By Corina Oliquino

MANILA — Detained Opposition Sen. Leila de Lima filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 443 which seeks an investigation into the reliability of the Department of Health’s (DoH) data reporting on the coronavirus pandemic.

The resolution directs the appropriate Senate committee to address the “serious issued concerning DoH’s COVID-19 inaccurate data reporting.”

In a press statement released by the Senate, De Lima said that the DoH is still making an attempt to provide real-time data despite continued backlogs in testing and more than two months since President Rodrigo Duterte declared a nationwide State of Calamity and putting Luzon under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

De Lima, citing a news report, noted that the DoH missed its usual scheduled briefing and reporting on the latest COVID-19 cases last May 29. It changed the way it reported new cases, as well as those from testing backlog, hence the confusing fresh and late cases tally.

“The DoH and their faulty reporting have contributed to the erosion of public trust in the Philippine government and have pushed us into further disarray as the quarantine level has been downgraded to a more relaxed General Community Quarantine (GCQ) to kickstart the economy in Metro Manila,” she said.

“An up-to-date and transparent reporting system would eliminate any suspicion of data manipulation for purposes of political gains,” she added.

Alarming errors in data reports

In a report by GMA News, the University of the Philippines COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team last May 12 revealed “alarming errors in the data reports provided by the DoH on the COVID-19 statistics, including unreconciled differences in numbers between DoH and LGUs, and inconsistencies in the patient-level data and the use of date formats in the agency’s data drop on COVID-19 cases.”

Comparisons made by the team found the DoH previously reported seven deaths and 28 recoveries in Laguna, lesser than the provincial government’s reported 29 fatalities and 93 recoveries.

On data drops between April 24 and 25, the team found 45 cases changed sex from male to female or vice-versa while 75 patients became older and younger overnight while 516 cases were reclassified to another city or “a completely imaginary city.”

Moreover, the team also reported that a patient who reportedly died on April 24 was no longer dead on April 25.

Two weeks after, the DoH admitted the data errors during a hearing conducted by the House of Representatives while citing the country’s 12-day backlogs in the outcome of samples from COVID-19 tests.

Errors in daily COVID-19 data

In another report by GMA News, the DoH on June 14, apologized for the mistakes in daily situationer reports after some netizens noticed an erroneous bar graph.

“Thank you to all who pointed this out. Rest assured that we, at the DoH, are continuously working and striving to improve the quality and accuracy of our materials,” the Department said on its Facebook page, noting that its data is reliant on submissions from healthcare facilities and LGUs.

“The timeliness and integrity of the national data are only as good as the submission of our partners on the ground—laboratories, hospitals, and LGUs,” it said, adding that reporting delays have been “significantly reduced” over the past few months,” it added.

DoH Undersec. Maria Rosario Vergeire explained that the rising number of deaths in recent days is due to the delayed reporting of fatalities by LGUs, explaining only four actually died in the month of June from the 22 new fatalities reported on June 13.