The University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) clarified on Saturday that no one among the 58 students sent back to Isabela on May 1 exhibited COVID-19 symptoms.
The statement came after RMN News published a story claiming that a UPLB student exhibited COVID-19 symptoms and was brought to Southern Isabela Medical Center (SIMC).
In a Facebook post, UPLB says that “All 58 students were cleared by a doctor from the University Health Service (UHS) as accredited by the Los Baños Municipal Health Office to be fit to make the trip to Isabela.”
The City of Ilagan also dismissed the information spreading online and reassured that students are currently under quarantine.
“Ang walong (8) estudyante ay nasa quarantine facility ng lungsod…Nananatili pa ring COVID-19-free ang City of Ilagan,” City General Services Officer Ricky Laggui said.
Isabela Public Information Office head Atty. Elizabeth Cureg Binag also made it clear that the student was never admitted nor tested at SIMC.
“Sa Echague District Hospital po sinuri yung 46 na estudyante,” Binag says. Meanwhile, the rest of the students were taken by their respective local government units.
However, Binag said that upon arriving at the Echague District Hospital, one of the UPLB students allegedly had a sore throat.
“Yung sore throat parang dala lang nung case ng climate. Dahil matagal silang nag-travel, aircon yung bus, pagdating namamaos daw po,” Binag added.
The student is now in “OK” condition currently in an isolation facility in Ilagan, together with few more UPLB students. Two-week isolation is a mandatory protocol for individuals coming from areas under enhanced community quarantine.
Netizens on social media heavily criticized the news outlet for publishing the “fear-mongering” story amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
When RMN’s radio arm 98.5 i-FM Cauayan shared the news on their Facebook page, dismayed netizens took it out on the comment section.
UPLB student Paolo Adrian Andres, who was also among the ferried students to Isabela, accused the news outlet of deliberately causing panic and said, “Why are you releasing fake news in this time of humanitarian crisis?… Hindi kayo nakakatulong! Nagpapalaganap lang kayo takot sa mga tao!”
Another netizen called out the news outlet and wanted them to take down the story. She also claims that the families of UPLB students are receiving calls from angry locals confirming if anyone in their family has COVID-19 symptoms.
“Alam niyo ba ang pinagdadaanan ng mga students at kame na families nila — tinawagan ng mga tao para alamin if anak namin, kapatid namin ang may symptoms… Sinabihan na sana di na pinauwi… Sinabihan na ibalik sa komunista — sinabihan na sana hinayaan na dun mamatay! Tama ba yan? Masisisi niyo ba kame sa galit namin ngayon?” the netizen recalled.
Despite of the criticisms, RMN remains firm in its position that the news story has a “reliable source.” However, many netizens pointed out that the station should practice responsible and ethical journalism at the time of COVID-19 pandemic.
“Promote responsible journalism, tinatakot nyo lang ang mga tao sa community nyo,” Sef told. [P]
Photos from the University of the Philippines Los Baños Facebook page