VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Pacquiao is wrong; PH has been dealing with ‘coronavirus issue’ since January

Read this fact check in Filipino

Sen. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao’s claim that the “coronavirus issue” had not reached the Philippines until later in March is false.

STATEMENT

In a March 26 interview with CNN Philippines, Pacquiao, chair of the Senate ethics committee, was asked to comment on Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III’s breach of quarantine protocols when he accompanied his pregnant wife to the hospital despite showing symptoms of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Pacquiao then confirmed that he had contact with Pimentel -- who has tested positive for COVID-19 -- during a get-together at his home on March 4, adding:

Nung time na ‘yun wala pa ‘yung...corona issue, ‘yung coronavirus issue dito sa Pilipinas (At that time, the coronavirus issue was not yet here in the Philippines).”

Source: CNN Philippines, BREAKING: Total number of COVID-19 cases now at 707..., March 26, 2020, watch from 35:24 to 36:33

Host Pia Hontiveros reiterated the date of the event, saying “Meron na po, may issue na po na ganoon (It was already an issue by that time).”

But the senator insisted:

Wala pa, wala pa. Wala pa ‘yung issue ng coronavirus nung time na ‘yun (The coronavirus was not yet an issue [here in the country] at that time).”

FACT

Contrary to what Pacquiao said, the Philippines has been grappling with the novel coronavirus “issue” since January, when the country recorded its first COVID-19 patient -- a 38-year-old Chinese woman who had come from Wuhan, China, ground zero of the outbreak.

On Feb. 2, the Department of Health (DOH) announced the death of the patient’s 44-year-old husband, who came with her to the Philippines and also tested positive for the disease. It was the first recorded COVID-19-related fatality outside of China, according to the World Health Organization.

These cases were among the issues tackled during a Senate hearing, led jointly by the Senate committees on health and demography, and finance, on Feb. 4 -- a full month before the get-together at Pacquiao’s residence -- about the preparedness of the government in dealing with the novel coronavirus threat.

Pacquiao, who is a member of the Senate finance committee, was not present at the hearing.

Come March 4, the country already had three confirmed cases and 39 patients under investigation, 29 of whom were in the National Capital Region, according to the DOH.

On March 27, Pacquiao was called out by Dasmarinas Village Barangay Chairperson Rossana Hwang to “be a model example” and go on home quarantine after having contact with Pimentel and persons who had tested positive for COVID-19.

The next day, the senator issued a statement saying he and his family had been on home quarantine since March 24, and that he had already tested negative for the disease.

Health authorities confirmed the country’s first recorded local transmission of COVID-19 on March 7, prompting the government to raise its alert level to Code Red Sublevel 1, and again on March 12 to Code Red Sublevel 2 -- the highest -- following the confirmation of more cases. (See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: Code Red Alert on COVID-19)

As of March 31, the DOH has recorded 2,084 COVID-19 cases, with 88 deaths and 49 recoveries.

The Duterte government has since declared the existence of a national emergency, and imposed an enhanced community lockdown on the entire Luzon island. (See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: Understanding ‘community quarantine’ and ‘social distancing’ policies)


Sources

ABS-CBN News, Senator Pimentel tests positive for COVID-19, March 25, 2020

CNN Philippines, Senator Pimentel tests positive for COVID-19, March 25, 2020

Philstar.com, Pimentel becomes second senator to test positive for COVID-19, March 25, 2020

CNN Philippines, BREAKING: Total number of COVID-19 cases now at 707..., March 26, 2020

Department of Health, DOH CONFIRMS FIRST 2019-NCOV CASE IN THE COUNTRY; ASSURES PUBLIC OF INTENSIFIED CONTAINMENT MEASURES, Jan. 30, 2020

World Health Organization, Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Philippines, n.d.

Department of Health, DOH REVEALS MORE NEGATIVE 2019-NCOV CASES; CONFIRMS FIRST NCOV ARD DEATH IN PH, Feb. 2, 2020

World Health Organization, Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Situation Report - 13, Feb. 2, 2020

Senate of the Philippines, Committee on Health and Demography joint with Committee on Finance, Feb. 4, 2020

Senate of the Philippines, Senate Committee Directory as of Sept. 30, 2019

Department of Health, DOH CONFIRMS 3RD 2019-NCOV ARD CASE IN PH, Feb. 5, 2020

Department of Health, CORONAVIRUS DISEASE 2019 (COVID-19) TRACKER, March 4, 2020

Inquirer.net, Barangay Dasmariñas asks Pacquiao, household members to stay indoors, March 27, 2020

Philstar.com, Pacquiao negative for COVID-19 after being tested twice, March 28, 2020

ESPN TV5, Manny Pacquiao tests negative for COVID-19, March 28, 2020

Senate of the Philippines, Reply to Batangas Captain, March 28, 2020

Department of Health, DOH CONFIRMS LOCAL TRANSMISSION OF COVID-19 IN PH; REPORTS 6TH CASE, March 7, 2020

Office of the Presidential Spokesperson, On Code Red Sublevel 2, March 12, 2020

Covid19.gov.ph, COVID-19 TRACKER, March 30, 2020

Official Gazette, Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, March 25, 2020

Official Gazette, COMMUNITY QUARANTINE OVER THE ENTIRE LUZON, March 16, 2020


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

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