Press Release
March 26, 2020

Sen. Leila M. de Lima's Supplemental Dispatch from Crame No. 751 on Mass Testing


Ilan pa ba sa ating mga kababayan - mga health workers, frontliners, PUIs, PUMs, at mamamayang bulnerable, gaya ng mga matatanda at may malulubhang karamdaman - ang mamamatay na lamang bago pa matiyak na may COVID-19 sila at mabigyan ng karampatang gamutan? Kailan pa natin masisiguro ang kaligtasan ng lahat mula sa posibleng pagkakahawa sa mga hindi nagpapakita ng sintomas, ngunit nagdadala ng virus? Kailan pa ba natin balak kumilos, kapag madami na ang namatay?

Day by day, we learn that the total no. of confirmed cases reportedly increase, yet we cannot be certain of the accuracy of these figures. Even DOH Secretary Duque admitted that they could be missing half of the actual totality of COVID-19 cases in the country. We know what we're fighting against but the enemy remains unseen. Don't hasten the Filipinos' deaths by refusing to test as many as you can as quickly as you can - just to downplay the situation.

It's as if you are trying to conceal the real numbers - the question is why? To lessen the panic, or to feed your bruised ego? The administration already once downplayed the real situation when you refused to recommend the closing of our borders as a courtesy to China - and now they seem to be keeping the numbers at bay.

We've already received donations of hundreds of thousands of testing kits from our neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region. What is taking us so long? Figuring out how to conduct mass testing for its citizens should be high on the government's priority list if we are to make it through this pandemic.

If we know who are infected, who are not, and where they are, we can come up with more concrete plans instead of blanket measures such as instituting a nationwide lockdown and essentially granting an unwell and unstable chief executive special emergency powers he never needed in the first place. When we identify what we are dealing with, we can more adequately reallocate our already dwindling resources to where they are needed the most.

The sooner we identify who are afflicted with this virus, the sooner we can isolate them and get them treated. Conversely, the more we wait the more resources we waste. The more resources we waste, the more people will be infected and inevitably die from this pandemic. Knowing the enemy is half the battle.

Mass testing is our only hope to get the lay of the land, and get ahead of the spread of infection.

I am urging the national government to encourage the local autonomy, resourcefulness and innovative strategies of the LGUs in combatting this virus. For instance, despite Marikina's molecular laboratory's readiness to operate and with locally-developed testing kits for coronavirus diagnoses, the DOH deferred approval, delaying the city government's plan to proceed with mass testing not only of their citizens but with their neighboring towns and cities. 'Wag sana nilang hadlangan ang angking kakayahan at kagalingan ng iilan sa ating mga lokal na pamahalaan, bagkus, bigyan ang mga solusyong ito ng pantay na kahalagahan.

We have to understand that the national and the local governments are looking at it from two different points of view. The national government ascertains the COVID-19 statistics in line with the WHO standards to be used not only as guides for treatment, but also as basis for policy.

The local governments, on the other hand, need it as aid to help them carry out their mandate to implement the Enhanced Community Quarantine. They need some guidance as to which households and communities need to be isolated and/or sanitized in order to prevent further transmission of the virus.

In this sense, testing need not be a choice between local and national government. The local government can do preliminary testing while the national government reserves the right to undertake final confirmatory tests. In doing so, the whole of government will be able to perform their duties in harmony.

I strongly urge the DOH to strongly consider issuing temporary accreditation credentials and grant them limited testing capabilities. This will not only decongest other accredited laboratories to screen tests but will speed up the release of results and cover the bigger population waiting to get tested.

The DOH can ill-afford any more delays and indecisiveness, not when hundreds, even thousands, of our countrymen are in need of testing.

MASS TESTING NOW! Kung hindi ngayon, kailan pa?!

(Access the handwritten version of Dispatch from Crame No. 751, here:

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