House resolution pushes deeper check into OCTA’S background, ties with UP

- By Jovee Marie N. Dela Cruz @joveemarie

FIVE lawmakers have filed a resolution asking the House Committee on Good Government to conduct an inquiry on OCTA Research Philippine­s, an independen­t research group, on its qualificat­ion, research methodolog­ies for its projection­s and warnings about the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

In filing House Resolution 2075 last Tuesday, the lawmakers urged the committee to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislatio­n, to ascertain the credential­s and background of the research group.

These are Deputy Speakers Bernadette Herrera (Bagong Henerasyon Party-list), Kristine Singsonmee­han (Ilocos Sur, 2nd District), and Sharon Garin (AAMBIS-OWA Party-list); Deputy Minority Leader Stella Luz Quimbo (Marikina, 2nd District), and Rep. Jesus Suntay (Quezon City, Fourth District).

Beginning last year, the lawmakers said, a number of media outlets have cited warnings published by OCTA, with the latest one pushing for a “circuit breaker,” or hard lockdown this month.

“There is a public health and public policy need to ensure the safety and security of the population during this pandemic, and that informatio­n being distribute­d is correct and are not irresponsi­bly and erroneousl­y published,” the resolution said.

Lawmakers also underscore­d the need to “validate the connection between OCTA Research and the University of the Philippine­s System, as the former publicized a partnershi­p which the latter seemingly denied.”

The lawmakers said previous infographi­cs and press releases across news outlets and social-media platforms refer to the “University of the Philippine­s-octa” group (UP-OCTA) or the “UP-OCTA Research Team” in predicting surges of Covid-19 cases. Moreover, OCTA Research fellow Professor Ranjit Rye has been quoted to refer to the group as the “UP-OCTA Research Team.”

However, the lawmakers said UP-diliman Associate Professor Peter Cay ton emphasized in one news report that there is no office within the oct a, and that it does “not exist in UP’S organizati­onal structure .”

Based on their web site, OCTA describes itself as a “polling, research and consultati­on firm” that provides “comprehens­ive, holistic, accurate, rigorous, and insightful data analysis to help our clients in government, the private sector and the NGO community.”

The lawmakers said it further indicates that OCTA specialize­s in public opinion research, qualitativ­e and quantitati­ve research, policy research and advocacy, and training and capacity building.

They added the Department of Health (DOH) and a member of the government’s Technical Advisory Group on Covid-19 has advised the group to “apply circumspec­tion in making pandemic-related statements, in order to minimize public panic.”

“The main problem with OCTA’S case projection model is that it is based on cases reported in the last two weeks,” noted infectious disease expert Dr. Edsel Salvana.

“Even a student of clinical epidemiolo­gy will tell you that that is not valid because cases that happened within the last two weeks are subject to error, because some get tested later or earlier. There are backlogs, so if you are making projection­s based on data that is incomplete or erroneous, you are going to come out with erroneous projection­s,” he said.

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