Mad tradition | Inquirer Opinion

Mad tradition

/ 12:07 AM January 04, 2015

You could almost hear the resounding groan of pain and despair.

A one-year-old child, Raymar Generoso, died after being hit on the chest by an exploding firecracker while riding with his father on a motorcycle in Cebu City. The bystander who had thrown the firecracker said he had not done so on purpose. (But isn’t that the case with all firecracker injuries?)

In the very early morning-fire in Quezon City on New Year’s Day, a gathering of informal settlers’ homes in Kaingin Bukid, Barangay Apolonio Samson, went up in a blaze that lasted for six hours, killing three people and rendering 4,000 families homeless.


In Abra, an 11-year-old girl died after being hit in the head by a stray bullet let loose to celebrate the coming of the new year.


The list goes on. What makes all these terrible and senseless New Year tragedies most outrageous is that we have seen their kind in the past, over and over, and they happen still—despite their being clear violations of the law.

Are we to take comfort that the number of injuries from firecrackers in the New Year’s Eve revelry is supposedly lower than last year’s? According to the Department of Health, the total number of fireworks-related injuries had reached 593 by Jan. 2; that is 393 cases lower than the previous year’s tally of 986. However, the New Year Day count of 25 patients requiring amputations compares to just eight the year before.

If anything, this indicates that not only are the current firecrackers more dangerous; this also gives us a picture of an inutile police force. The most dangerous of the firecrackers was the piccolo, which, despite being banned, still caused a whopping 223 casualties, based on reports from 50 hospitals.

Acting Health Secretary Janette Garin said that the piccolo proved so destructive because more young Filipinos liked using the banned firecracker due to its notoriety, and its low, cheap price enabled them to share it with friends. “They are sharing danger,” Garin said.

The danger—as the Kaingin Bukid fire that burned 90 percent of the shanties to the ground, leaving five people injured, among them a volunteer firefighter who lost three fingers, exemplified—displayed the horrible “cost” of firecrackers. A Bureau of Fire Protection official told a TV reporter that 14 fires raged nationwide during the New Year revelry, killing at least seven people; he identified firecrackers as the most likely cause. To be sure, many now face 2015 with even less than they had before—in terms of possessions, shelters and even limbs. No one, of course, will be found guilty of the crime.

But most reprehensible is the firing of guns into the air. Despite the military and police establishments’ show of wrapping their guns with signed masking tape to deter their being fired indiscriminately, with the threat of being drummed out of the service, at least 10 people were still hurt by stray bullets. Aside from the girl from Abra, the other victims of this outrageous insanity was a 13-year-old girl hit in the head while simply walking to her aunt’s house in Caloocan City. A three-year-old sleeping in his Cotabato City home was struck in the eye.


Out in the open or under a roof, it would seem no one can feel safe anymore from a cowardly, cavalier crime that the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines seem so powerless to stop. Most likely, many of the weapons used in this crime are “loose” or unregistered firearms. But as Inquirer columnist Rina Jimenez-David pointed out in her space today: “… one wonders if authorities… went out of the way to track legal or illegal guns…”

Once again, the clamor for a more stringent enforcement of the laws on fireworks and guns, and for a total ban on firecrackers, is resonating on a higher decibel. Expect this to fizzle out and be forgotten as the new year wears on and turns older—like the similar calls in past new years had.

Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said “the executive is ready to work with (Congress) on crafting an acceptable and effective law on firecrackers.”

But didn’t all the unnecessary deaths and injuries happen despite existing laws that are supposed to prevent them?

Yet no seller or buyer of firecrackers has been arrested. No one has been convicted of the crime of firing a gun on New Year’s Eve and killing or injuring someone as a result.

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And 12 months hence, illegal firecrackers will be on robust sale, guns will be fired in celebration of another new year, and homes will go up in flames—again. There will be another round of madness resulting in loss of lives, limbs and property. Laws will be blatantly violated—again—to celebrate a “tradition.” It’s time this stupid tradition was stopped.

TAGS: deaths, Editorial, Firecrackers, Injuries, Law Enforcement, new year revelry

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