Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III admitted Tuesday that some VIP directly requested to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) for COVID-19 testing.
“The request for testing that was happening, there were direct requests made to the RITM by the VIP,” Duque said in an interview on CNN, Philippines.
“So I have no details of each one of them that had requested for testing, suffice it to say that indeed some of them had really fit in the initial criteria for testing,” he added.
However, Duque explained that the VIPs met DOH’s prior guidelines on COVID-19 testing, which are: persons with exposure to coronavirus positive patients and those who had recent travel to countries with local transmission.
“For those VIPs, so to speak, who had requested that they be tested, they actually fit in the initial set of criteria that would allow them for testing,” Duque said.
Duque said the criteria for testing could change again with the arrival of more test kits.
“There will have to be a recalibration of those testing criteria because now we have more. We have 100,000 testing kits from China that have already been evaluated with the standards of RITM,” he said.
Duque admits VIP COVID-19 testing is true
RITM staffers revealed that at least 34 government officials and their family members demanded to get VIP testing for COVID-19. At the same time, symptomatic persons under investigation (PUIs) waited to be tested for the virus.
The staff said most of the public officials and their family members are asymptomatic or did not show symptoms of the deadly disease.
Two RITM staffers said the VIP testing is the reason why the results of now-deceased 34-year-old adult cardiology fellow Israel Bactol was delayed by four days.
They said the government officials “ordered” the results of their COVID-19 tests to be ready within 24 hours. The young doctor died on March 21.
A list sent to the Inquirer included the names of Sen. Richard Gordon and family, Supreme Court Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta and wife Fernanda, Philippine National Police chief Archie Gamboa and wife Rozanne, Sen. Grace Poe, Sen. Pia Cayetano, former first lady Imelda Marcos and Sen. Francis Tolentino.