OCTA Research group urged to be ‘fiscalizer’

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The chairman of the House Committee on Good Government and Public
Accountability on Wednesday urged the independent group OCTA Research
to be a “fiscalizer” and see to it that the government does its job
with its statistics.

In a virtual news forum, DIWA Rep. Michael Aglipay said OCTA should
refrain from declaring its projections and reports as official since
it is not given any authority by the government.

Aglipay noted that OCTA’s projections are at times exaggerated and
that its representatives act as if they are “radio commentators” in
announcing surges.

“Let science speak for itself, maging objective lang tayo. ‘Wag
masyado komentaryo parang radio announcer na sila eh (Let’s just be
objective. Let’s avoid commentaries that sound like you’re radio
announcers),” he said.

Aglipay’s panel conducted a hearing earlier this week into the
credentials and methodologies of OCTA for analyzing data and
predicting trends in the country’s Covid-19 cases.

He argued that the House has no intention to censor OCTA, but the
group should avoid misconstruing their statements as an official
policy of the government considering that they don’t even have an
official role nor a part of the sub-technical working group on
statistics of the Department of Health and Inter-Agency Task Force for
the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

“Never tayong mag-a-abridge ng (We never abridge the) right to speak.
They can speak anytime, they can speak nonsense and they can speak
against the government,” Aglipay said. “Ang ayaw natin ‘yong sinasabi
nila na (What we oppose is) they are speaking officially, which they
are not.”

For his part, Deputy Speaker Lito Atienza said the “financiers and
real people” behind the research group should be unmasked to determine
the group’s motives.

Atienza said there has been a “continuing effort” to hide those behind
OCTA, which has been issuing Covid-19 pronouncements and projections
even as they function as a “political polling firm.”

“There is a continuing effort to hide their faces behind a mask. ‘Yong
amin, pagsisikap lang para malaman ng taumbayan, sino itong OCTA at
ano ba talaga ang pakay nito? (For us, we want to determine who’s
behind OCTA and what is their motive?),” Atienza said. “Definitely may
nagpo-pondo dyan. ‘Pag magpa-survey ka (Definitely, someone is funding
them. Just like if you conduct a survey), it will cost you at least
P500,000, P1 million.”

Atienza stressed that the authority of OCTA to be speaking in the time
of the global pandemic should be looked into especially since their
data and forecasts have a significant influence on the government and
the people.

“Napakalaki ng influence nila. Kung ano ang sinasabi nila, tinatanggap
ng gobyerno, sinasalamin ng DOH, natatakot ang tao (They have a strong
influence. The government and DOH listen to what they say, the people
are afraid),” Atienza said.

Atienza also underscored that there should only be one source of
information during this crucial time in the country.

“We cannot allow just anybody on the basis of good intention to now
get into the picture. In times of war, there should only be one source
of information. You cannot allow anybody to speak for and on behalf of
the two forces fighting it out,” he said.

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