1 child dead from stray bullet; firecracker-related injuries down, say officials

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 01 2021 11:19 AM | Updated as of Jan 02 2021 03:08 AM

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MANILA — The Department of Health on Friday said the Philippines was able to drastically reduce the number of firework-related injuries during the holiday season but the Philippine National Police recorded one death due to a stray bullet.

“From Dec 21, 2020 to Jan 1, 2021, a total of 50 injuries were reported. Forty nine fireworks related injuries and 1 stray bullet injury,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said during a press conference at the East Avenue Medical Center.

During the briefing aired live on Teleradyo, Duque said it is 85% lower than the 340 cases reported for the same period in 2019. He said it is also 89% lower than the 5-year average for the same period from 2015 to 2019 although the numbers can change as more reports come in. 

STRAY BULLET CASUALTIES

However, Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana said 1 child died due to a stray bullet.

“There was one casualty. A 12-year-old girl died as a result of stray bullet,” Usana said during the same briefing. He said the initial report showed that the child was playing with her cousins when she suddenly fell unconscious. It was at the hospital that the family learned she sustained a gunshot wound to the head. The incident happened in Lanao del Norte.

He also mentioned two other stray bullet incidents that occurred after New Year’s Eve. This does not include the first stray bullet incident for the holidays recorded by the DOH in Masbate.

One of the two other stray bullet incidents involved a 6-year-old child from Negros Occidental who was shot in the abdomen and a man who injured his leg. Usana said the man was sleeping with his wife when the bullet pierced through their ceiling and hit his leg. The man is recuperating at home while the 6-year-old child is still in the hospital.

As for the person responsible for the death of the 12-year-old girl from Lanao del Norte, Usana said they will try to match the bullet to registered firearms so they can file a case. He said it would be difficult to find the culprit if the bullet came from an unregistered firearm.

Usana said there was also one case of indiscriminate firing involving a woman assigned to the Malabon city police station. 

“She actually was arrested immediately after a concerned citizen reported this incident. She readily turned over her firearm. Subsequently she is now being investigated. And definitely she is facing criminal and administrative sanctions,” he said.

NCR WITH MOST INJURIES

Duque said the National Capital Region still has the most number of injuries at 22. These are from Manila (12 cases), Caloocan (4), Pasig (2), QC (2), Malabon (1) and Marikina (1). He said it was an 88% decrease in cases for NCR compared to last year.

Following NCR are Calabarzon with 5 cases, Regions 1, 5, 6 with 4 cases each.

"The significant reduction in the total number of cases may be attributed to the far-reaching effects of COVID-19 pandemic affecting people’s willingness and ability to celebrate through the use of fireworks," Duque said.

He also lauded local government units and local chief executives who banned the use of fireworks.

"We also observed there was a change in behavior of Filipinos towards health. Due to the pandemic, Filipinos became more aware and involved in ensuring health and safety of their family and community," the health chief said.

PASSIVE INVOLVEMENT

While those injured were aged 4 to 53, most of those affected are between 10 to 14 years old.

“Majority of the injuries were males at 71% and mostly with passive involvement,” Duque said, which meant that those injured were not the ones who lit the fireworks.

He said majority or 67% suffered blast injuries on the hands, arms, head and neck. There were also 33% patients who had eye injuries and 2% who had amputations.

LEGAL FIREWORKS

“Let us be reminded that fireworks whether legal or illegal are really dangerous not only to our health but also to our environment,” Duque said.

Current data showed that 55% of the injuries were from legal fireworks.

Duque said while he favors an ultimate ban on all firecrackers, he understands that those working in the fireworks industry must first be given alternative livelihood.

He also said that even if there is an absolute ban, “the law is only as good as it is enforced.”

Duque said while the numbers looked good, they are still hoping for zero fireworks injuries in the coming years.

As for fires, the Bureau of Fire Protection said it has yet to record fires caused by firecrackers.

“However from December 31 yesterday up to this day 6 a.m. there have been 29 fire incidents, way lower than last year which was 144,” said BFP spokesperson Superintendent Annalee Carbajal-Atienza.

Carbajal-Atienza said the cause of the 29 fire incidents are still under investigation.

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