SOME 221 families were rendered homeless when a fire broke out about 2:15 p.m. last Monday in Sitio Aroma, Subangdaku, Mandaue City. Thank God no casualties were reported.

But a month before March, the designated Fire Prevention Month of the Bureau of Fire Prevention (BFP), several fires had hit Metro Cebu, damaging properties and, most of all, taking away precious lives.

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This is the irony of all ironies. Like in previous years, fires destroyed lives and properties despite the BFP’s fire prevention campaign during this month. Looks like this government unit’s fire prevention campaign has turned into a jinx.

We can deduce two things from the fires. One, that the BFP is not effective in its campaign on fire prevention; two, that people are not listening to or minding the safety tips issued by the BFP.

With the very hot summer days brought about by the El Niño phenomenon, a lighted cigarette or a lighted matchstick negligently thrown can put on fire houses made of light materials.

Lives were spared in the Sitio Aroma fire because it happened at daytime. Two fires that hit Cebu City recently took the lives of the occupants because these occurred late at night.

The houses in Sitio Aroma that were owned by informal settlers were mostly made of light materials so that these were easily razed to the ground.

On the other hand, most windows of affluent homes or apartments in the metropolis are fitted with iron grills to prevent the entry of thieves. Iron grills turn houses into virtual fire traps but the BFP has done nothing about it.

Offices and homes are required to have fire extinguishers. But with the skyrocketing prices of goods, I suppose that only few homes, apartments and offices have them.

The BFP’s fire prevention campaign should not be limited to press releases. Just like the police, the BFP should patrol the populated areas of Metro Cebu day and night.

With the fires that hit Metro Cebu and the province, I wonder if the BFP is regularly inspecting establishments and houses for compliance of its regulations and the requirements on fire prevention.

Fire is so destructive victims of conflagration are not only displaced but also get emotionally hurt. With the blazing sun this summer, let’s be circumspect in everything we do.

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A Cebu election officer was quick to remind Ricardo Cardinal Vidal (who earlier revealed that he received money from candidates for charity) that accepting donations during the election period is a crime.

I wonder if the election officer also did the same to the Cebu City mayor. He is running for Congress in the city’s south district and is distributing public funds to beneficiaries as if it were his personal money.

Allocating a huge election budget and distributing the money to the elderly, high school graduates and the disabled amounts to bribery.

If accepting donations from politicians during the election period is a crime under the Election Code, with more reason that giving money to voters, which is bribery in the penal code, should be considered an election offense.

I suspect that election officials here are afraid of the Cebu City mayor.

Most candidates have violated election laws, rules and regulations. With the automation of the May 10 polls, it is about time that Comelec restores sanity in the exercise of our freedom of suffrage.

(elespinoza53@yahoo.com)