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House hearings sought into methodology, qualifications of OCTA Research

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House hearings sought into methodology, qualifications of OCTA Research
The House of Representatives convenes in a session on October 13 to formalize the election of Rep. Lord Allan Velasco ahead of the special session called for by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Garreth Tungol / Office of ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Jocelyn Tulfo

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 4:20 p.m.) — Members of the House of Representatives are seeking hearings to look into think tank OCTA Research's membership, methodologies and composition partly because government experts dispute its analysis that there is a "surge" of COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila.

The Department of Health has acknowledged that cases are rising in the capital but said on July 28 that there is still "no definitive evidence" of a surge that OCTA Research said Metro Manila was already in.

The National Capital Region will go back to Enhanced Community Quarantine on August 6 in response to the increase in cases.

The authors of House Resolution No. 2075 — posted online by The STAR's Edu Punay — referenced OCTA Research's declaration of a surge and said that "[b]oth the Department of Health and Dr. (Edsel) Salvana urged independent experts to apply circumspection in making such statements in order to avoid public panic.

OCTA researchers made the declaration of a surge to urge tighter restrictions in Metro Manila.

Salvana is also quoted in the resolution as saying OCTA Research's projections may be based on "incomplete and erroneous data." The Department of Health controls the release of data on COVID-19 cases, which it releases daily.

The Palace in late 2020 said OCTA Research should refrain from making their research and policy recommendations public.  

 "I understand they have one or two epidemiologists but it's still not the same number of experts working with the [pandemic task force]," presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said then. 

House members said the hearing, which the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability should handle, is also needed to determine whether the think tank is affiiliated with the University of the Philippines because it was referred to as UP-OCTA in past news reports. OCTA has among its members experts from UP and from the University of Santo Tomas.

Posts on the think tank's research carried on UP's official website as early as July 2020 point out that the UP-OCTA team "is an independent and interdisciplinary research group composed primarily of UP faculty members and alumni.

"This independent research team also includes contributors from the University of Santo Tomas and Providence College, USA. The findings and recommendations in the report are those of the authors and do not reflect the official position of the University of the Philippines, University of Santo Tomas, Providence College, or any of its units," notes at the bottom of the posts say.

UP removed the posts from its website by Wednesday afternoon.

House Resolution No. 2075 was filed by Reps. Bernadette Herrera-Dy (Bagong Henerasyon party-list), Kristine Singson-Meehan (Ilocos Sur), Sharon Garin (AAMBIS-OWA party-list), Stella Quimbo (Marikina) and Jesus "Bong" Suntay (Quezon City). — Jonathan de Santos

COVID-19 PANDEMIC DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
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