Lawyers dispute Roque’s view that petition on mass testing will be dismissed by SC

Published July 8, 2020, 5:00 PM

by Jeffrey Damicog

An organization of lawyers on Wednesday, July 8, expressed disagreement over the declarations made by Presidential spokesman Harry Roque that the Supreme Court (SC) will dismiss the petition seeking to compel the government to conduct mass testing for the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Contrary to Roque’s assurance that the government is already conducting mass testing, the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) insisted in a statement that “the government’s targeted testing program is clearly insufficient to address the pandemic and does not comply with the mass testing standards the petitioners seek.”

The NUPL cited the Department of Health (DOH) Memorandum 2020-0258 that shows “a prioritization program among the at-risk individuals,” particularly, “(1) those with severe or critical symptoms; and (2) those with mild symptoms who are considered vulnerable.”

“This belies Roque’s claim that the government has ramped up its testing efforts. Indeed, the lack of mass testing has forced even government offices, including the Supreme Court itself, to resort to unreliable rapid tests because of the lack of mass testing,” the group stated.

The NUPL pointed out the DOH memorandum has an unexplained condition of “surplus testing capacity” before there is “testing of those who may have been exposed to the virus.”

“Hence, those with mild symptoms or who are asymptomatic carriers are not required to undergo testing under the latest government guidelines,” it said.

Amid government claims that the Philippines is “winning” against the pandemic, NUPL reminded that “there has been a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases” and the country “now ranks second in Southeast Asia for the most number of confirmed cases.”

“It has ignored calls for mass testing and instead urged Filipinos to ‘dance’ with the virus as the government reopens the economy,” the NUPL said.

The petition was filed before the SC last July 3 by various groups led by former Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo.

Roque expressed confidence that the high tribunal will dismiss the petition.

“Ibabasura po iyan ng Korte Suprema kasi sa mula’t mula po, mayroon po talaga tayong programa na targeted testing (The Supreme Court will junk that because from the start, we really have a program on targeted testing),” Roque previously said.