Five lawmakers have filed a resolution seeking a House probe into the qualifications and research methodologies of COVID-19 think tank OCTA Research, as well as the background and credentials of its members.
Deputy Minority Leader Stella Quimbo, Deputy Speakers Bernadette Herrera and Kristine Singson-Meehan, AAMBIS-OWWA Rep. Sharon Garin, and Quezon City 4th District Rep. Bong Suntay filed House Resolution 275 on Tuesday, August 3, seeking a House inquiry into the “qualifications, research methodologies, partnerships, and composition” of OCTA Research.
“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 read.
In October 2020, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque also urged OCTA Research to prevent “publicizing their recommendations on quarantine classifications” to avoid “confusion and preempting the government.”
The resolution also cited infectious diseases expert and DOH panel member Dr. Edsel Salvana who flagged OCTA Research’s “problematic” projections based on “incomplete and erroneous data.”
Earlier this month, Salvana criticized OCTA Research for “invalid” COVID-19 projections based on cases that were reported “in the last two weeks” in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel.
“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,” Salvana said.
The resolution also raised concern about OCTA Research’s affiliation with the University of the Philippines, as the think tank was referred to as “UP-OCTA” in some news reports.
Quoting the information provided on "one forecast report," the resolution noted the research group describes itself as an “independent and interdisciplinary research group composed primarily of UP faculty members and alumni” which also includes “contributors from the University of Santo Tomas and Providence College, USA.”
It also stressed that OCTA research, as stated on its website, specializes in "comprehensive, holistic, accurate, rigorous, and insightful data analysis to help our clients in government, the private sector, and the NGO community."
According to OCTA's previous findings, the organization clarified the reports do not “reflect the official position of the mentioned institutions.”
The reproduction rate of COVID-19 in NCR slowed down to 1.91 as of March 24, 2021 but OCTA Research said it is too early to tell if it is the beginning of a “hoped-for downward trend.” | @jvrmateo pic.twitter.com/CpYvETxNFs— The Philippine Star (@PhilippineStar) March 25, 2021
The COVID-19 think tank has released reports on the pandemic since March 2020. In an interview with DZMM Teleradyo on July 19, OCTA fellow David Guido urged the government to reimpose the bubble policy over Metro Manila and NCR Plus, ban non-essential travel, and put restrictions on children amid threats of the Delta variant.
OCTA welcomes chance to clarify methodologies
Sought for statement, OCTA fellow Ranjit Rye said he looks forward to the House probe as it would give OCTA an opportunity to clarify its background and research methodologies.
"We look forward to the inquiry so that we may be able to clarify OCTA's methodologies as well as our intent to serve our people by contributing to the collective effort to fight COVID-19 in the country," Rye said in a text message to PhilSTAR L!fe.
Metro Manila is set to shift into Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) from Aug. 6 to 20, to curb the spread of the highly contagious delta variant.
Banner and thumbnail photo from Michael Varcas/The Philippine STAR