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Philippine Politicians Are Allegedly Abusing Their Power To Get VIP Treatment on COVID-19 Tests

According to reports, “VIP” politicians are being tested ahead of frontliners and patients with COVID-19 symptoms.

  • A series of screenshot conversations have surfaced online, showing how several politicians in the Philippines allegedly demanded to have their swab samples be tested first, before patients who are really sick.
  • There are reports where some patients suspected of contracting the virus died without being tested, due to the test kit shortage
  • Some politicians even bragged about being tested negative and also mentioned that they were tested right at the comfort of their homes or offices.

In a Facebook post, netizen Crystal Joy Malizon shared an alleged conversation showing a staff of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in the Philippines, complaining to a friend about how some politicians in the country are demanding the RITM to test their swabs first before other patients who are already under investigation over the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19). This is despite the fact that most of the politicians are asymptomatic.

According to the medical staff, they had to suspend testing the swabs of a person under investigation (PUI) who showed signs and symptoms of the coronavirus to make way for the testing of what they call “the VIPs.”

These “VIPs,” the staff said, are politicians and celebrities who do not have the symptoms of the dreaded disease but still wanted to be tested for fear of being exposed to a person who attended a senate hearing and eventually tested positive of the virus.

“They are all [shameless and insensitive]. There is one Senator who even demanded for a ‘repeat test’ to make sure that his result is really negative,” the RITM staff revealed, as translated from the Filipino language.

The staff also added that some of these elected politicians threatened them with suspension if they failed to release the result within 24 hours. Out of fear for their jobs, the people in the RITM had to set aside testing sick patients awaiting for result.

The staff also said that Philippine Health Department Secretary Francisco Duque III also gave a signed memo, firing RITM director Dr. Celia Carlos. However, he denied it, explaining that there had been an “error” in the Department of Health (DOH)-issued personnel order, which has since circulated around social media.

“The circulating issuance stating that Dr. Carlos has been replaced by Asec. Santiago is an erroneous draft of the document which was inadvertently posted but immediately taken down,” Duque said in a statement.

In the leaked memo, Duque is assigning Health Assistant Secretary Dr. Nestor Santiago as the Officer-in-Charge director of RITM, replacing Carlos. Duque however clarified that Santiago is only tasked to only “help out” in the testing process in the RITM.

The RITM in the Philippines is responsible in testing all coronavirus samples.

Filipino Netizens have criticized the health department’s alleged memo replacing Carlos, with some speculating that they intended to fire her for refusing to expedite the testing process of the “VIPs.”

Eventually, some netizens even created a list of these politicians who had the privileged to be tested even without any symptoms of the virus, which included:

President Rodrigo Duterte, his partner, and his children.

Reports stated that the Philippine President tested negative, while his common law partner, Honeylet Avanceña, his daughter Veronica “Kitty” Duterte, and his other sons, Paolo and Sebastian Duterte have also undergone testing, despite a report saying Duterte and the first family were tested “even if they have yet to report symptoms of the disease… just to be sure”.

“Duque explained that there will be almost 80,000 test kits coming anyway. But for us, we are wasting the opportunity in testing the PUIs. We will understand if we are only testing one or few VIPs, but we are testing the whole family. How about those who are really in need and waiting for their result?,” the staff lamented.

Former Senator Jinggoy Estrada and family

The RITM staff claims that they released the COVID-19 results of former Senator Jinggoy Estrada and his whole clan.

“They (DOH) are sending samples here in RITM, and they have instructions to prioritize the VIPs over the samples of those who have critical symptoms,” the RITM staff allegedly said.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III

Duque tested negative. He took the test after a director in his department tested positive of the virus. He is asthmatic and hypertensive.

Public Works Secretary Mark Villar

A report said he is still waiting for his result. Villar is the son of former senator and business tycoon Manuel Villar and Senator Cynthia Villar.

Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla

Despite having no coronavirus symptoms, he admitted bypassing the DOH’s protocol and triage testing algorithm and be tested of the virus. Remulla recently apologized to the public.

Senator Miguel Zubiri

He was reported to be the first senator to have the coronavirus in the Philippines. Zubiri tested positive even when he does not experience any of the common symptoms. Duque, however, urged him to be test for the second time, despite test kit shortage, suspecting that his result might be a “false positive”. Zubiri’s wife tested negative.

Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III

The actor-turned-senator was tested twice and is still awaiting for the result. Sotto said he took the first test using a kit not accredited by the health department. He then decided to take another test through the DOH’s testing kit. He claimed that he had dry cough and sore throat.

Senator Francis Tolentino

Tolentino posted a photo of him being tested by a health staff, announcing that he is negative of contracting the fatal virus. The said post has since been taken down. Like Remulla, Tolentino also apologized and claimed that he had “cough and sore throat”.

Other Filipino politicians who were tested ahead of other patients suffering from COVID-19 symptoms were Senators Nancy Binay, Pia Cayetano, Franklin Drilon, Bong Go, Sherwin Gatchalian, Dick Gordon, Panfilo Lacson, Imee Marcos, Grace Poe, and Bong Revilla.

Also included in the list were officials such as Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez.

In the local government, some officials also took COVID-19 test kits including Mayors Leopoldo Bataoil of Lingayen, Pangasinan; Philip Crispino of Caba, La Union; Ferdie Estrella of Baliuag, Bulacan; and Isko Moreno of Manila.

The son of President Duterte, Baste Duterte was the only Vice Mayor in the VIP priority list.

The DOH recently admitted that the Philippines does not have a sufficient supply of testing kits to determine who among those suspected of coronavirus have actually caught the disease.

The department also created a “triage system” as a guide for medical practitioners to determine which people can have the testing kit, to stretch its resources. The system considers a person “under investigation” if he carries the symptoms of COVID-19. Additionally, those who have traveled to other countries with confirmed incidents or have been in “close contact” with infected patients are also being considered for a test.

A Filipino Twitter user named Judy then criticized the government pointing out that if they can test these politicians, then they can also provide test kits for patients exhibiting critical symptoms:

Mara Cepeda, also a Twitter user, wrote that Filipinos are “dying” because of test kit shortage:

There were countless of angry comments, accusing the politicians of selfishness.

Someone even questioned why these politicians got tested first ahead of the frontliners.

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