Police have arrested 18 trigger-happy individuals for allegedly firing their guns during the New Year’s Eve revelry, as the number of injured from stray bullets climbed to 39, not including the two children who died of gunshot wounds.
Nicole Stephanie Ella, 7, who was hit in the head by a stray bullet, died in a Quezon City hospital Wednesday. Four-year-old Ranjilo Nemer died after being shot by a drunken man with a homemade shotgun during celebrations in Mandaluyong City.
The tragic deaths of two children blunted health authorities’ optimistic reports of a lowering trend in injuries from violent New Year’s Eve celebrations this year.
The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday said the number of Filipinos injured during the Christmas and New Year holidays has reached nearly 700, but this is almost 30 percent lower than the figure last year.
The DOH’s report of stray bullet victims was only half of the Philippine National Police’s 41.
A total of 697 injuries from firecrackers and gunfire was reported as of 6 p.m. Wednesday since the DOH began its count on Dec. 21.
“This is 89 cases (11 percent) lower than the previous five-year average (2007 to 2011) and 287 cases (29 percent) lower than the same period last year,” the DOH said in a report.
Of the 697 reported injuries, 675 were from firecrackers, 20 from stray bullets and 2 from firecracker ingestion.
Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr. said the PNP still has to validate its figure with the DOH, as it was possible that some of the incidents were reported twice to the police.
Injuries by region
The DOH said most of the firecracker injury cases were from the National Capital Region (398 cases, or 57 percent), the Ilocos Region (59 cases, or 9 percent), and Western Visayas (51, or 7 percent).
Almost half of the victims (340 cases) were injured by illegal firecrackers, with 190 from the “piccolo” type of firecracker.
A majority of the cases were men (530 or 79 percent) while 183 (27 percent) involved children less than 10 years old.
“(The) most affected age group was the 6 to 10 years (182 cases or 27 percent),” the DOH said.
A majority of the injured (561 cases or 83 percent) did not require amputation, 101 cases (15 percent) had eye injuries, while 27 cases (four percent) required amputation.
Cerbo, the PNP spokesperson, said the police recorded 19 incidents of indiscriminate firing of guns during the traditional rowdy merrymaking to welcome the new year.
Twelve of the cases occurred in Metro Manila, where 10 people have been arrested for indiscriminate firing. The police have already filed charges against them, Cerbo said.
He said bullet slugs and other evidence gathered by the police will be subjected to a ballistic examination to determine the source of the bullets and, possibly identify the registered owner of the firearms used.
“That’s why we appeal to the public to help the police in gathering information about their neighbors who fired their guns during the New Year’s eve celebration. This would also help us resolve cases of indiscriminate firing,” he said.
He said the PNP did not receive any report or complaints against policemen suspected of firing their guns unnecessarily during the holiday season.
According to Cerbo, about 400 people were arrested during the PNP’s operations against the manufacturers, retailers and users of powerful and illegal firecrackers.
Charges for the violation of Republic Act No. 7183, the law regulating the manufacture, distribution, sale and use of firecrackers, have been filed, he said.
“I think the PNP’s successful operations against illegal firecrackers contributed to the significant decrease in firecracker-related injuries,” Cerbo said.
Cordillera and Central Luzon
In the Cordillera, 37 people were injured from mishandling firecrackers and two in Kalinga and Abra were wounded by stray bullets during the New Year’s eve celebrations, police said.
A report from the Cordillera police showed that Abra had the most number of people injured from firecrackers, with 14 cases recorded there from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1.
Baguio City recorded seven firecracker injuries, while Benguet had six. Most of the cases involved blast injuries and burns on fingers.
In Bulacan, four people lost parts of their fingers from firecracker blasts and whistle bombs. The provincial disaster risk reduction and management council (PDRRMC) also recorded one person wounded by a stray bullet on Tuesday.
The DOH in Central Luzon recorded 98 victims of firecracker use as of Tuesday. At least 26 of these were from Pampanga, 25 from Bulacan and 20 from Nueva Ecija.
Most of the injuries were caused by the “piccolo,” a firecracker popular with children.
The number of firecracker-related injuries continued to rise in Calabarzon and Mimaropa as reports from various hospitals in Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon (Calabarzon) and in Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan (Mimaropa) poured in after New Year’s Day.
Dr. Edgardo Gonzaga, DOH Calabarzon regional director, explained that this could be because some of the cases were not immediately reported to hospitals or the victims probably did not seek immediate treatment for their injuries.
Based on the latest count of the DOH, the two regions had 153 injuries reported. Cavite, with 49 cases, registered the most number of firecracker-related incidents, followed by Quezon with 29, and Rizal with 28.
In Laguna, the DOH recorded 27 cases although the provincial police office placed the number at 51 based on their own monitoring of hospitals. Batangas reported 20 cases.
Mimaropa DOH official Dr. Carol Macabeo said there were 13 cases recorded in the provinces of Palawan, Marinduque, and Occidental Mindoro, including 10-year-old Joseph Icoy of Cuyo, Palawan, who was injured in the right eye. With reports from Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon; Carmela Reyes-Estrope and Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon; and Maricar Cinco, Inquirer Southern Luzon