According to some information circulating in the social media right now, some politicians are being given VIP treatment for the COVID-19 diagnostic test at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) of the Department of Health (DOH). This is also reported in some media news articles, suggesting that at the expense of those who fall to the PUI (persons under investigation) and to the PUM (persons under monitoring) category, these politicians are demanding to be prioritized even though they display no symptoms of the disease at all.
A post is also circulating now in Facebook describing how staffs from RITM are being forced to do unnecessary testing amidst the problem of limited available testing kits in the country through this unscrupulous process being allowed by the DOH in favor of those politicians, including their family members. In the Inquirer report, there were at least 34 government officials being said to be involved in this scam.
According to one of the staffs in a supposedly conversation describing this controversial incident: “We cannot complain because we don’t want to disrupt the whole process of testing and to mess up the system. They just send their samples here (RITM), with instructions to prioritize them while also threatening our staff for suspension if they (the staff) won’t release the result within 24 hours”. The staff in the “conversation” also said that some senators are demanding “repeat test” to sure that they are negative even though some people are desperately in need of test results to be sure about their “worrisome” condition.
In the Inquirer report, the list includes Sen. Pia Cayetano, former first lady Imelda Marcos, Sen. Grace Poe, Sen. Francis Tolentino, Sen. Richard Gordon and his family, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Archie Gamboa and his wife Rozanne, Supreme Court Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta and his wife Fernanda. Inquirer also stated: “Two RITM staffers said that was what happened to the 34-year-old adult cardiology fellow Israel Bactol, whose COVID-19 test results were delayed by four days because government officials “ordered” the results of their respective tests to be ready within 24 hours. Bactol died on March 21”.
Meanwhile, Senator Tolentino took down his post in Facebook after being heavily criticized by “netizens” for a related issue. Tolentino was posting photo of himself on March 17 together with a medical worker with caption telling that he tested negative from COVID-19. Netizens complain that he and others, as a politician, are being given VIP treatment for the test instead of those people who really need them.