MANILA – 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 PHP500,000, PHP1 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. (PNA)