Moved by reports that children were the main victims, Sen. Gregorio Honasan has called a hearing to review proposed Senate bills as well as existing local ordinances on the use and regulation of firecrackers.
The chairman of the Senate public order and dangerous drugs committee, Honasan, said there are at least two bills, one filed by Sen. Manuel Villar and another by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, on the use of firecrackers and fireworks.
Honasan said he wants to examine the ordinances of Davao City and Ormoc City banning firecrackers. Davao City reported a zero injury rate from firecrackers.
“One calls for a total ban while the other designates the use of firecrackers only in designated public areas like what is being done in developed countries,” said the senator who could not recall who filed which bill.
Davao City model
A check with the Senate website showed that Villar filed a resolution in 2011 calling on the trade and commerce committee to “conduct an assessment” of the pyrotechnics industry and whether RA 7183, or the law regulating the sale, manufacture, distribution and use of firecrackers and other devices, protects consumers from unsafe and substandard products.
Honasan said the bills were sidelined because senators became busy with more urgent concerns, including the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Honasan said the findings of his committee would be consolidated with the Villar and Santiago bills. He said he might also file a report proposing to overhaul the law on pyrotechnics in response to the latest observations on firecracker use.
A matter of enforcement
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Panfilo Lacson observed the laws may be in place but implementation by law enforcement agencies was another matter.
“We already have the laws in place but the injuries that result from use cannot be remedied by these laws … It’s a question of law enforcement,” Enrile lamented.
“Threats and warnings are taken for granted because enforcement as a follow-through is lacking, if not absent,” Lacson in a text message.
According to the two senators, legislation could help improve the government’s response to the yearly problem of firecracker injuries.
Enrile said the DOH should be more proactive and directly assist Congress by submitting specific proposals on how to bring down the number of injuries.
“If (DOH officials) are wise, submit to us their proposal instead of talking. Better do it immediately. File with the proper committee their proposed legislation instead of talking about it,” Enrile suggested.
Otherwise, Enrile would prefer a total ban so there would be no more injuries and violators could be easily identified and prosecuted.
“If so many are getting injured, then shut down the store. Ban it. That’s the essence of government,” he said.