Online posts on PPE shortage are real but some are fake, warns Cayetano

March 24, 2020 - 1:19 PM
Alan Cayetano in plenary
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano bangs the gravel during the deliberations on House Bill 6616. (The STAR/Boy Santos)

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano last night warned that some social media posts about the shortage of personal protective equipment in hospitals are not real.

Cayetano made this remark in his speech at the closing of the special session of the House of Representatives late Monday.

The lower chamber voted 284-9-0 for House Bill 6616 or the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” which grants President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers to address the coronavirus outbreak.

“There is a lot of fake news,” Cayetano said in his speech.

“Alam niyo po ‘yung mga nagkakalat ng fake news na nagsasabing kulang ng PPEs or personal protective equipment sa isang lugar? Kawawa po kapag ka fake news ‘yung binibigay niyo. Kawawa ‘yung totoong kulang. Hindi na tuloy malaman nung iba kung saan magbibigay,” he added.

Cayetano’s remark shortly drew criticisms from online users who reacted to a misunderstood paraphrased quote of the lawmaker.

Filipino online users then reminded Cayetano of several PPE donation requests from health workers, hospitals and concerned individuals and stressed that the shortage of PPE suits is real.

These reports of PPE shortage are real

An online user took a screenshot of tweets of an infectious disease specialist who mentioned that doctors “are running out of PPEs” and juxtaposed it with Cayetano’s comment.

Another online user retweeted the paraphrased remark of Cayetano and insisted that a shortage is happening.

“Kasi kulang naman talaga? So ano ‘yung tweet ng UP Manila asking for PPE for PGH? ” he wrote.

The online user linked the tweet of UP Manila asking for masks, gloves, disinfectants, gowns, goggles, surgical caps and shoe covers for workers in the Philippine General Hospital.

The university tweeted that on Monday, the same day the lower chamber deliberated House Bill 6166.

Another Twitter user also shared a recent report of a provincial hospital whose workers used improvised PPE suits instead amid the lack of medical supplies.


The report mentioned that the staff of St. Jude Family Hospital in Los Baños resorted to using garbage and plastic bags to cover themselves.

The pictures were originally uploaded by a medical record officer who specifically asked the Department of Health and other agencies to provide PPE suits to the healthcare workers.

“Naubos na po kasi ang PPE namin sa (aming) hospital at wala na (kaming) mabilhan. Kaya nag-improvise na lang kami para kahit papano mapanatiling ligtas ang aming staff,” the uploader said in the caption.

A Filipino online user likewise shared a report on the Lung Center of the Philippines’ urgent plea for PPE suits and isolation gowns in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

On Monday, the government-run hospital said that its current stock might not last for the day. It is the same hospital that launched a free online consultation service to the public who has concerns on COVID-19.

An online user claiming to be a Ph.D. candidate at the University of the Philippines-Diliman shared that his sibling resorted to using a Hello Kitty raincoat as a form of improvised PPE suit.

“Yung kapatid kong doktor pumasok nang naka-raincoat. RAINCOAT na HELLO KITTY kasi ubus na ubos na ang PPE sa kanila,” he wrote in response to Cayetano’s remark about PPE suits.


On Tuesday, Gia Sison, a doctor of Makati Medical Center, also called for PPE suit donations.

“Palimos ng PPE. The shortage is REAL and was never fake news!” the doctor tweeted. 

Meanwhile, actor Enchong Dee, responded to requests of PPE and is crowd-sourcing where he can purchase protective suits that he intend to directly donate to hospitals.

Health workers and medical professionals are among the most at risk of acquiring COVID-19 since they are in the frontlines of the current battle against the viral disease.

To protect themselves from the virus and reduce their risk of acquiring them from infected patients they are curing, they needed to wear specialized suits that will serve as a form of barrier against the highly communicable disease.

Such suits include PPE suits and isolation gowns.

PPE suits refer to full-body suits that are used by health workers if they need to treat patients with infectious diseases. When it is worn, only portions of the face, feet and hands are exposed.

The suit consists of gloves, eye protection like face shield and goggles and clothing like a gown, apron, a head covering and shoe covers.

On the other hand, an isolation gown provides coverage protection to health workers. It is a fluid-resistant, full-length suit with elastic cuffs and a waist tie.

The health department previously admitted that there is a “global shortage” of such suits due to the pandemic.

“We want to inform our fellow Filipinos that there is a global shortage of personal protective equipment,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a press briefing.

“That is why we are studying how to rationally allocate the donations we are receiving to those who need it,” she added.

Other health workers have resorted to improvising their own PPE suits instead.

A consultant in three tertiary hospitals in Manila explained that while there are standards for PPE suits, “the improvisations come in handy because they’re better than nothing.”

At a press briefing on Tuesday, Rabi Abeyasinghe, World Health Organization Philippine representative, said that the health organization is not recommending improvised face masks and PPEs but he said it is better than nothing.