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Senators wary about discrepancies in DOH data


By Hannah Torregoza

Senators on Wednesday expressed alarm over the reported errors in the Department of Health’s (DOH) official data on COVID-19 patients, saying this could erode the public’s confidence on the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for Emerging Infectious Disease and its capability to contain the pandemic.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon
(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon pointed out the government should have adopted South Korea and Taiwan’s template in getting accurate information on coronavirus patients and their success in containing the spread of the pandemic in their country.

“In South Korea and Taiwan, the success of the government campaign is premised on the accuracy of data upon which decisions are based, and the credibility of the implementors,” Drilon said.

“Questions on the accuracy of the DOH data, and the violations of the rules and abuses by law enforcers, erode the confidence of the people in the IATF and its ability to contain the pandemic,” the minority chief pointed out.

Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson echoed Drilon’s view, insisting that data accuracy is key to decision-making.

“This is an age-old tenet in management which is not only logical but simple. Whether inadvertently committed or otherwise, it is reason enough to make people responsible and accountable,” Lacson stressed.

“What is abominable is if such act is committed deliberately in pursuit of some selfish reasons or interests,” he said.

The allegations, which stemmed from a Facebook post by the UP Resilience Institute, pointed to the supposed discrepancies on the DOH’s COVID-19 patients’ data which ranges from changes in gender to patients recorded as dead but are actually alive from April 24 to April 25.

The UP Resilience Institute also noted how in one day, 45 cases have changed genders while 75 patients became either older or younger. The institute insists that accurate data is integral in launching an effective response against COVID-19.

Lacson agrees, saying the COVID-19 pandemic involves peoples’ lives and to a large extent their livelihood.

“There is no room for officials who, because of sheer incompetence or corrupt thinking will endanger our lives that we practically entrust to them. This is not the first time that the DOH leadership is being challenged to prove itself or leave their posts if they cannot be up to their job,” Lacson reiterated.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian also lamented the report, saying it is time the DOH use the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act to ensure accurate information on the number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines.

“Garbage in, garbage out. If DOH is feeding garbage data to decision-makers, expect garbage decisions from government,” Gatchalian said.

“Accurate data and information is fundamental in governance. Manual data collection will definitely lead to errors and errors may lead to loss of lives in a pandemic,” he added.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto also said he is worried over the error-riddled COVID-19 report of the DOH amid the lack of massive testing and effective contact tracing.

“I’m worried that we still don’t have testing and contact tracing capacity in areas we lifted (the) enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) after 57 days of lockdown. DOH data errors do not breed confidence either,” Recto said.

Detained Senator Leila de Lima also questioned why the DOH in its COVID-19 situationer released last May 10, announced 10,610 cases, but indicated in the same report that there were 14,504 individuals who tested positive for COVID.

“No explanation is given as to the difference of 3,894 in the figures. The report also states 2,524 total probable cases which do not match the aforementioned difference. Probable cases are defined as those with inconclusive or unofficial test results,” De Lima said.

“The figures don’t add up. It is as if there is an attempt to blow up the number of persons tested while keeping the official tally of COVID-19 cases low,” she noted.

She also said the recent admission of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque that the government failed to meet the goal of 8,000 tests per day by April 30 makes their new goal of 30,000 tests per day by May 30 even more ridiculous.

“If we are not even reaching 8,000 tests per day now, how do we get there in three weeks? At the pace that we are going, our data is not reflecting the rate of infection, but rather the rate of our testing. How can we make the right policy and decision if we are not generating our data fast enough? How can we contain the spread of the virus if whole communities are already infected by the time we start testing?” she pointed out.

Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, for his part, urged DOH and UP officials to “talk to each other” so they can come up with more accurate results.

“They have to talk to each other and make the necessary corrections on these errors since they are both government instrumentalities,” Dela Rosa said.

“I cannot directly say there is negligence in data collection, handling, processing or interpretation. We expect DOH and UP to be experts in their respective fields and they are both working under one government so they have to fix it ASAP,” he added.

Source: Manila Bulletin (

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