RITM head not replaced over alleged refusal to do 'VIP testing' — Duque

Published March 23, 2020, 2:47 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Minka Klaudia Tiangco 

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III denied reports that he sacked the head of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) after she allegedly refused to do coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) testing on some politicians.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III  (PCOO / MANILA BULLETIN)
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III

In an interview with DZBB, Duque said Dr. Nestor Santiago, assistant health secretary who was designated as RITM OIC-Director IV over the weekend, will only oversee the RITM’s testing facilities and not replace the current director IV, Dr. Celia Carlos.

“Nagkamali lang sa department order at ‘yun ang ki-norrect dahil ‘yung assistant secretary Santiago ang aming iniluklok na overseer, oversight ng RITM para makatulong sa pagkumpas ng testing facilities na ina-accredit ng RITM (We made a mistake in the department order, and we corrected it, because assistant secretary Santiago was only assigned to oversee the testing facilities accredited to the RITM),” he said on Monday.

The health department drew flak from Filipinos online after they thought that Carlos was fired for refusing to prioritize politicians and other public figures, as well as their families, in testing for COVID-19.

Several social media users called for immediate mass testing for COVID-19 after a number of senators bared that they have already been tested, some even getting tested twice, despite the reported shortage in testing kits.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, along with Senators Imee Marcos, Ramon Revilla Jr., Francis Tolentino, Pia Cayetano, Panfilo Lacson, and Grace Poe were asymptomatic when they were tested by the RITM in the Senate on March 17.

This, after Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri confirmed that he was positive for COVID-19.

Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire had earlier said that there was no need to conduct mass testing in the country yet.

The number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines rose to 380, with 25 deaths and 17 recovered patients, as of Sunday afternoon.