DAVAO CITY—In much of the country, the trend was toward a significant reduction of firecracker-related injuries during the raucous New Year’s Eve celebrations, according to health officials.
But it was zero firecrackers-related injury in Davao City notwithstanding the cacophony of noises that city residents managed to conjure—from the shrieks of children on board convoys of vehicles, the whining of sirens and ambulances, the clanging of metal against metal as people went around banging pans and ladles, to the honking of cars and revving of car engines—as they rang in the new year.
Despite the firecracker ban, implemented for the past 12 years, intermittent sparks seen from a distance indicated that some people may actually have been violating the ordinance that has set Davao City apart from the rest of the country.
Mayor Sara Duterte earlier warned violators of the firecrackers ban that she wouldn’t stop them but would deal with them severely if they are caught. At least 1,000 policemen in civilian clothes were deployed around the city to go after violators.
The Davao City police reported that at least 106 people, mostly minors, had been arrested for violating the firecrackers ban.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona said the number of firecracker-related injuries this year went down by 17 percent when compared to last year’s.
However, despite strict orders from President Aquino for police to clamp down on guns and ban firecrackers, there were more than 400 firecracker-related injuries and one 4-year-old boy killed by gunfire during the New Year’s Eve revelry.
Ona said that a total of 413 injuries had been reported as of 6 a.m. yesterday since the Department of Health (DOH) began its count on Dec. 21.
Out of the 413, 404 were injured by firecrackers, eight were hit by stray bullets (five of them in Cotabato), and one sickened from firecracker ingestion.
The injured included a 7-year-old girl who was hit in the head by a stray bullet in Caloocan City and a 17-year-old boy in Valenzuela City who lost his right hand to the powerful “Goodbye Philippines” firecracker.
Goodbye, right hand
“‘Goodbye Philippines’ became ‘Goodbye, right hand.’ These are injuries that will result in lifelong disability,” Ona said in a press conference at East Avenue Medical Center in Quezon City.
“It is too early for us to definitely conclude that our campaign is successful [but] 17 percent is a significant reduction considering that we have more people now. Maybe our campaign to a certain extent was successful,” the health secretary said.
Ona said the total figure was 85 cases lower than what was reported during the same period last year and 57 cases lower than the average during the past five years.
Still not enough
However, Ona said the police had to double their efforts against those selling illegal firecrackers and those firing their guns.
“Fifty-four percent or 219 cases were due to prohibited firecrackers and fireworks. At the same time, we have eight stray bullet victims, half of them are female and five came from Cotabato,” Ona said.
“[The] 17 percent [drop] is still not enough. Someone lost his arm, others were hit in their eyes, and we have a patient who is very critical because a bullet hit her in the head,” he added.
Still, the DOH chief said he was optimistic that the final tally would still show a significant drop in the number of injuries, pointing out that hospitals were “less crowded,” there was a “shorter duration of fireworks use across Metro Manila,” and different local governments and commercial centers held their own fireworks displays that were attended by thousands of people.
Assistant Secretary Enrique Tayag said the DOH did not include in its count the 4-year-old boy who died after he was shot in Mandaluyong because that was “crime-related.”
“About 50 percent of injuries were those among children below 10 years old. Half of these cases involving children involved active users [of firecrackers] while the others were just watching,” Ona said.
“There were also 51 patients who had eye injuries, which are dangerous while we had one case where his hand had to be cut off,” he added.
The Philippine National Police said that despite the cases of firecracker-related injuries and indiscriminate firing, the holiday festivities throughout the country had been “generally peaceful” since no major crime was reported during the period.
“[The PNP] made this assessment as it … noted fewer casualties and injuries in the revelries during the entire holiday [season],” Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr., PNP spokesperson, said in a statement.
He cited a report from the DOH that firecracker-related injuries decreased by 17 percent as compared to last year’s figure.
“The PNP attributed this generally peaceful situation to the intensified nationwide campaign against prohibited firecrackers and indiscriminate firing of guns that was implemented vigorously by police units on instructions of President Aquino,” Cerbo said.
Shootings, stabbings and stray bullet incidents punctuated New Year’s Eve celebrations in Caloocan and neighboring Malabon, the most serious being the case of the 7-year-old girl who is fighting for her life at the East Avenue Medical Center in Quezon City.
Records from the Caloocan Police Headquarters and the Northern Police District showed that most incidents happened in Bagong Silang and Dagat-Dagatan areas in Caloocan.
In Dagat-Dagatan, one man was seriously injured while another died in separate hacking and shooting incidents.
In Bagong Silang, two men were injured after being caught in between skirmishes between rival gangs.
Finally, a man sustained stab wounds after trying to stop another man from stabbing a drunken man in Potrero, Malabon.
Northern, central Luzon
Firecracker blast injuries in northern and central Luzon have dropped from 272 cases at the start of 2012 to 168 cases as of Jan. 1 this year, according to reports from the police and the DOH in Baguio City.
