Davao tourism chief warns travelers vs scammers offering fake COVID test results

Published December 24, 2020, 11:08 AM

by Antonio Colina IV

DAVAO CITY – Air travelers have been cautioned against fake laboratories in Metro Manila offering cheap coronavirus disease (COVID-19) tests after the local government of Davao reported that majority of the passengers who presented invalid test results upon their arrival at the Davao International Airport since August were scammed, City Tourism and Operations Office head Generose Tecson said.

During an interview over Davao City Disaster Radio (DCDR 87.5) on Wednesday, Tecson said that of the 21 passengers who were caught with invalid reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test results, 18 were scammed.

Tecson, who is concurrent head of the Airport Health Monitoring Team, said that scammers offered to get the swabbing done at the residence of their clients for as low as P1,000 without issuing official receipts.

The local government required air travelers to Davao to present negative RT-PCR test results taken within 24 to 48 hours from their place of origin before their scheduled flight, or subject themselves to free testing upon their arrival at the DIA.

The official added that airport authorities were unable to verify their falsified test results with COVID-19 laboratories in Manila.

“What happened was, they were given a test result with a QR code. But when you scan it, it would provide you with a name of a different person. Others don’t have a QR code, but you can see already from the letterhead and format that it is not something that we normally encounter in the airport. We verify all of these with the laboratories in Manila,” she said.

She said some of the victims even claimed that they got swabbed by agents of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Molecular Laboratory.

“The Philippine Red Cross does not have an agency. If you were told by the agency, you should be doubtful already. It is better that you personally go to the laboratories,” she said.

The PRC and Philippine Airport Diagnostic Laboratory were often used by scammers to lure air travelers, she added.

Out of the 21, only one is a resident of Davao City. None of them tested positive for COVID-19 during their testing at the airport, according to Tecson.

She reminded them to avoid suspicious individuals offering COVID-19 tests to prevent wasting their money.

Tecson said that cases of falsification of documents have been filed against three individuals who deliberately forged their virus test results, including P/Lt. Joy Line Cumbao, a forensic officer assigned at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory-Davao.

Cumbao, who is facing dismissal from police service for grave misconduct and dishonesty, presented a falsified virus test result upon her arrival at the Davao International Airport last December 10, but no record of such test was found when the local government verified it with Camp Crame, according to Tecson. 

“It’s really dangerous when they get used to faking (a virus test). I know most of them did what they did so that they could leave the airport right away,” She said.

As of December 23, the Department of Health-Davao reported a total of 11,839 COVID-19 cases in the region, with 1,857 of them active, 9,516 recoveries, and 466 deaths.

Of the total cases, Davao City reported 8,348, Davao de Oro – 581, Davao del Norte -1,423, Davao del Sur – 843, Davao Occidental – 122, and Davao Oriental – 522.