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FIRING LINE: Reckless revelry

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

On Dec. 31, 2022, only a few dared to break the silence of the residential areas with firecrackers. Fear and respect, perhaps, for the iron-fisted policy of the previous administration of Rody Duterte prevailed through that first holiday season of the Marcos Junior leadership. Also, the pandemic kept recklessness in check.

Fast forward to now, and the streets, especially in Tondo, Manila, and even in Quezon City, resemble a war zone with no regard for safety. The return of reckless merry-making is not just an annoyance but a blatant disregard for the progress made in curbing this dangerous practice during the past administration.

The recent surge in fireworks-related injuries is not just a New Year spectacle but a testament to the failure of law enforcement: 443 injured since Dec. 21, 2023, and still counting, perhaps.

The Philippine National Police, once effective under Duterte’s governance, now seems to have lost its grip on maintaining order. The 212 additional cases and the tragic fatality are not just numbers; they are consequences of a lax approach to enforcing firecracker bans.

While the past administration instilled fear and respect, the current situation reflects a lack of discipline and control. Seeing Metro Manila, especially Tondo, topping the charts for fireworks-related cases is disheartening. The streets are now plagued with injuries ranging from burns to amputations, all in the name of mindless celebration.

The excuse of a “revenge drive” to celebrate without restrictions is nothing but a pathetic attempt to justify the surge in injuries. It’s not revenge; it’s recklessness.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) had called on local government units (LGUs) to set designated firecracker zones, where lighting up on New Year’s Eve would be well guarded. The government has also sanctioned so-called legal fireworks, which are supposed to be safer.

But from 2022’s two main manufacturers and distributors in Bocaue — touted as the firecracker capital of the country in Bulacan — I heard there are already five primary sources of firecrackers, fireworks, and pyrotechnics. Is this an indication that the shift to a regulated industry still causes more harm than good?

The Department of Health (DOH) statistics paints a grim picture, with amputation cases, eye injuries, and even a stray bullet incident jumping out as scary stories of what ushering the New Year is like in the Philippines.

Authorities — this administration of President Junior — must wake up from their slumber and clamp down on this dangerous revelry. It’s not about dampening the spirit of celebration but safeguarding lives. I mean, what’s to celebrate in Baguio City when you have a Catholic priest struck by a stray bullet in the shoulder after saying Holy Mass?

Are we to wait for a parishioner receiving Holy Communion to be hit by a stray bullet in the head before commensurate action is taken by the police, by the local government, by our king in Malacanang?

Amid this chaos, the PNP’s silence is deafening. Where is the swift action that their commander-in-chief once touted? Anybody arresting the drunken masters cavorting with a lighted cigarette on one hand and a whistle bomb on the other in the middle of the street? Where are the poisonous Watusis seized from kids and households?

It’s time for a reality check – the streets are not a playground for dangerous antics. Arrests should be made, and the law should be enforced without compromise. It’s high time the reckless celebrators faced the consequences of their actions, and the PNP, the newly elected barangay officials, and the local governments must rise to the occasion before this unnecessary mayhem mars more lives.

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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email firingline@ymail.com or tweet @Side_View via X app (formerly Twitter). Read current and past issues of this column at http://www.thephilbiznews.com

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