All-out PNP crackdown on people taking advantage of pandemic needed

September 18, 2021 Alfred P. Dalizon 128 views

Alfred DalizonFROM selling vaccination slots, overpriced COVID-19 medicines and even offering RT-PCR ‘quick results,’ a number of Filipinos really have taken advantage of the COIVD019 pandemic to earn money at the expense of the government and the people.

During the start of the pandemic in March 2020, we really were in bad need of face masks, face shields and alcohol. The lack of supply of these materials really was taken advantage of by some individuals, many of them arrested by authorities and charged in court. However, this particular problem has been solved as proven by the fact that face masks, face shields and alcohol can be found anywhere and are being sold at a very low price now.

Lately, the problem is the lack of medicine supplies which obviously is being taken advantage of by some enterprising companies and individuals. Thus, i am fully supporting the PNP and NBI in going after these ‘entrepreneurs’ who really ought to be arrested, prosecuted and jailed in order to teach them a lesson just like what other countries have been doing.

For one, I am calling on the PNP and the NBI to go after small clinics offering so-called ‘Express 12/24 Hours RT-PCR Swab Test. I have come across some clinics claiming to be authorized by the Food and Drug Administration to provide RT-PCR tests.

One clinic says an RT-PCR test result can be released in 24-hours for P3,300 while those who want to have it in 12-hours have to pay P4,850. Will someone explain to the public how these companies can provide such ‘speedy swab test result’ without getting clearance from the Department of Health?

A number of poor Filipinos however have been complaining that the result of their RT-PCR tests conducted by local government units take a week or two or more to be released. This may actually be the reason why some individuals may be ‘walking COVID-19 carriers’ since their test results are not released immediately although they have completed their quarantine period.

Then there is the presence of some individuals who are selling COVID-19 medicines way above their prevailing market price. Last week, I watched a television report wherein a female COVID-19 patient was on the verge of crying while narrating how she discovered that the Tocilizumab she needs was being sold for P100,000. How can a poor Filipina afford to pay P100,000 for a medicine which she needs to save her life?

In the case of Tocilizumab, authorities should investigate how some people have been able to possess and offer to sell the medicine whose distribution and sale supposedly should be controlled by the DOH, the main end-users supposedly government and private hospitals. I don’t think the medicine is being sold over-the-counter in Mercury Drug and other pharmacies?

This week, seven persons have been arrested by the PNP-CIDG for alleged involvement in the illegal sale of overpriced Tolicizumab medicine being used to treat severe COVID-19 cases in the country.

PNP-CIDG director, Major Gen. Bert Ferro said three of the suspects were arrested in a sting at the LME warehouse in Lipa City in Batangas. The three yielded two vials of 400mg/20ml Tocilizumab worth P94,000.00 each, a copy of the receipt for Tocilizumab amounting to P188,000.00, the marked money and a van.

The four others were arrested in an operation in Bacoor City. Confiscated during the sting were two vials of Tocilizumab 400mg/20ml (Actemra) worth P166,000.00, marked , the marked money and a wagon.

Ferro said they conducted the operations with the help of the local police, the Army and the FDA. Earlier, Gen. Eleazar ordered the CIDG to fully coordinate with the FDA in going after people responsible for such illegal activity.

According to the official, the DOH has imposed a price range of P20,500.00 to P28,500.00 as the retail price for the said medicine. However, the suspects were found to be it for a much higher price. Tocilizumab is used as an immunosuppressant and an effective treatment for COVID-19 patients.

The arrested persons have been charged for violation of Republic Act 9502 (Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008) in relation to Executive Order 104 Series of 2020 and RA 9711 or the FDA Act of 2009.

A very busy PNP chief, Gen. Gilor Eleazar also renewed his appeal to the public to immediately report to the PNP all persons or groups selling the medicine thru Facebook or other social media sites since it is against the law. He said that he has ordered his men to go after these abusive Pinoys.

Again, I would say that the PNP would need the full cooperation of the public, other law enforcement agencies and the courts in this campaign. In fact, Philippine courts should have already convicted arrested violators since last year to prove that nobody can get away with the law.

What we need here is a speedy resolution of cases filed against people arrested for violating quarantine protocols, taking advantage of the pandemic to sell, distribute or hoard PPEs and valuable medicines or providing illegal RT-PCR tests since last year.

Again, I would cite how courts in Vietnam have been dealing with violators of their strict rules to prevent the further spread of the virus. Recently, a Vietnamese man was sentenced to five years in jail for spreading Covid-19 after he breached home quarantine rules.

Le Van Tri was convicted of “spreading dangerous infectious diseases to other people” after he travelled to his home province Ca Mau from coronavirus hotspot Ho Chi Minh City in July, according to a report on the website of the provincial People’s Court.’

“The 28-year old was accused of breaching a 21-day home quarantine regulation in the southern province, which had a lower case rate than Ho Chi Minh City, and he tested positive for Covid-19 on July 7.

“Tri’s breach of the home medical quarantine regulation led to many people becoming infected with Covid-19 and one person died on 7 August 2021,” according to the court report. State media said eight people became infected because of Tri.

“After keeping case numbers low last year, Vietnam is now dealing with its most serious COVID-19 outbreak so far, with nearly 540,000 infections and more than 13,000 deaths recorded.”

“The vast majority of infections and deaths have been reported since the end of April, and Vietnam’s capital Hanoi and commercial hub Ho Chi Minh city have been in strict lockdown for most of the past few months.”

“Several people have been sentenced for spreading Covid-19 to others in Vietnam. A 32-year old man in Hai Duong was sentenced to 18 months in prison in July and a Vietnam Airlines flight attendant was handed a two-year suspended jail term in March for the same charge.” Our courts should take note of this.