MANILA, Philippines – Police have determined that a 16-year-old Grade 9 student was behind the Facebook account that commented bomb threats on a livestream of a flag-raising ceremony on November 7, the Philippine National Police (PNP) Anti-Cybercrime Group reported on Monday, November 14.
On November 7 at 8:05 am, while the Taguig local government unit (LGU) was livestreaming a city hall flag-raising ceremony for National Children’s Month on its I Love Taguig Facebook page, an account named “Sofia Smith” began posting several comments saying they would “kill all the students at Signal village” with an explosive. The comments caused panic among students, parents, and teaching staff.
In a video report with Taguig Mayor Lani Cayetano and Taguig Chief of Police Colonel Robert Baesa on Monday, November 14, Lieutenant Colonel Jay Guillermo of the PNP Anti-Cybercrime group said police determined the internet protocol (IP) address, exact location, mobile number, and real identity of the person who logged into the “Sofia Smith” account and posted the comments.
“Si ‘Sofia Smith’ ay isang 16 na taong gulang na babae, Grade 9 student sa Signal Village National High School. Dumulog kami sa Regional Trial Court upang kumuha ng cybercrime warrant upang magkaroon kami ng karapatan na makapasok sa bahay at makumpiska ang cell phone ni ‘Sofia Smith’ at ng mga kasama niya sa bahay,” said Guillermo.
(“Sofia Smith” is a 16-year-old girl, a Grade 9 student at Signal Village National High School. We went to the Regional Trial Court to get a cybercrime warrant so we would have the right to enter the house and confiscate the cell phones of “Sofia Smith” and those who lived with her.)
Guillermo said that police continued to conduct forensic examinations of the confiscated cell phones. The cops’ investigation also found that there were multiple log-ins of different Facebook accounts to the same IP address.
Baesa said that this led police to believe that the suspect behind the “Sofia Smith” account had accomplices in making the threats.
“Lumalabas na mayroong galit sa school at sa ilang teachers ang mga nagbabanta kaya ginawa nila ang post na pananakot. Gayundin ang isa sa kanila ay dating street sweeper ng lungsod na tinanggal nang may kadahilanan. Maaaring ito po ang kanilang motibo sa pagbabanta na naghahasik ng kaguluhan sa siyudad,” said Baesa.
(It appears that those who made the threats have grudges against the school and some teachers, which is why they made the fear-inducing posts. One of them is a former city street sweeper who was laid off. This may be their motive in making a threat that caused chaos in the city.)
Baesa said authorities were preparing complaints to be filed against “Sofia Smith” and her accomplices. They possibly face charges of grave threats, bomb scare threats, and acts of terrorism.
Recap of the bomb scare
“Papatayin ko lahat ng mga estudyante sa Signal, humanda kayong lahat,” “Sofia Smith” wrote with a laugh. “Papatayin ko lahat lahat.” (I will kill all of the students in Signal, be ready… I will kill everyone.)
“Smith” posted at least six comments, even saying that she would do the same as “what happened in Thailand.” In August, explosions and fires ripped through at least 17 locations in southern Thailand in what appeared to be coordinated attacks.
After “Sofia Smith” posted the comments on the livestream, Cayetano said the LGU immediately dispatched police and K-9 units to EM Signal Village Elementary School and Signal Village National High School to check all classrooms for explosives. No explosives were found.
Local security forces also checked all other public schools in Taguig, where no explosives were found either. Principals suspended afternoon classes.
“Smith” commented again around 11 am, unfazed by the cancellation of classes in her alleged plan to bomb the schools.
“Tandaan ‘nyo, madami pang araw, malay ‘nyo bukas o sa Biyernes! Puwede ko namang i-atras sa isang kondisyon – kausapin mo ako Mayor Lani, may gusto akong ipagawa sa inyo, kundi itutuloy ko ang pagsabog sa mga school sa Taguig,” said “Smith.”
(Remember, there are many days to come, you never know maybe tomorrow or Friday! I can withdraw this threat with one condition – talk to me, Mayor Lani, I want you to do something for me, or else I will push through with the bombings in Taguig schools.)
Cayetano said the LGU deployed additional security in different schools.
The LGU worked with the Metro Manila and Taguig-Pateros units of the Department of Education to coordinate in ensuring safety for all students and DepEd teaching staff.
“Tinalakay rin po namin ang mga hakbang na dapat gawin kung sakaling mulang magkaroon ng pagbabanta,” said Cayetano. (We also discussed the steps we should make in case there are more threats in the future.)
The account of “Sofia Smith,” now unavailable, said she lived in Seoul, South Korea, and worked at Korean entertainment company JYP Entertainment, which led cops to determine that this was a possibly a fake account made to conceal the identity of the person making the threats.
Cayetano said she hoped the development of the case gave students, their families, and teaching staff peace of mind.
“Makasisiguro po kayo na lagi po nating pangangalagaan ang buhay at seguridad ng lahat, lalo na po ng ating mga mag-aaral. Hindi po natin sila pababayaang mailagay sa kapahamakan,” the Taguig mayor said. (Rest assured that we will always take care of the lives and security of all, especially our students. We will not simply let them get into dangerous situations.)
Cayetano added an appeal to “not make the situation worse” by attempting any harmful actions towards “Sofia Smith,” who turned out to be a minor.
“Hindi po biro ang pagbabanta ng pagpatay (Death threats are not a joke),” Cayetano said. “What we post and share (has) real impact on the lives of real people.” – Rappler.com