Editorial: Responding to allegations

THE rapid antibody test kits purchased by the Cebu City Government were not only approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the Philippines, but these were also recommended by the Department of Health in Central Visayas (DOH 7).

Aside from that, the test kits were actually cheaper than those procured by the National Capital Region.

This was the response of Secretary Michael Lloyd Dino, presidential assistant for the Visayas, to several allegations on social media implying that he had benefited financially from the purchase of coronavirus disease 2019 test kits used in the tri-cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu.

The rapid antibody test determines the person’s immune response to coronavirus exposure.

If a patient tests positive for immunoglobulin M (IgM), a type of antibody, the patient is subjected to a confirmatory test for the presence of the coronavirus through swabbing and RT-PCR testing.

Initially, the FDA approved more than 30 antibody test kits that were narrowed down to nine after initial screening, of which only four provided very satisfactory result with a confidence level of 98 percent, according to Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, chief pathologist of the DOH 7.

Dino provided SunStar Cebu and Superbalita Cebu editors with documents showing comparative prices or costs of RT-PCR test kits, RT-PCR swab kits, DNA/RNA extraction machine, RT-PCR system and IgG/IgM rapid test kit in Cebu and Metro Manila.

A purchase order dated March 25, 2020 showed that Cebu City purchased 30,000 RT-PCR test kits for P974.67 each, while the same brand was bought by Metro Manila for P2,000 to P3,000 per kit.

The City also purchased 30,400 swab kits at P182 a piece, while Metro Manila got them for P300.

Dino said his office does not get involved in procurement dealings as its role is only to provide support and logistics to local government units (LGUs).

He also reminded the public that it was the LGU that purchased the test kits and not the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (Opav).

He said he takes to heart the anti-corruption mantra of President Rodrigo Duterte, adding that reputation and credibility are “very, very, very important.”

Dino said he ignores noises from others, even when these came from former Provincial Capitol consultant Byron Garcia, brother of Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia.

“The lion does not turn around when the small dogs bark,” Dino quoted an African proverb.