COVID-19 Op-ed

From ‘very important politicians’ to ‘very insinuating patients’

Written by admin

Gianna Francesca M.

Gianna completed her Master’s degree in Human
Rights and Democratization at Mahidol University and is the incumbent
treasurer of the Asia-Pacific Master’s Program Alumni Association. She
currently works for Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through
Alternative Legal Services (IDEALS Inc.), a Manila-based

Over the past few days, there are bulldozing reports of
several politicians flexing their ‘VIP’ status to access COVID-19 testing in
the Philippines, which was not made available to the public. There was
mounting denunciation, online and off-line, over the Duterte regime’s
preferential treatment towards high-ranking public servants vis-à-vis at a
time when there was only a staggering 2,000 COVID-19 testing kits (Yee, 2020.)
When criticism simmered to unprecedented levels, the country’s Department of
Health, helmed by Sec. Francisco Duque, already confirmed that at least 34
politicians and their spouses, majority of them asymptomatic, hastily
acquired testing for the coronavirus. While three senators and one House
representative tested positive for COVID-19, some of their brood hopped into
the ‘trend’ and got tested, too (Domingo, 2020.) One senator, who later
tested negative, even smiled for the snaps and posted his private COVID-19
test online, much to the ire of Filipinos. Another senator —the Senate
President himself — candidly told the press he availed of the test twice,
then admitting that he first used an ‘unaccredited’ test kit administered by
his friend (Tan, 2020). And oh, President Rodrigo Duterte’s partner and his
four children, although not manifesting symptoms, were tested anyway (Merez,
2020).To make matters more putrid, some of these VIPs directly connived with
the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), the country’s lone
testing center for COVID-19, and even demanded the already-understaffed and
financially-challenged institute to swab them and release their results in a
snap (Cigaral, 2020.) Plagued by the government’s preferential testing
conspiracy, health workers, front liners, those in close contact with
confirmed COVID-19 cases, and underprivileged Filipinos displaying symptoms
of the virus, have to wait for a week before they get their test results.
Take the example of cardiologist Israel Bactol, whose COVID-19 results were
delayed by four days because some government officials demanded RITM to
disclose their respective COVID-19 results in less than 24 hours. Bactol
passed away on March 21 without learning his official results (Concepcion,
2020.)There are reported incidents of patients who died in despair, yet their
results came too late. Amid the outpouring of testing kits donated by
Singapore, South Korea, and Chinese business magnate Jack Ma, the DOH is
tight-lipped when queried about mass testing and availability of testing kits
to the public.Let me tell you a mic – dropping story of one of the senators
who tested positive for the virus. A week before his result came out, one
senator shrugged off his symptoms and attended two parties, one meeting, and
was sighted shopping at an exclusive shopping center in an affluent
neighborhood. On top of that, he ushered his pregnant wife to the hospital,
which led to the self-quarantine of 22 hospital staff and ruptured of their
COVID-19 operations (ABS-CBN, 2020.) Instead of observing a 14-day quarantine
as per DOH guidelines, he jeopardized the public’s health with his VIP
‘virus’.Beyond this reeling narrative, thousands of poverty-stricken people
who may have contracted the virus via local transmission, are denied access
to COVID-19 testing kits and are reportedly ‘kicked out’ of hospitals due to
shortage of wards and health workers. Not to mention that physicians and
nurses who once tended the medical needs of COVID-19 patients perished
because of the same virus. As of this writing, more than nine doctors
sacrificed their lives to the pandemic in the country (Magsino, 2020) and
millions of Filipinos were deprived of their right to health and access to
COVID-19 testing.These public servants who reminded us to “stay at home” and
“wash our hands for 20 seconds” had metamorphosed into self-serving VIPs who
evade precautionary measures, disobey rules, and easily avail of COVID-19
test kits as if they’re freebies from a birthday party.References:22 Makati
Med nurses under home quarantine: director. (2020 March 26). ABS-CBN News.
Retrieved March 27, 2020, from:,
J. (2020, March 19). Duque explains ‘preferential tests’ for Duterte kin,
others. Inquirer.,
K. (2020, March 23). Senators clarify, apologize for taking COVID-19 tests.
ABS-CBN News.,
P. (2020, March 23). Gov’t officials crowd out patients for COVID-19 testing.
I. (2020, March 24). Duque: ‘VIPs’ directly requested to get tested for
COVID-19. Philippine Star.,
D. (2020, March 26). Dr. Sally Gatchalian, 9th doc to pass away in
Philippines after battling with COVID-19. GMA News.
Tan, L. (2020, March 23). Health Dept. gives COVID-19 testing
‘courtesy’ to officials involved in nat’l security, public health. CNN
A (2020, March 17). Duterte family tested for COVID-19. ABS-CBN News.

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