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DILG welcomes SC decision junking petition for COVID-19 mass testing

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Thursday welcomed the decision of the Supreme Court dismissing a petition urging the DILG and other government agencies to conduct proactive mass testing for COVID-19.

In a press statement, DILG spokesman Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya stated that the High Tribunal's decision to deny the plea was a “breath of fresh air that should put an end to what was obviously a propaganda stunt.”

"We welcome the Supreme Court decision because it reinforced the government’s position that there is no need to conduct mass testing for the coronavirus simply because there is already a comprehensive COVID-19 testing program in place," Malaya said.

"We thank the Supreme Court for dismissing this obvious propaganda stunt because it is not only impractical, it has no logic whatsoever. COVID testing is a medical procedure and therefore it must be governed by science and not by hashtags,” he added.

Malaya argued that there is no need for mass testing as the existing government's health protocols already provide free testing for health workers, close contacts of COVID-19 patients, and those with symptoms upon assessment by health professionals.

Malaya added that those mostly at risk for COVID-19 are being prioritized for the expanded testing as prescribed by DOH Department Memorandum 2020-0151 and reiterated by Department Circular No. 2020-0179.

In a September 1 resolution, the Supreme Court en banc said the petitioners, who represent various sectors from medical frontliners to public utility drivers, failed to show that they are entitled to the extraordinary writ of mandamus.

According to the SC, the remedy of mandamus applies only when the law defines a duty to be performed "with such precision and certainty as to leave nothing to the exercise of discretion or judgment."

Meanwhile, Malaya claimed that the Philippines has the highest testing capacity in the entire Southeast Asian region.

He said the country has tested some 3,012,600 individuals in over 100 laboratories nationwide.

"Let us now focus our energy on a more daunting task at hand:  living with the virus under the new normal as we all await the much-needed vaccine or cure. The economy should slowly reopen. Life goes on,” Malaya said.

As of Thursday, there are 276,289 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines, including 4,785 deaths. — BM, GMA News