Gordon says PRC ready to face probe, explains alleged ‘false positive’ COVID-19 test results

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 21) — The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) is ready to face a probe into alleged “false positive” results of COVID-19 tests conducted by its laboratories, its chairman Senator Richard Gordon said Tuesday.

In his recent address, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Department of Health to conduct the investigation.

"We are open, sir, because we report all the testing to the Department of Health and to the RITM (Research Institute for Tropical Medicine)," Gordon said Tuesday during a Senate hearing on pandemic funds.

Duterte claimed 44 out of 49 hospital personnel tested positive in their first RT-PCR test taken at the PRC's Subic laboratory, but yielded negative results when they took the same test in other laboratories. He added that the same thing happened with a number of Presidential Security Group members and Department of Finance staff.

Gordon said the hospital personnel who initially got positive COVID-19 test results were retested, and the results were the same.

“Nag-order kami ng re-run noon without you telling us. Automatic 'yan. Andami nila eh," Gordon said. "Lumabas sila ay positive. At ni-re-check namin iyan at na-found out na positive."

[Translation: We ordered a re-run without you telling us. That is automatic because so many people got positive test results…It turned out they were positive for COVID-19. We rechecked their results and found out they were indeed positive.]

In a statement, the PRC said it requires its laboratories to conduct an "automatic re-run" of tests to ensure the accuracy of results when situations similar to what happened to the samples tested in Subic occur.

"While we strongly stand by the integrity of the positive results issued by our Subic laboratory on the samples, we acknowledge the possibility of false-positive results since no test is 100% accurate," the organization also said.

The PRC added, in such cases, "it treats all positive results as true positive," per the advice of the Department of Health.

Duterte has vented his ire on Gordon and the PRC after the lawmaker's committee started a probe into his administration's pandemic spending.

Gordon called Duterte a "bully" for attacking him and the organization he leads.

"You are a bully. And I am sorry, Mr. President, the Filipino people can fight back against bullies. The Filipino can have a revolution against bullies," he said.

Duterte is "no longer respectable" as far as the senator is concerned, he added.

Early this month, Duterte said the PRC should “open up their records,” or else the government will “disassociate” with the organization. The Commission on Audit previously said it cannot look into the financial accounts of the PRC, as it is not a government agency. However, Duterte said it would constitute a "dereliction of duty" if the commission refuses to do so.

The President has accused Gordon of using PRC funds for his election campaigns. Gordon dismissed the allegation, calling it an "attempt by the President to try and distract the people once again."