By Monica Chloe Condrillon


Vice President Leni Robredo slams the national government for having zero funds dedicated for free testing under the P5.024 trillion 2022 national budget, stating how the people are hesitating to spend on expensive Covid tests in private entities.

“Yung Swab Cab namin, pera ito ng OVP. Yung swab testing namin although volunteers yung karamihan sa nagpaparticipate, yung OVP yung bumibili ng antigen test. So kung kaya namin na sobrang liit ng aming budget, imposible naman na hindi kaya ng iba,” Robredo expressed.

[Our (project) Swab Cab is from the funds of the OVP. The swab testing although participated by volunteers, antigen tests are bought by the OVP. So if we can do this with limited budget, it is impossible if others can’t.]

The presidential aspirant said this in her weekly radio show last January 9 as she explained the current status of her office’s free teleconsult service, Bayanihan E-Konsulta, and the return of her Swab Cab.

“Kung gugustuhin natin, makakahanap tayo ng paraan na allowed under the law. ‘Yung mga COVID care kits, pera yun ng OVP…Bakit kami kaya namin? Totoo hindi namin kayang marami pero nahahanapan namin ng paraan dahil mahalaga” she added.

[If we really want it to happen, we can find ways that are allowed under the law. Our Covid care kits, those are from the budget of the OVP… Why can we do it? It’s true that we can’t afford numerous of these but we find ways because it is important.]
Swab Cab is the Office of the Vice President's (OVP) initiative to give free antigen testing in high-risk areas which was halted when cases lie-lowed but due to the fresh surge of COVID-19 cases, the OVP restarted this project.

Another project of the OVP is the telemedicine program Bayanihan E-Konsulta with volunteer doctors offering free consultations for COVID and non-COVID patients.

They also send free Covid care kits for those patients needing them with thermometer, pulse oximeter, face masks, alcohol and medications such as vitamins, Paracetamol, Carbocisteine, and even including the Molnupiravir anti-drug used in treating mild COVID-19. 

According to her, patients of Bayanihan E-Konsulta are the only ones qualified to receive the COVID-19 care kits sent out by the OVP upon doctor’s prescription.

This is to monitor the patients and assure that there will be doctors guiding them on how to take the medicines in the kit for various illnesses such as fever, cough, and other COVID-19 symptoms.

“So humihingi po kami ng paumanhin na hindi namin mapadalhan lahat, kasi una syempre limitado, pangalawa gusto namin registered talaga na pasyente namin kasi kailangan siyang namomonitor,” said Robredo.

[So we apologize that we can’t accommodate all, because first of all, our resources are limited. Second, it is necessary that the patient is registered so that we can monitor them.]  

She expressed how limited their supplies are but still stressed that they are not accepting cash donations

Meanwhile, in an interview of Acting Presidential Spokesperson Karlo Nograles with Karen Davila in Headstart last January 10, he stated that telemedicine and telehealth is also implemented by the national government in Metro Manila and plans to expand in other regions.

Davila asked him about free Covid testing stating how ‘private businesses profit from the illness of people’, to which he answered that RT PCR is only free for symptomatic patients. 

He was also asked about how the OVP, with limited budget, was able to give out free Covid care kits while the Department of Health (DOH) could not.

“Will have to check thru the OVP if these are charged through her budget in the OVP or these are through private initiatives and people who donate to her are private entities who donate through her office…I don’t know, I have no answer to that,” he answered.