MANILA: Authorities have started the annual ritual of taping the gun muzzles of the 148,000 members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to prevent their indiscriminate firing particularly during the revelry to welcome the New Year.
Director Leonardo Espina, the head of the Metro Manila regional police command, led the “sealing” of the weapons of the 12,000 officers and men by placing his signature of each of the tapes.
This is to ensure, Espina said, these would not be removed or tampered with during the celebration where many of those killed or wounded were caused by firecrackers and stray bullets.
He added these guns could still be fired but only in line with official police duties like armed clashes with suspected criminals like kidnappers.
Espina warned, however, that policemen found to have fired their guns indiscriminately during the New Year’s Eve revelry face the heavy penalty of dismissal from the service as well as criminal charges.
The same warning was aired by PNP officers as the ritual was repeated elsewhere in the country’s regional, provincial and local commands.
Health officials, assisted by the police, also heightened their alert against an increase in the number of casualties arising from the use of firecrackers to welcome the New Year.
As of Sunday, officials said a total of 173 cases, mostly injuries, were reported since they launched the campaign called “Iwas Paputok” (Stop Firecrackers) on Dec.21.
The number was 32 cases lower that those reported for the same period in 2011, according to Health Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag.
But Tayag pointed out this should not lead authorities and the public into complacency, warning that most of the injury cases would occur on New Year’s Eve and Jan.1.
Despite the campaign, however, dealers reported the brisk sale of firecrackers in the town of Bocaue, Bulacan province north of Metro Manila and described as the country’s “firecracker capital.”
Vimmie Erese, the president of the Philippine Pyrotechnics Manufacturers and Dealers Association, said the sale of their products started to pick up after Christmas.