COVID-19-positive OFW presents fake clearance to return to Catanduanes

By Jinky Tabor

Virac, Catanduanes - The second case of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in this province was confirmed by the Provincial Health Office (PHO) Wednesday late afternoon (June 10), after an overseas Filipino worker presented a fake quarantine certificate to return to the province.

In a press statement, the Catanduanes PHO said the new confirmed case of COVID-19 is a 49-year-old male OFW who arrived in the country on May 23 and in Catanduanes on June 8.

The Bureau of Quarantine's validation for the OFW showed he was found positive for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) after testing at the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) on June 1, with results released on June 4.

In an interview with Manila Bulletin, Gov. Joseph C. Cua said based on an initial investigation made by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging and Infectious Diseases (IATF)-Catanduanes, the OFW, who arrived in San Miguel, Catanduanes, presented a fake quarantine certificate.

The document was falsified and showed multiple logos of different government agencies, whereas genuine quarantine certificates issued by the IATF-Sub-Task Group for the Repatriation of OFWs contain only three logos.

Possible civil and criminal charges for falsification of public documents and other liabilities might be filed by the authorities against the OFW.

Philippine Coast Guard (PCG)-Catanduanes Commander Ens.Warren Quejencio said they will implement stricter protocols in checking the documents of returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) and locally stranded individuals (LSIs) arriving at the island's ports of entry.

ROFs will now also be required to obtain a copy of the molecular laboratory result form issued by the PRC to certify that they are negative for COVID-19 upon real time-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing.

As of this posting, the patient is manifesting mild symptoms and is presently admitted to the San Miguel local government unit quarantine facility.

Meanwhile, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in Catanduanes denied that the patient is in their manifesto for OFWs who arrived June 8 at Virac seaport.

OWWA said the assembly area for the OFWs to be transported to Albay was at the PTEX in Parañaque last June 6, and that it is not clear how the OFW was able to board the bus without being listed as a passenger.

A separate investigation is being conducted at OWWA on the incident.