OCTA to halt political surveys?

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star
OCTA to halt political surveys?
Marikina residents are seen inside the public market of the city on July 28, 2021. The Department of Health reports an increase in new COVID-19 infections following the detection of the local transmission of its Delta variant.
The STAR / Michael Varcas, file

MANILA, Philippines — The OCTA Research Group is considering the possibility of pausing the conduct of political surveys to focus on data analytics on the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an interview with “The Chiefs” on One News/TV5 on Wednesday, OCTA fellow and molecular biologist Fr. Nicanor Austriaco said he proposed that they temporarily stop their political analysis to clear up the boundaries on their scope of work.

OCTA is currently facing criticisms from some government experts and lawmakers for “alarming” the public on their COVID cases forecasts. Critics are pushing an investigation on its methodologies.

“We’re still discussing and deliberating on it,” he said. “It may be a time now for a pause for us to really focus on COVID to make sure that we don’t have any conflicts of interest that people may perceive because our work is inherently political.”

Aside from its regular reports on COVID-19, the group also conducts regular polls on public sentiments and preference for the upcoming elections.

Austriaco said the group was originally established by eight scholars from the University of the Philippines to conduct sentiment analysis and data analytics on Philippine politics. But following the spread of COVID-19, its founders decided to use their intellectual resources to help in the pandemic response, he said.

Austriaco, a professor at Providence College in the United States and a visiting professor at the University of Santo Tomas, said he and other academic experts joined the group to help with data analysis and recommendations on the pandemic.

“We have invited colleagues of similar mindset who are willing to contribute their expertise for the benefit of common good for the Filipino people to get together in order to talk about the data,” he added.

Austriaco, however, maintained that OCTA is an independent research organization as he welcomed the opportunity to discuss their methodologies with lawmakers.

While some of the group’s members are affiliated with UP, a government-funded institution, Austriaco explained that their work for OCTA is separate from their official functions as members of academe.

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