THE National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has filed falsification charges against 47 individuals from the private and government sectors for tampering with RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) test results during their travels.
NBI Central Visayas Director Rennan Oliva said charges for violations of Republic Act (RA) 11332, or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern, particularly Section 9, paragraph B on the falsification of documents, and Art. 175 of the Revised Penal Code or Using of False Certificates were filed before the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office.
Oliva said Dr. Gerardo Aquino Jr., medical center chief II of Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC), requested the NBI to assist in the filing of charges against individuals found using fake swab test results and using the hospital’s name and official seal.
The travelers, who included individuals from Lapu-Lapu City, Mandaue City, Cebu City, Argao and Liloan towns in Cebu, and Tagbilaran City in Bohol, were said to have paid at least P1,000 for the fake test results.
They committed the offense on different dates, the latest of which was in July 2021.
The swab test result is required for travel to some destinations for visitors unvaccinated against coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
The presence of the fake test results is concerning, especially since individuals who are not vaccinated against Covid-19 will now also need to present negative RT-PCR or antigen test results every two weeks should they be required by their employers to work onsite starting Dec. 1.
This is in accordance with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases Resolution 148 issued on Nov. 12 and amended by Resolution 149 on Nov. 18.
“You likely knew that those results were falsified because you did not take a swab test. And as per our investigation, the result was already out in an hour at most, which is not what is happening, because doesn’t it normally take 24 to 48 hours for RT-PCR test results to be released?” Oliva said Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, about the violators caught red-handed with their fake RT-PCR test results.
“Everybody should undergo a swab test. But some were not swabbed; others had the test results printed inside a vehicle. So the bearer of the fake test results surely had knowledge that these were fake,” Oliva said.
Oliva said swab tests taken are logged in the system, and VSMMC has a list of those who took a swab test at the hospital. So for those using it as a travel requirement, upon reaching the port of entry, it has to be certified that they really had themselves tested.
The penalty for violating Sec. 9 of RA 11332 is a fine of P20,000 to P50,000 or one to six months of imprisonment, or both; and possible suspension or revocation of license to practice for medical professionals, and civil service eligibility for public servants.
The NBI Central Visayas called on the public to refrain from forging and using fake travel documents, as Cebu is still facing a health crisis.
Oliva added that the public needs to cooperate with the government to prevent the spread of Covid-19, especially now that a new variant of concern, the fast-spreading Omicron, has been detected in multiple countries after it was first identified by scientists in South Africa.
He said those who use falsified documents could be asymptomatic carriers of the virus and unwittingly spread it to the places they visit if they get through port inspections with their fake documents.
The NBI continues to investigate other names in the VSMMC list of those falsely using the hospital’s name for RT-PCR test results, so that cases may be filed against them. (CTL)