NPA now weak, on the run – AFP

MANILA, Philippines — The Departm ent of Health (DOH) yesterday recorded the first death due to fireworks.

In its latest Fireworks-Related Injuries (FWRI) Report, the DOH said the fatality is a 38-year-old man from Ilocos region who lit a cigarette while drinking with companions near a storage room for firecrackers.

At the same time, the DOH also reported the first confirmed case of stray bullet injury (SBI) due to fireworks use – a 23-year-old male from Davao region who had a gunshot wound to his left upper back.

“Guns, liquor and fireworks should never mix. Let us work to avoid injuries and deaths from stray bullets and ‘accidents’ due to intoxication. Responsible gun owners know that bullets that go up will go down, and discharging firearms is not a way to celebrate,” the DOH warned.

“The death reported today was an incident waiting to happen because liquor impairs judgment. We can prevent these; we must work together across all sectors to do so,” it added.

The DOH noted that 212 new cases – including the one death and one SBI case – wer e recorded from 6 a.m. of Jan. 1 to 5:59 a.m. of Jan. 2.

The new cases range from one to 71 years old, with almost eight out of ten (166 or 79 percent) cases male. Ninety-seven percent (206) of these new cases occurred at home and in the streets.

Almost half (102 or 49 percent) were due to legal fireworks while less than half of the cases (94 or 45 percent) had active involvement.

There are six new amputation cases, bringing the total to 117 while there are 122 (122 or 28 percent) cases with eye injuries, leading to one confirmed blindness.

One more hearing loss case brought the total to two.

According to the DOH, there are now 443 injuries overall, with 441 due to fireworks, one due to watusi ingestion and one SBI.

There have been no additional reports of fireworks ingestion thus far.

Almost six out of every ten cases are from the National Capital Region (254 or 57 percent), followed by Ilocos (36 or 8 percent), Central Luzon (35 or 8 percent) and Calabarzon (29 or 7 percent).

Ninety seven percent happened at home and in the streets, mostly males with active involvement.

Fireworks that caused the most injuries – at least seven out of every ten (70 percent) FWRIs – in descending order, are kwitis, 5-star, boga, pla-pla, whistle bomb, fountain, luces, piccolo and triangle.

Illegal fireworks (5-star, boga, pla-pla, piccolo, triangle) are to blame for just four out of every 10 cases (173 or 39 percent), with legal fireworks causing more injuries.

The DOH has urged those who sustained injuries or burns following the New Year revelry to get anti-tetanus shots to prevent infection, adding that it will also be strictly monitoring tetanus cases from fireworks use.

“We are reminding those injured during the New Year’s Eve celebration, including those with minor burns or cuts, to go the hospital’s emergency department for treatment,” Health Secretary Ted Herbosa said, as he stressed the need to clean and treat the wounds or burns and for the injured person to be given a booster shot of tetanus vaccine.

According to the DOH, tetanus is a serious infection caused by Clostridium tetani, a bacterium that produces a toxin which affects the brain and nervous system, leading to stiffness in the muscles.

This usually happens when wounds or injuries come into contact with contaminated objects or when the objects themselves pierce the skin barrier. The primary characteristics of this disease are muscle spasms and lockjaw.

The online sale of firecrackers could have contributed to the increase in firecracker-related injuries during the celebration of the Yuletide season, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. said on Tuesday.

Citing their records, Acorda said that 935 people were injured due to firecrackers during the New Year celebrations, which is higher compared to 255 cases in the previous year.

“We need to review further why injuries increased, although one of the things we are looking at is the introduction of online selling,” Acorda said over Radyo Pilipinas.

The PNP’s chief publicist, Col. Jean Fajardo, explained that while they were strict with manufacturers, retailers and distributors of fireworks, people have found a way of selling banned firecrackers using online platforms.

“It’s really quite hard to monitor day in and day out those selling online,” she said at a news briefing.

There were 12 victims of stray bullets, including four in Metro Manila.

There were also 20 incidents of illegal discharge of firearms, with three involving police officers.

Meanwhile, the incident in Mariveles, Bataan that was initially reported as a stray bullet case turned out to be a shooting incident.

