#MassTestingNowPH and #NoToVIPTesting became top trending topics on Twitter following a day-long exposé of politicians having been tested despite ‘violation’s of Department of Health (DOH) protocols’ (as they were asymptomatic, not PUMs or PUIs). This is also despite that only 1,399 tests have been conducted since the first positive case in the last week of January (or around eight weeks) since and the insufficient number of testing kits.

The public also condemned how the politicians got VIP treatment – their tests being done ahead of PUMs or PUIs and despite the lack of testing kits, and served up at their own homes or wherever they are self-quarantining, also including getting tests for spouses or family or clan members – while there were reports that those with severe symptoms were not tested due to lack of tests. Many PUMs and PUIs, as well as frontliners, were also not tested.

The government had so far refused calls from the public to make mass testing a major component of its strategy in the fight against COVID-19 spread, with the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) sticking to the lockdown as solution and the DOH saying mass testing is not needed now, but also because they lack the laboratories, equipment, personnel and testing kits.

More than 40,000 tweeted on #NoToVIPTesting while #MassTestingNowPH got almost 45,000 tweets in two and a half hours or by 10:30pm.

 

The Department of Health responded to “the increasing demand for COVID-19 laboratory testing” by posting this tweet while the two hashtags are still trending:

 

The government agency said, “Those experiencing severe symptoms or mild symptoms or are 65 years above can be tested.”

 

VIP testing?
Various messages circulating online have prompted calls for mass testing.

A message from a doctor was shared on March 21 by ABS-CBN Correspondent Chiara Zambrano revealing “politician and their staff are now asking to be serviced in their homes by DOH surveillance teams.”

 

Various celebrities retweeted this and expressed their dismay.

Netizens protested for days the testing of public officials that does not qualify with the DOH protocol. DOH has a triage system used to determine which people can avail a scarce resource, in this case a testing kit. In this triage system, only PUMs with mild symptoms who are elderly or have other conditions or those with severe symptoms will be tested.

DOH triage system for COVID-19

 

Screenshots of a supposed conversation including a “lab personnel” or “researcher” at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, circulated online. The screenshots included a checklist of politicians tested “who have their own VIP ‘codes'” and their “own queue.” The test results were also supposedly sped up to come out after 24 hours – when the usual is two days or longer.

From a trusted source sa RITM. Biruin mo, titigil ang usual testing for PUIs to give way sa mga pulitiko at staff nila….

Geplaatst door Dom Balms op Zondag 22 maart 2020

 

The screenshots also said the RITM director was relieved as a ‘scapegoat’ to the VIP testing scandal.

DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III has designated DOH Asst. Secretary Nestor Santiago to as OIC-Director IV of the RITM on March 21.

Politicians confirmed to have gotten tested included President Rodrigo Duterte and the first family. Senators who got tested included Senators Bong Go, Sherwin Gatchalian, Nancy Binay, Grace Poe, Imee Marcos, Bong Revilla, Pia Cayetano, Francis Tolentino, Richard Gordon, Panfilo Lacson and Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III.

Netizens zeroed in on San. Francis Tolentino who tweeted his gratitude for testing negative, looking like he got serviced at home, but the senator soon deleted the tweet.

 

Executive department officials who got tested included Duque, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, Public Works Secretary Mark Villar and  Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.

An online petition calling for mass testing has now reached 114,500 signatures.

 

Duterte requests emergency powers

In the afternoon of March 22, Duterte’s letter and an unnumbered bill requesting for emergency powers to face COVID-19 circulated online.

 

PRRD is requesting emergency powers from Congress to address the #COVID19 pandemic. SP Sotto confirmed Malacañang’s…

Geplaatst door Don Emmanuel Nolasco op Zondag 22 maart 2020

 

Sotto confirmed this day that he has received a draft bill from Malacañang asking for the declaration and special powers for Duterte.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo denied that Duterte is asking for emergency powers.

“The letter to Congress signed by the Executive Secretary says powers necessary to carry out urgent measures to implement the national emergency, not emergency powers,” Panelo said in a text message to reporters.

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