SC urged to act petition for COVID-19 mass testing
This undated photo shows health care worker takes a swab from a woman at a mobile testing site.
The STAR/Walter Bollozos

SC urged to act petition for COVID-19 mass testing

Kristine Joy Patag ( - September 10, 2020 - 4:01pm

MANILA, Philippines — A group of petitioners from a broad network, led by former Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, urged the Supreme Court to act on their two-month-old petition asking the court to compel the government to conduct mass testing for COVID-19.

On Thursday, the petitioners, in a Manifestation prepared by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, urged the tribunal to give due course to their petition and order the respondents to submit their comments,

It has been two months since they filed their Petition for Mandamus to direct the members of the Duterte cabinet to conduct mass testing, but the SC has yet to order the government to answer their plea.

In their latest pleading, the petitioners cited data from the Department of Health that, as of September 2, shows a testing backlog of 10,982 samples, leading to a delay in testing results.

“Clearly, the government through the DOH is not conducting enough COVID-19 tests nationwide,” they said.

RELATED: DOH: Expect 'irregularly high number' of COVID-19 cases as labs submit complete data

Even when Metro Manila reverted back to modified enhanced community quarantine for two weeks—following a request for “time-out” from the medical professionals—“nothing changed.”

“The government did not ramp up its mass testing efforts. There is no efficient system of contact tracing. Instead, the government reiterated that its strategy is to wait for the vaccine,” they said.

 But the petitioners stressed that there is still uncertainty over the production of a vaccine, prompting the World Health Organization to caution countries not to rely on it to contain the pandemic, but instead urged a “comprehensive public health response.”

READ: WHO tells countries to improve COVID-19 response instead of waiting for a vaccine

Two of the petitioners have tested for COVID-19 and had to undergo testing through private institutions. There was no efficient contact tracing conducted among their close contacts too.

“The assertions in the Petition for Mandamus ring truer than ever. It is clear that the government, even when accorded the power to implement community quarantine for six months, has mismanaged its COVID-19 response,” the petitioners said.

“The wide-ranging effects of the government’s failed COVID-19 response have been unravelling. It is now up to the SC, as the vanguard of constitutional rights to intervene and set this right,” they told the court.

National caseload of COVID-19 infections hit 245,143 with 55,614 active cases.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: January 16, 2021 - 4:18pm

Other regions and provinces in the Philippines considered moderate and low-risk areas will be placed under general community quarantine starting May 1. Bookmark this page for updates. (Main image by The STAR/Edd Gumban)

January 16, 2021 - 4:18pm

The Department of Health reports an additional 2,058 cases of the coronavirus disease. This brings the total number of COVID-19 infections in the Philippines to 498,691.

To date, there are 28,674 active cases. The DOH also reports eight new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 9,884. 406 more recovered, bringing the total number of COVID-19 survivors to 460,133.

January 15, 2021 - 4:03pm

COVID-19 cases in the Philippines climb to 496,646 with 2,048 newly reported cases Friday.

Of the confirmed cases, 27,033 are active. The Department of Health also reports 551 new recoveries and 137 new deaths, bringing the total of recovered patients to 459,737 and the death toll to 9,876.

January 14, 2021 - 4:03pm

COVID-19 infections in the Philippines climb to 494,605 with 1,912 newly reported cases Thursday, with 25,614 active cases.

The Department of Health also reports 746 new recoveries and 40 new deaths, bringing the total of recovered patients to 459,252 and the death toll to 9,739.

January 12, 2021 - 4:07pm

The Department of Health logs an additional 1,524 coronavirus cases, pushing the national caseload to 491,258.

Among the positive cases, 23,532 are active cases.

The DOH also records 44 additional recoveries and 139 new deaths, bringing the total of recovered patients to 458,172 and the death toll to 9,554.

January 11, 2021 - 5:31pm

President Rodrigo Duterte will deliver a public address on Wednesday to discuss the COVID-19 situation in the Philippines as the government continues to prevent the entry of a more infectious variant of the virus.

Duterte usually talks to the nation every Monday but this week's speech was moved to Wednesday because he had to convene a full cabinet meeting yesterday.

"Tonight (January 11), there will be a Cabinet meeting. And the Talk to the People will be on Wednesday," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a press briefing. —  The STAR/Alexis Romero

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