Air travelers warned vs fake COVID test labs in Manila

Inbound passengers at the Davao International Airport. MindaNews file photo by MANMAN DEJETO

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 24 December) – The local government has warned against fake laboratories in Manila offering cheap COVID-19 tests after finding out that most passengers who arrived at the Davao International Airport since August with invalid test results were scammed, City Tourism and Operations Office head Generose Tecson said.

In a text message Tuesday, Tecson said that of the 21 passengers who were caught with invalid reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test results, 18 were scammed.

Tecson, concurrent head of the Airport Health Monitoring Team, said in an interview over Davao City Disaster Radio (DCDR 87.5) that scammers offered to get the swabbing done at the residence of their clients for as low as P1,000 without issuing official receipts.

The local government required incoming air travelers to present negative RT-PCR test results taken within 24 to 48 hours at their place of origin before their scheduled flight, or subject themselves to free testing upon their arrival at the DIA.

The official added that airport authorities were unable to verify their falsified test results with COVID-19 laboratories in Manila.

“What happened was, they were given a test result with a QR code. But when you scan it, it would provide you with a name of a different person. Others don’t have a QR code, but you can see already from the letterhead and format that it is not something that we normally encounter in the airport. We verify all of these in the laboratories in Manila,” she said.

She said some of the victims claimed they got swabbed by agents of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Molecular Laboratory.

“The Philippine Red Cross does not have an agency. If you were told by the agency, you should be doubtful already. It is better that you personally go to the laboratories,” she said.

Names of PRC and Philippine Airport Diagnostic Laboratory were often used by scammers to lure air travelers, she added.

Out of the 21 passengers, only one was a resident of Davao City. None of them tested positive for COVID-19 during their testing at the airport, according to Tecson.

She reminded the public to avoid suspicious individuals offering COVID-19 tests to prevent waste of money.

She said cases of falsification of documents have been filed against three individuals who deliberately forged their virus test results, including P/Lt. Joy Line Cumbao, a forensic officer assigned at the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory-Davao.

Cumbao, who is facing dismissal from police service for grave misconduct and dishonesty, presented a falsified virus test result upon her arrival at the DIA last December 10, but no record of such test was found when the local government verified it with Camp Crame, Tecson said.

“It’s really dangerous when they get used to faking (a virus test). I know most of them did what they did so that they could leave the airport right away,” she said.

As of December 23, Department of Health-Davao reported a total of 11,839 COVID-19 cases in the region, with 1,857 active ones, 9,516 recoveries and 466 deaths.

Of the total cases, Davao City reported 8,348, Davao de Oro 581, Davao del Norte 1,423, Davao del Sur 843, Davao Occidental 122, and Davao Oriental 522. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)