According to Fajardo, police investigators said the victim was shot by one of his four companions. The victim died in a hospital from a gunshot wound on the side of his body.

The victim’s three other companions are facing criminal complaints for trying to cover up the circumstances of his death.

Negros Occidental logged a total of 63 firecracker-related injuries as of Jan. 2, but did not record any incident of indiscriminate firing, according to local health and police authorities.

Of the victims, 58 are in 18 local government units of Negros Occidental while five are in Bacolod City. A majority of the victims were aged 11 to 20 years old.

The Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office has not recorded any incident of indiscriminate firing, while the Police Regional Office (PRO 6) said that it has recorded zero major crimes during the celebration.

However, the PRO 6 is investigating two stray bullet incidents and one incident of indiscriminate firing in the region, according to its spokesperson Maj. Mary Grace Socorro Borio.

In Pangasinan, at least 48 individuals, including minors, were injured by firecrackers during the New Year revelry, based on separate reports from the Police Regional Office 1.

In Bulacan, a total of 62 fireworks-related injuries were recorded from Dec. 21, 2023 to Jan. 1 this year.

Data released by Bulacan provincial Information officer Katrina Anne Bernardo-Balingit showed that 51 of the victims were males and 11 females aged from less than 10 years old to more than 60 years old, where 35 were injured actively, and 27 passively.

Fifty-six victims were treated in different government hospitals in the province and six in private hospitals.

A total of 55 victims suffered blast injuries that did not need amputations, six suffered eye injuries and one suffered multiple injuries (blast injuries that did not need amputation and eye injury).

In San Jose del Monte, also in Bulacan, an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) was injured by a stray bullet while a security guard was arrested for indiscriminately firing a gun during the New Year celebration.

Reports reaching Bulacan police director Col. Relly Arnedo identified the OFW as Jeffrey Ariaso who was standing in front of his house in Block 5, Lot 16, Greenleaf 1, Barangay Kaypian when he was hit by a stray bullet in left leg around 12:05 a.m.

The victim was rushed to Tala Hospital in Caloocan City for medical treatment while investigators recovered from the scene of the incident two slugs from an unknown caliber of firearm.

Meanwhile, local police apprehended the 60-year-old male security guard who fired a gun indiscriminately at the Marangal Elementary School during the New Year revelry.

Responding operatives confiscated from him a .38 caliber revolver without a trademark and serial number. He is now facing appropriate charges. — Gilbert Bayoran, Cesar Ramirez, Ramon Efren Lazaro, Emnmanuel Tupas

MANILA, Philippines — With its active guerrilla fronts dismantled, the New People’s Army (NPA) is “strategically defeated” and its remaining armed members across the country are now on the run, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“The underground movement is no longer capable of implementing programs that will enable it to recruit new members, generate resources and establish a united front to overthrow the government,” AFP spokesman Col. Medel Aguilar told The STAR yesterday.

The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), whose political arm is the National Democratic Front (NDF).

Aguilar said the development should convince remaining NPA guerrillas to lay down their arms and return to the fold of the law.

The AFP earlier announced the elimination of active NPA guerrilla fronts in the country as a result of the military’s “focused military operations.”

“As of December, there are no more active CTG guerrilla fronts. The continued focused military operations have resulted in the neutralization of 67 high-value individuals who belong to communist and local terrorist groups,” AFP public affairs office chief Col. Xerxes Trinidad said.

He said the military dismantled eight NPA guerrilla fronts last year and weakened 14 others.

Military operations, he added, led to the neutralization of 1,399 members of communist and local terrorist groups as well as to the seizure and recovery of 1,751 firearms.

“Yes, they are weak, scattered and on the run. Indeed, it’s time for the CPP-NPA-NDF to end armed struggle as expressed in the Joint Oslo Communiqué,” Aguilar maintained, referring to a joint statement signed in the Norwegian capital by the Philippine government and the NDF wherein the two parties agree on a “principled and peaceful resolution of the armed conflict” by addressing its roots.

“To save lives, especially the hungry and exhausted NPA members, it should have the moral courage to do it,” Aguilar added.

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