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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

08 September 2021 03:31:28 PM

House leaders on Wednesday vowed to unmask the “financiers and real people” behind independent research group OCTA, which came into prominence only during this COVID-19 pandemic.

During the virtual Ugnayan sa Batasan news forum, Deputy Speaker and BUHAY Party-list Rep. Jose “Lito” Atienza Jr. slammed what he called a “continuing effort” to hide the real people 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?” Atienza said, as he dismissed criticisms against the probe initiated by the House into the research group’s credentials and operations.

He said the secret financiers of OCTA “should properly be unmasked” in order to determine the group’s real motives.

“Definitely may nagpo-pondo dyan. ‘Pag magpa-survey ka, it will cost you at least P500,000, P1 million. I don’t think anyone is doing any survey for free. So mayroong nagpo-pondo. Sino? Eh tingnan natin, sino nakikinabang sa trabaho ng OCTA,” the veteran lawmaker said.

In the same news forum, DIWA Rep. Michael Aglipay—who chairs the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability—said OCTA’s projections are at times exaggerated, and that its representatives act as if they are “radio commentators” in announcing surges.

OCTA came under intense grilling at the House of Representatives earlier this week, as lawmakers dug deeper into its credentials and methodologies for analyzing data and predicting trends in the country’s COVID-19 cases.

Aglipay’s panel launched an investigation into OCTA’s “qualifications, research methodologies, partnerships and composition” based on a resolution filed by five lawmakers: Deputy Speakers Bernadette Herrera (Bagong Henerasyon Party-list) and Kristine Singson-Meehan (Ilocos Sur, 2nd District); Deputy Minority Leader Stella Luz Quimbo (Marikina, 2nd District); and Reps. Sharon Garin (AAMBIS-OWA Party-list) and Jesus “Bong” Suntay (Quezon City, 4th District).

Aglipay clarified that lawmakers have no intention to censor OCTA, although they strongly believe it should refrain from declaring its projections and reports as official since it is not given any authority by the government.

“Never tayong mag-a-abridge ng 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 they are speaking officially, which they are not. They are not even part of the sub-technical working group on statistics of DOH and IATF. They have no official role.”

Aglipay instead urged the research group to be a fiscalizer—"a private group that fiscalizes and sees to it that government does its job with their statistics.”

“Let science speak for itself, maging objective lang tayo. ‘Wag masyado komentaryo parang radio announcer na sila eh,” he pointed out.

Atienza, on the other hand, said 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 government and the people.

“Napakalaki ng influence nila. Kung ano ang sinasabi nila, tinatanggap ng gobyerno, sinasalamin ng DOH, natatakot ang tao,” Atienza said.

He added: “The issue is more fundamental: ano ang kanilang authority to be speaking in the time of a pandemic? Sabi ko nga para tayong nasa giyera nito, we are at war with the virus. Emergency situation ito. Bakit bigla na lamang silang kasali sa usapan? They’re speaking for and in behalf of what?”

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 in behalf of the two forces fighting it out,” he said. #