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Victims 2016

THE tally of victims from stray bullets is an annual nightmare the country wakes up to as the year turns.  Almost a rite of passage with tradition superceding safety, and revelry preponderant over the caveat of collective statistics – the injured and buried of the many new years celebrated. All social classes are targets. To this day, I recall a hotel owner with family and close friends in his dining room toasting another 365 days ahead, while his infant, supposedly tucked safe in a crib on a 2nd floor room, turned cold.  A bullet had pierced their roof and hit the baby in the head.

As of this writing, 41 were recorded injured in 51 stray bullet incidents. The authorities are at it again – investigating the matter. Meaning, examining the bore markings on the lead or metal jacket and cross checking with their files. They talk to eye-witnesses or wait for tips from the public. In the end, how many of incidents are gathering dust as more unsolved cases are hidden in old files. Out of sight, out of mind? The 2016 figures are expected to rise in the days into early January, with pictures and videos of illegal discharge of firearms brazenly uploaded into social media. Good luck to the police if they succeed in identifying and hauling those miscreants to court.

What the final count will be when the provincial reports are collated, that is the question. The Palace, as a yearly mantra, never fails to banner such incidents as several percentage points lower than the previous year. A victory statement from the left side of the field. The fallacy of stoic figures, but devoid of humanity. Announce those marginal successes to the families with kin in surgery!

The peril on unlicensed firearms persists to this day.   The unavoidable question is how to plug what are already identified sources, entry points, and trade of illegal firearms. And what to do qualitatively to diminish the hundreds of thousands currently in the hands of criminals. I will not venture into liberation fronts tolerated by government to carry top guns, joining in the new year revelry.

On firecrackers, 760 Filipinos are starting 2016 with fewer digits and less dermis. One drunken reveler even embraced the prohibited “Goodbye Philippines,” assuring his final “adios.” How do mini-dynamites find their  way into civilian hands? Why they are available in the market escapes the sobriety of a civilized society.

There must be clear regulations limiting firecracker sales to government, LGUs, or pyrotechnic experts, and confined to fireworks display or competition, in designated safe areas and particular days, e.g., foundation days, Christmas, Chinese New year, etc. Local pyrotechnic manufacturers may be supported and encouraged to be competitive and go international.

Or training may be given to workers for alternative livelihood in other crafts or trade. One lost life or limb is one too many.

Happy New year!