DOH didn’t conduct Lacson’s COVID-19 test, but…

March 24, 2020 - 7:18 PM
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Ping Lacson
Sen. Ping Lacson in Lingayen, Pangasinan on this photo uploaded to his official Facebook page on Jan. 11, 2020. (Photo from Ping Lacson via Facebook)

Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson denied reports of being tested by the health department for COVID-19 infection after online users included his name in the list of public officials who availed of the testing kits for the virus.

However, his diagnostics will still be conducted by a state-run laboratory.

On Monday, the legislator replied to a now-deleted tweet that enumerated the names of the officials who underwent COVID-19 detection, including some of their staff and own family members.

“This is unfair, even accusatory. It implies that I denied others more deserving of the (COVID-19) test since my name is on the list. Let me say it again: I did not request for testing nor did I undergo testing by DOH or any government facility. Anyone can check with DOH,” Lacson responded to the online user.

He also defended himself last Sunday when another Filipino shared a detailed list of names of officials and some of their family members and staff who were tested for COVID-19.

“I did not request for testing nor did I undergo testing by DOH. You can check with DOH,” Lacson replied to the Twitter user who shared the list.

In a radio interview of Lacson last Saturday, he admitted that he underwent a test for COVID-19 but said that it was not facilitated by the Department of Health.

“Ako, wala akong symptoms at hindi ako sa DOH nagpa-test kasi may kaibigan ako na meron silang dinonate na mga test kits. For my peace of mind, nakiusap ako sa kaibigan kong doktor, na mag-administer ng test sa akin, at negative naman,” Lacson said over dzBB.

“So hindi ako kasama dun sa, ‘yung officially eh, nagpa-test dun sa DOH kasi wala naman akong symptoms, pero nagpa-test rin ako,” he added.

Lacson’s name was also mentioned in news reports on senators who underwent the COVID-19 detection mid-March.

ABS-CBN News reported that Lacson “reportedly took the test in a separate venue” with Sen. Richard Gordon.

Manila Bulletin also reported that Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto said Lacson was among those who were tested for COVID-19 infection.

Last week, reports surfaced that majority of the senators were tested for COVID-19 after one of the resource persons in a Senate panel hearing last March 5 had tested positive for the virus.

Sens. Nancy Binay and Sherwin Gatchalian were among the first ones who underwent COVID-19 detection.

Sotto eventually urged the legislators of the upper chamber to get tested, although Sens. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros declined as they cited the policy of the health department on COVID-19 testing.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that these public officials were tested before the department has supposedly revised its decision tool on who gets to be tested.

However, a look at a previous version of the advisory states asymptomatic people or those without COVID-19 symptoms cannot be tested and should self-quarantine at home instead.

How COVID-19 tests are conducted

The DOH has been criticized for allegedly prioritizing public officials on COVID-19 detection despite reported limited supplies of testing kits.

The agency on Monday issued a statement assuring the public “that there is no policy for VIP treatment and that all specimens are being processed on a first-in, first-out basis.”

“Criteria for testing all patients follows published screening protocols,” it said.

“With courtesy accorded to officials holding positions of national security and public health,” the health agency also said.

However, on Tuesday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that some politicians directly asked the country’s lone diagnostic lab for the new coronavirus, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), to run tests to determine if they contracted the dreaded disease.

“There were direct request made to the RITM by the ‘VIP’. I have no details of each one of them that had requested for testing,” Duque said in an interview with CNN Philippines. 

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles earlier quoted the DOH as saying that “COVID-19 test kits need laboratories and machines to yield accurate results, these detection kits and are not like pregnancy test kits that could be taken anywhere.”

According to a report from CNN Philippines, specimen taken from individuals who underwent swab tests for COVID-19 detection are placed in a tube which are then sealed and taken to the RITM or its accredited subnational laboratories “for diagnostic purposes.”
The report added that as of Friday, the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City, Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center in Benguet, and San Lazaro Hospital in Manila were among the accredited testing facilities.