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OCTA probe not a witch hunt — solons

August 12, 2021 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 475 views

LAWMAKERS have clarified that the impending House probe on analytics group OCTA Research was basically designed to make sense of its coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) data and projections, which have been criticized for allegedly causing public confusion and panic.

Deputy Speaker and Bagong Henerasyon (BH) Party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera and Deputy Majority Leader and Quezon City Rep. Jesus “Bong” Suntay made the clarification amid allegations by some quarters that the looming probe was a “witch hunt” meant to discredit OCTA.

“We just want to know them (OCTA) better, and we want to know the methodology used in their analytics and for them to contextualize their pronouncements,” Herrera explained during the virtual Ugnayan sa Batasan media forum.

“If ever OCTA will end up the one who could help us, then why not? Hindi natin kinakalaban ang OCTA. We are interested dahil kulang tayo sa data analytics and we all know that. And if this is one thing that could help our country, why not?” Herrera added.

In the same news forum, Suntay said claims of a witch hunt were “farthest from the truth.”

“We are not here to discredit anyone, especially in this time of the pandemic,” the Quezon City solon said. “Lahat ng sectors na gustong tumulong sa ating bansa—whether it is the government, the private sectors or NGOs—we have to work together.”

Herrera and Suntay were among the authors of House Resolution (HR) No. 2075 urging the House committee on good government and public accountability to conduct an inquiry on the qualifications, research methodologies, partnerships and composition of OCTA Research Philippines.

The resolution came after Dr. Edsel Salvana, a member of the government’s Technical Advisory Group on COVID-19, slammed OCTA for its allegedly unsound projections and for sowing panic among the population.

Herrera and Suntay said the House would invite officials of the Department of Health (DoH) and other health experts to the congressional hearing, which would take place once the enhanced community quarantine in the National Capital Region (NCR) is lifted.

“During sa hearing natin, ‘yung tema nito would only be clarificatory questions in order to arrive at the methodology being used,” Suntay said. “Since marami ang adamant gamitin ang data coming from the DoH kasi gobyerno, gusto nila ‘yung sa OCTA. Gusto nating malaman saan ba nanggaling ang basehan ng projections ng OCTA?”

The projections and warnings of the OCTA Research on the COVID-19 pandemic are being considered by the national government and local government units, the most recent of which is the hard lockdown currently being implemented in NCR and other provinces in the country.

Herrera said OCTA is accountable to the statements and projections it issues and should explain the details of its analytics, especially since these will also affect the economy.

“Every time they release statements may accountability dapat ‘yun. Kasi nagbibigay ka ng data na hindi natin alam kung accurate data ba,” Herrera said. “Kaya nga nagpatawag tayo sa Congress, we want to know how accurate your data is.”

Herrera has spoken to OCTA’s Professor Ranjit Rye and assured that the research group need not worry about the investigation since this will be the venue for them to introduce themselves further to the public.

“We just want to get to know you better and this is your chance actually na ibahagi sa lahat kung ano ang methodology ninyo. Dahil kung mas magaling kayo sa DoH or mas maaasahan namin kayo then this is something na makakatulong sa ating bansa,” Herrera said.

Meanwhile, Suntay justified that the inquiry is not a waste of time, especially since it will be done in aid of legislation.

“We believe that any information that we could derive from this hearing and which would be translated to better policies is not a waste of time,” Suntay pointed out.

He said the probe would serve as a “venue of an intellectual conversation between different groups, different agencies both of government and private sector in order to arrive at how we can join hands and help our country.”

“Eventually, sino ang gagawa ng policy, sino ang gagawa ng legislation based sa magiging impormasyon na makukuha natin? Hindi ba Kongreso?” he added.

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