawyer Gaby Concepcion said that a person can sue someone if he is distressed or annoyed by a prank, even if it did not cause physical harm. The offense may fall under “unjust vexations” in the Revised Penal Code.
“Ito ay isang ‘catch-all provision’ dahil kasali dito ang kahit na anong gawain na nagre-resulta sa matinding inis o kabwisitan sa isang tao. Kaya nga vexation na hindi makatarungan,” she said to GMA’s “Unang Hirit” before.
Concepcion cited the second paragraph of Article 287, which states the following:
Any person who, by means of violence, shall seize anything belonging to his debtor for the purpose of applying the same to the payment of the debt, shall suffer the penalty of arresto mayor in its minimum period and a fine equivalent to the value of the thing, but in no case less than 75 pesos.
Any other coercions or unjust vexations shall be punished by arresto menor or a fine ranging from 5 to 200 pesos, or both.
Concepcion said that the paramount question to be considered is whether the offender’s act has caused annoyance, irritation, torment, distress, or disturbance in the mind of the victim.
Offenders found guilty of the crime will pay a fine of P200 and up to a month of imprisonment.