House of Representatives

Lawmakers seek House probe into Octa Research’s ties, ‘qualifications, methodologies’

Rambo Talabong

PHYSICAL DISTANCING. The House of Representatives' session hall layout since the coronavirus pandemic

Rappler file

(2nd UPDATE) Lawmakers cite the need to ensure that 'information being distributed is correct.' Octa's COVID-19 surge projections have mostly hit the mark, but health officials have flagged some of its forecasts as alarmist.

Several lawmakers have filed a resolution seeking a House probe into the “qualifications” of the Octa Research group, as well as their ties and research methodologies.

Deputy Speakers Bernadette Herrera and Kristine Singson-Meehan, Deputy Minority Leader Stella Quimbo, AAMBIS-OWA Representative Sharon Garin, and Quezon City 4th District Bong Suntay filed House Resolution No. 2075 on Tuesday, August 3, seeking a House scrutiny of Octa’s “qualifications, research methodologies, partnerships, and composition.”

“There is a public health and public policy need to ensure the safety and security of the population during this pandemic, and that information being distributed is correct and are [sic] not irresponsibly published,” House Resolution No. 2075, filed on August 3, reads.

In their resolution, the lawmakers cited infectious disease expert Edsel Salvana in flagging Octa’s COVID-19 case projections, noting that the group used “incomplete and erroneous” data. They were referring to Octa’s use of data of the two previous weeks to make their projections. This is problematic, Salvana was cited as saying, because the data did not include backlogs that could change the projections.

Citing the information provided on Octa’s website, the lawmakers noted that the organization “describes itself as a ‘polling, research and consultation firm’ that provide ‘comprehensive, holistic, accurate, rigorous, and insightful data analysis to help our clients in government, the private sector and the NGO community.”

The resolution called on the House committee on good governance and public accountability to conduct the probe. It is the same committee that probes wrongdoings in government institutions.

In an interview with DZMM’s TeleRadyo on Friday, August 6, Octa Research fellow Guido David said that their group was ready to face the House probe but added that he was “not certain if the House is the proper venue because they might not be the expert.”

David added that the probe should be done in scientific venue so that academics, scientists, and fellow researchers can peer review their findings. 

Octa has made projections since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Their projections about surges have mostly hit the mark, but some have been flagged as alarmist by DOH officials.

On July 27, Octa Research urged the government to declare a “circuit-breaker” lockdown for two weeks as the threat of the highly-infectious COVID-19 Delta variant loomed. It also said then that virus epicenter Metro Manila was “officially in a surge.” (EXPLAINER: What is a circuit-breaker lockdown?)

Days later, the government decided to place Metro Manila under enhanced community quarantine, the strictest of lockdown classifications.

The call for a probe comes ahead of Metro Manila and other provinces being placed under new and stricter quarantine restrictions to curb the rise of the coronavirus, amid the spread of the more infectious Delta variant.

The House itself is scheduled to be placed on lockdown, pausing its session during Metro Manila’s enhanced community quarantine from August 6 to 20. – with a report from Bonz Magsambol/Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.