Still no leads on death of Abra girl

(The Philippine Star) - January 3, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Police still have no leads on the source of the bullet that hit and killed an 11-year-old girl in Tayum, Abra during the New Year revelry on Thursday.

Abra Gov. Eustaquio Bersamin, however, is optimistic that the reveler who fired the gun will soon be identified.

A group of civilians called the Guardians Reform Advocacy & Cooperation Towards Economic Prosperity is offering P100,000 as reward for any person who can provide information leading to the identification and arrest of the perpetrator.

“Tayum is a small place, I hope the police chief and local officials could identify the culprit the soonest with the cooperation of villagers,” Bersamin told The STAR.

Cordillera Police Regional Office (PRO-COR) director Chief Superintendent Isagani Nerez vowed to exert all efforts and legal means to bring justice to the victim, a Grade 4 pupil in Bumagcat Elementary School.

Jercy Decym Buenafe Tabaday was playing outside her family’s house with playmates when she suddenly fell to the ground at around 12:20 a.m. on Jan. 1 in Barangay Bumagcat, Tayum.

Her family checked on her and found blood oozing from her head. She was immediately taken to the Abra Provincial Hospital but died about three hours later.

Nerez said the medico-legal officer who conducted autopsy on the body extracted a slug of caliber .45 from the victim’s head.

“The slug was turned over to Abra Provincial Crime Laboratory Office for examination using the IBIS (Integrated Ballistics Identification System) for identification and possible matching with slugs used in previous crimes,” Nerez told The STAR.

He noted that all firearms of Tayum Police personnel were immediately inspected to check whether one was fired during the revelry and could have hit the victim.

Abra Police Director Senior Superintendent Albertlito Garcia meanwhile bared that the sealed gun muzzles of police personnel in his turf were all accounted for during the mass removal of tapes yesterday.

Nerez said that there is an extensive investigation on the incident as several people were subjected to paraffin tests to determine whether they fired the gun whose bullet could have hit and killed the girl.

The vicinity where the victim was shot has also been cordoned off, according to Garcia.

Bersamin said he has instructed the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to extend assistance to the child’s parents.

Stray bullet victim recovering

Doctors at the East Avenue Medical Center (EAMC) in Quezon City have successfully removed the bullet lodged in the skull of a teenage girl on New Year’s Eve in Caloocan City.

Alfonso Nuñez III, chief of the EAMC emergency and trauma department, said they are still monitoring the condition of 13-year-old stray bullet victim Maybelle Lou Juanitas, but it is safe to say that she is on the road to recovery.

“We are really happy because she is recovering fast,” Nuñez told The STAR.

Maybelle Lou underwent surgery at the EAMC on Thursday afternoon.

Her cousin, Aiza Suan-Ocas, said in a text message that the Grade 7 student has been transferred to the hospital’s ward.

“She can already speak. Thank God,” she said in Filipino.

Nuñez said that aside from the bullet, doctors also removed the blood clot on the left side of Maybelle Lou’s head, which put her in critical condition.

“She is already out of imminent life-threatening danger,” said the doctor, noting that the girl’s vital signs are stable and that she is trying to eat.

The doctor noted they are monitoring Maybelle Lou’s condition as they consider the next two to three days a critical period following surgery.

He added that Maybelle Lou may be released from hospital in the next five to seven days if the pace of her recovery continues.

In a separate phone interview with The STAR, Maybelle Lou’s father Johnny Juanitas said they are thankful that the operation on his daughter was successful.

“But we are still praying for her fast recovery,” he added in Filipino.

Maybelle Lou was walking along Cattleya St. in Barangay Tala, Caloocan City with her two cousins around 10:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve when she was hit by a stray bullet.

The Caloocan City police yesterday created “Task Force Maybelle” to track down the person responsible for the indiscriminate firing that led to Maybelle Lou’s injury.

Caloocan city police chief S/Supt. Bartolome Bustamante said a reenactment was done yesterday to determine the trajectory of the bullet.

“It is very possible that we can trace the location where the shot was fired and where it came from. We are still waiting for the SOCO report to determine what kind of firearm was used. But we are urging the residents in the area to come out and help the police identify the person who fired the gun,” he said.

He noted that another slug was found near the area where the victim was hit and they will try to establish if it matched the slug that pierced the head of Maybelle Lou.

Bustamante said witnesses who are worried for their safety could text any information to 0927-757-7630 and the identities of those who would personally see the investigators would be withheld.

He said Caloocan Mayor Oscar Malapitan also promised to give assistance and instructed them to make sure that “this time the person responsible for this is put behind bars.”

DOH to shoulder medical expenses

The Department of Health (DOH) yesterday condemned the indiscriminate firing of guns during the New Year celebrations.

“The DOH condemns indiscriminate firing because of the danger that it poses to the health and lives of people. This is unacceptable,” said acting Health Secretary Janette Garin.

The agency had documented 10 stray bullet injuries from Dec. 21, 2014 to Jan. 2 from 50 sentinel hospitals across the country. The figure does not include those recorded by the police.

Garin added that to help ease the burden of all stray bullet victims and their families in government hospitals, the DOH, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) and the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) would cover their hospital and rehabilitation expenses.

Other stray bullet victims

Seven from Central Luzon and three others from central Mindanao were reported hit by stray bullets during the New Year celebrations.

DOH director for Region 12 Teogenes Baluma said that among the three stray bullet victims in the region is a four-year-old child who belongs to a poor peasant family in Cotabato City.

Baluma lamented that despite warnings, the number of New Year revelry-related incidents in Region 12 posed a 30-percent increase compared to that of 2013.

“We did our best to educate the public on the dangers of using powerful firecrackers and firearms during Christmas and New Year’s revelries. We had an extensive information campaign before the holidays started,” he said.

The victims from Central Luzon were identified as 16-year-old Charish Amela Habaybay, Maria Liberty Andoque, Misael Eguin, Marvelyn Valdez and Rogie Vizcara of San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan; Benjamin Alipio, 28, of Pulilan, Bulacan; and Victor Juano, 34, of San Fernando City, Pampanga.

Bulacan police provincial director S/Supt. Ferdinand Divina has ordered his chiefs of police to conduct a thorough investigation and check if Bulacan policemen indiscriminately fired their guns during the New Year celebrations.

The New Year also got off to a bad start for a 31-year-old security guard after he was hit by a stray bullet in the head while watching fireworks in Koronadal City.

Harrison Garcia, a resident of Lambayong town in Sultan Kudarat province, was standing on the rooftop of KCC Shopping Mall watching fireworks when he suddenly fell to the floor.

Garcia works as an in-house security personnel of the Chinese-Filipino-owned shopping mall.

He was immediately brought to a nearby private hospital and is now out of danger.

Twelve-year-old James Manicad, meanwhile, was wounded by a .45-caliber bullet in Enrile, Cagayan province.

Enrile police chief Senior Inspector Felicito Dulin said the victim was at the church grounds with two friends when he thought he was hit by a stone at around 8:45 p.m. Wednesday night.  – Cecille Suerte Felipe, Raymund Catindig, Rey Galupo, Janvic Mateo, Ramil Bajo, Lalaine Jimenea, Ric Sapnu, Ramon Lazaro, Non Alquitran, Sheila Crisostomo

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