DILG warns vs scammers posing as COVID-19 contact tracers

Robie de Guzman   •   July 30, 2020   •   231

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Thursday warned the public against individuals taking advantage of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic by posing as members of contact tracing teams to extort money from their victims.

The DILG issued the warning following reports of unscrupulous individuals introducing themselves as contact tracers to scam unsuspecting victims into handing out payment for the COVID-19 test kits.

Reports of this scam came after the DILG said that more than 69,000 contact tracers have been deployed nationwide.

DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said these individuals are sending messages or making calls to their victims, telling them to shell out money for the cost of a testing kit after they have been identified as a close contact of a COVID-19 patient.

“Hindi nila ibibigay ang impormasyon about the alleged person na nag-positive [for COVID-19], sasabihin nila na they will violate privacy laws kuno,” Malaya said in a statement.

Despite the limited information given, the scammer will insist on having the victim tested within the next 72 hours. 

The victim will then be asked for their address where the supposed testing kits will be sent. 

“Pagtawag nila sa isang bahay, they will advise the person to self-isolate at magpa-test within 72 hours. Siyempre ito namang biktima will agree to undergo testing,” he said. “Kapag naibigay mo na ang address mo, dito na sila magsisimula sa kanilang modus.”

He said scammers will then ask for their credit card number or other financial details saying that the test kits cost $50 each. 

“Yun na yung catch, matapos makuha yung address ng biktima, bigla nila ngayon itong sisingilin at sasabihing hindi libre ang test kit,” he said.

“Kapag tumanggi naman yung tao, pagbabantaan sila na they will face penalties for not undergoing the coronavirus test,” he added.

Malaya said legitimate contact tracing teams will never ask for money since their task is to track down and manage close contacts, reduce the spread of infection, and offer diagnostic, counselling and treatment to confirmed COVID-19 cases.

“We ask the public to be vigilant. Huwag po tayong basta-basta magtitiwala sa mga taong tatawag o magtetext para humingi ng pera. Pag may pera na po sa usapan, scam na po iyan,” he said.

The DILG spokesperson advised the public to immediately report such incident to the nearest police station or call the DILG through Hotline 911 and the DILG-Public Assistance and Complaint Center at 8925-0343.

“We are currently beefing up our contact tracing capabilities nationwide to serve more Filipinos for free kaya hinihikayat po natin ang ating mga kababayan na ireport po ang ganitong mga panloloko sa mga kinauukulan,” Malaya said.

IATF to study mayors’ bid to retain Metro Manila under GCQ after Sept. 30 – Año

Robie de Guzman   •   September 25, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Most mayors in the National Capital Region (NCR) are in favor of extending the general community quarantine (GCQ) being implemented in the region, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año said on Friday.

Año said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) will meet on Sunday, Sept. 27 to discuss the recommendation of the Metro Manila Council on the next quarantine status in NCR by October.

“Maraming mga mayors ng NCR ang gusto pa rin mag-GCQ pero depende pa rin sa usapan sa Sunday,” he said.

Metro Manila is under GCQ until Sept. 30 as earlier recommended by the IATF and approved by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Año said they will thoroughly discuss the Metro Manila mayors’ proposal in order to balance the factors of public health and economy which has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Dalawa ‘yan: mahigpit na MGCQ o maluwag na GCQ. Kapag titignan mo mas maganda talaga na naka-GCQ tayo kahit magluwag ka ng konti pero meron kang talagang mas mataaas na panuntunan kaysa yung nag MGCQ ka pagkatapos hihigpitan mo,” he said.

The Department of Trade and Industry earlier said that Metro Manila could be placed under modified GCQ as this would allow the reopening of more industries to help revive the economy.

The IATF is also set to meet with Duterte on Sunday night to discuss the next quarantine classifications in NCR. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Asher Cadapan Jr.)

No more deadline: Hiring of contact tracers to continue until target is reached – DILG

Robie de Guzman   •   September 24, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Thursday said it will do away with deadlines and instead continue to hire contact tracers until their target of at least 50,000 is reached.

In a statement, DILG spokesperson Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said the agency’s provincial and city field offices will continue to accept applications until the slots allocated to them have been filled up.