Reports also showed that only two victims of stray bullets, one each in the Cordillera and Nueva Ecija, were recorded this year.
The DOH in Central Luzon recorded at least 88 injuries due to firecracker use in the region’s seven provinces.
Leonita Gorgolan, DOH regional director, said at least 79 suffered from firecracker blast wounds and three from eye injuries.
At least 50 victims were aged 10 years old and below, she said.
Pampanga posted the biggest number of firecracker blast victims at 26. It was followed by Bulacan with 21, Tarlac with 18 and Nueva Ecija with 11. Bataan has seven victims while Zambales has four and Aurora, one.
In Nueva Ecija, a 6-year-old boy was hit on the right leg by a stray bullet and a 24-year-old man was wounded when his homemade shotgun misfired.
In Zambales, Dr. Raulin Dadural, provincial health officer, said the number of firecracker blast victims this year, at four, was the lowest recorded by his office.
In the Cordilleras, firecracker injuries dropped from 52 cases in 2011 to only 23 cases as of noon on Tuesday, police said.
In 2009, the region recorded 84 firecracker-related injuries, which climbed to 96 cases in 2010, but the trend shows a reversal and an indication that families have started to heed a government campaign against firecracker use during the holidays, said Chief Supt. Benjamin Magalong, Cordillera police director.
He said the police received a report of a stray bullet victim but he could not provide details on the incident. Last year, the region had two stray bullet victims.
Pangasinan, Isabela, Quezon
In Pangasinan, 40 people, most of them children, suffered blast injuries. The number was lower than last year’s 47 cases.
Police in Isabela recorded 17 firecracker blast injuries.
Quezon province reported only one firecracker-related injury.
Senior. Supt. Valeriano de Leon, Quezon police chief, attributed the almost zero casualty to their active campaign against illegal firecrackers.
In the Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) region, there was only one case of firecracker blast injury, a 10-year-old boy who was injured in his right eye.
Health authorities in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon), Mimaropa and Bicol reported “significantly lower” New Year’s Eve injuries this year.
In the Calabarzon, the number reached 86 as of noon yesterday, said Dr. Edgardo Gonzaga, Calabarzon-DoH regional director.
He said reports showed in Laguna there were 27 cases; Batangas, 9; Cavite, 49; and Quezon, 1.
Gonzaga said the number of firecracker injuries was down by 50 percent from the number of incidents recorded in the past three years.
“It’s just that victims still included children. Perhaps the parents overlooked their children while they were busy preparing food [for New Year’s Eve],” he said.
Bicol, Western Visayas
In Bicol, 10 persons were injured on New Year’s Day, seven of them children, health officials said.
Despite the massive information campaign against the use of pyrotechnics, 24 people were injured in firecracker blasts in the Western Visayas, 17 in Negros Occidental and seven in Capiz. One person was wounded after being hit by a stray bullet in Negros Occidental.
Three other persons were also wounded after a pillbox exploded past midnight in Bacolod City on Monday. But police said the incident was not related to the New Year celebrations as it may have been the result of a personal conflict.
Jeffrey Espiritu, the Capiz provincial health information officer, noted that there was a huge drop in firecracker-related incidents in the province this year. In 2011, Capiz registered 29 firecracker victims, against this year’s seven.
Leyte, Cebu, Bohol
In Tacloban City, Leyte, only one person, a 76-year-old man, sustained very slight injuries from firecracker use.
In Cebu and Bohol, the consolidated number of injured for both Christmas and New Year celebrations has reached 54 for firecracker-related injuries and two for victims of stray bullets. Of the 54 firecracker-blast victims, four came from Bohol.
Health officials said the number of victims this year was around 12-percent lower compared to last year. But the figure could still rise because the figures were only as of 11 a.m. on Tuesday, said regional epidemiologist Rennan Cimafranca.
In Lamitan, Basilan, two policemen and a civilian were injured when unidentified men lobbed a grenade at the detachment of the Special Action Force in the village of Maganda just before the year turned.
Senior Insp. Kenneth Balisang, chief of the Lamitan City Police Station, said two suspects on a motorcycle lobbed the grenade at around 11:50 p.m. on Monday.
In Zamboanga City, three persons were wounded by stray bullets during the New Year’s revelry.
Police recorded five cases of firecracker injuries in Zamboanga City. With reports from Marlon Ramos and Nathaniel R. Melican, in Manila; Germelina Lacorte, Ayan C. Mellejor, Dennis Jay Santos and Julie S. Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao; Gabriel Cardinoza, Villamor Visaya Jr. and Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon; Tonette Orejas, Cesar Villa and Armand Galang, Inquirer Central Luzon; Delfin T. Mallari Jr. and Maricar Cinco, Inquirer Southern Luzon; Carla Gomez, Felipe Celino, Joey Gabieta and Jhunnex Napallacan, Inquirer Visayas.