Leaders of the House of Representatives 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 Jose 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. We really want to find out who is behind OCTA and what is their objective,” 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 that will be funded. If you ask somebody to do a survey for you, it will cost you at least P500,000 or P1 million. I don’t think anyone is doing any survey for free,” 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 acted as if they were “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 had 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.
“We will never abridge their right to speak. They can speak anytime, they can speak nonsense and they can speak against the government,” Aglipay said.
“We do not buy their claim that 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 the government does its job with their statistics.”
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 had a significant influence on government and the people.
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.