The department earlier announced that the submission of applications for contact tracers is only until Sept. 23.

 “What’s important to us is to fill up the slots and recruit the most number of Contact Tracers as provided in the Bayanihan 2 law so those who meet the deadline will immediately be processed but we will continue to accept applications until we have met our targets,” he said.

Malaya said that some 10,000 individuals have already applied in Metro Manila but many have incomplete documents so they are giving more time for them to complete the requirements on a first come, first served basis.

“As soon as they are deemed qualified by the selection board, they will be hired, trained, and deployed to the various LGUs,” he added.

The DILG official said the first batch of DILG-hired contact tracers will be deployed to the local government units by first week of October.

The department earlier said that local and overseas Filipino workers whose service have been recently terminated or their employment contracts were not renewed amid the pandemic will be given priority in the hiring process.

 To qualify, the applicant must have a Bachelor’s degree or college level in an allied medical course or criminology course.

Aspirants must also be skilled in data gathering and have assisted in research and documentation; able to interview COVID-19 cases and close contacts in order to gather data; possess the ability to advocate public health education messages; and have investigative capability.
 
“While our first preference is college graduates or college level of allied medical courses or criminology, we are also open to graduates or college level of any course. So, we urge them to apply and help the country defeat COVID-19,” he said.
Malaya said applicants are required to submit an application letter, Personal Data Sheet, National Bureau of Investigation clearance, diploma or transcript of record, and drug test result to the nearest DILG provincial or city field office.

Contact tracers will earn a minimum of P18,784 per month in a contract of service status.

Their responsibilities include conducting interviews, profiling, and perform an initial public health risk assessment of COVID-19 cases and their identified close contacts; refer the close contacts to isolation facilities; conduct enhanced contact tracing in collaboration with other agencies and private sectors; conduct daily monitoring of close and general contacts for at least 14 days, and perform such other tasks in relation to the COVID response.

DILG orders CIDG to probe group behind ‘flatten the fear’ event

Robie de Guzman   •   September 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has directed the Philippine National Police-Crime Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) to look into the “flatten the fear” event allegedly held by a group seeking an end to all community quarantine restrictions in the country amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement on Wednesday, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año ordered the CIDG to probe the group’s reported violation of prohibition on mass gathering, physical distancing and other minimum health protocols.

“Inutusan na po natin ang PNP-CIDG para masusing imbestigahan ang naturang mass gathering kung dapat ba silang managot sa kanilang paglabag sa mga alintuntunin sa panahon ng pandemya,” Año said.

“Maaaring gusto lamang ng grupong ito na makatulong sa pamahalaan para tuluyang masugpo ang pandemya, subalit ang kanilang idinaos na mass gathering at tahasang hindi pagsuot ng face mask ay lubhang delikado hindi lamang para sa kanila kundi pati na rin sa kani-kanilang mga pamilya,” he added.

Año said the investigation is upon the request of the Department of Health.

He said the members of the Concerned Doctors and Citizens of the Philippines recently held a mass gathering dubbed as Flatten the Fear campaign where many of its participants purposely did not wear face mask because according to them, they do not need to do so as they are already on prophylaxis and preventive treatment of COVID-19.

The DILG chief said that the group’s call to end all restrictions at this critical time sends a wrong message to the public and undermines months of hard work by health authorities to flatten the curve and defeat the coronavirus disease.

He added that the group should have discussed first with the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) its recommendations instead of holding a mass gathering as “this move undermines the work that has been done for many months by our frontliners.”

“We wish to remind them that we are not out of the woods yet and that community transmission is on-going. While we have been able to lower our cases, we cannot be complacent and let down our guard since an outbreak may suddenly occur as what we have seen in many countries all over the world,” he said.

“Kapag tuluyan nating tinanggal ang Community Quarantine na hindi pa natin lubos na napapababa ang mga kaso, maaaring magkaroon ng biglang pagdami ng kaso at magugulat na lang tayo sa biglang dami ng pasyente na ating aasikasuhin,” he added.

The Philippines has so far recorded a total of 291,789 COVID-19 infections, 56,097 of which are active cases.

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