Downward trend

THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez (The Freeman) - January 3, 2016 - 9:00am

The DOH may have spoken a bit too soon when it announced that firecracker-related injuries were down by 53 percent compared to last year, something they cheered about. But the numbers seem to be changing on a daily basis, as reports of injuries continue to come in. As of this writing, the official tally is four hundred fifty-eight injured. The figure has been revised to forty-four percent lower than last year. It is still something to cheer about. That's about half the number of injured last year. But while it is good that the numbers seem to be on a downward trend, the victims are still the same, children. And the main culprit is still the piccolo.

The DOH attributes the decline in firecracker injuries to an intense information campaign, coupled with the strict monitoring of the PNP on businesses selling firecrackers. Those caught selling the identified illegal firecrackers such as the piccolo and the virtual dynamites such as "Goodbye Philippines" were immediately shut down, along with their goods confiscated. So far, there has only been one fatality caused by a firecracker. A drunken man embraced a lit "Goodbye Philippines" firecracker. I'll leave it up to everyone what they would want to say. No fatalities due to ingestion were recorded this year. I guess parents had a a lot more common sense this year.

Retailers lamented a slump in fireworks sales. Again, people may be wising up to the fact that what you are really doing is burning money. Since there are many establishments and local governments offering community fireworks displays, many would prefer to watch someone else burn their money. I am not saying I do not enjoy a good fireworks show. But it is an expensive way to celebrate the coming of the New Year, best left to those who can easily afford it.

As for stray-bullet injuries, the PNP has recorded thirty-six injuries from Dec. 16 to January 1. Six people were arrested, including a policeman. At first, no fatalities were recorded. But reports of an eleven-year-old girl from Las Piñas may be the first fatality due to a stray bullet. She was on a rooftop watching the different fireworks going off when she was apparently struck by a bullet. She was rushed to the hospital but passed away hours later. Again, another child. Again, another idiot firing his gun for no logical reason. As often is the case, nobody has any idea who the idiot is.

There is now a call to amend the penalties for indiscriminate firing of guns. At present, the fine is only two hundred pesos and jail time from a day to thirty days. I totally agree that the law is toothless. The fine should run into the thousands if not hundreds of thousands of pesos, and prison time of at least five years or more. A hefty reward system should also be in place for those who point out those firing their guns for no reason, be it New Year's Eve or whenever. Hopefully, this serves as a hindrance to those who just cannot help but be idiots.

Achieving a "zero casualty" rate during New Year's Eve celebrations may be a goal too high for the DOH to set. It is well ingrained in our culture to "light it up" during New Year's Eve. It is on right track in terms of disseminating information and strict implementation on the forbidden sale of illegal firecrackers. Hopefully the numbers continue to go down in the coming years. I am more concerned about the stray-bullet injuries, and fatalities. That is something that has to be totally eradicated.



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