House of Representatives

Better together? Quimbo wants Octa to ‘join forces’ with DOH

Rambo Talabong
Better together? Quimbo wants Octa to ‘join forces’ with DOH

CONCERNS. Marikina 2nd District Representative Stella Quimbo during the House probe into Octa Research on Monday, October 11.

House screenshot

Marikina 2nd District Representative Stella Quimbo says data will be better projected and acted upon with this setup

Emphasizing its faults, House Deputy Minority Leader and Marikina 2nd District Representative Stella Quimbo pitched that Octa Research “join forces” with the Department of Health (DOH).

“Isn’t it better that the DOH-IATF Data Analytics group and the health experts of Octa join each other? We see their interest and willingness to serve the public,” Quimbo said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Quimbo said this in her opening statement on Monday, October 11, during the continuation of the House good government and public accountability’s probe into Octa Research.

“The users of the data are the best critics of any data set,” Quimbo said, referring to how the DOH also leads the pandemic strategy of the Duterte government.

What’s the setup now?

Currently, the Duterte government listens to the data analytics team of the DOH and also takes in insights from Octa in planning out its pandemic strategy. Both teams work separately but maintain communication with each other.

Quimbo said that the two would better be turned into one body to have consistent recommendations for the government. Quimbo repeated her criticism of Octa having wrong projections and its lack of an economist in its team as it makes lockdown recommendations.

Historically, DOH analysts have been more conservative with projections, while Octa has been described by lawmakers as “alarmist” in predicting outbreaks. This has left lawmakers and the public confused on which projections to follow.

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What Quimbo wants

Quimbo has not yet described in detail how this merger should look like, but she wants the committee to find funding for it to happen.

She questioned the allotment of P15 million from Bayanihan funds for the University of the Philippines to set up a data analytics laboratory. Quimbo flagged UP for dedicating the money to research projects that were not in line with producing “big data” for the pandemic.

She suggested that the money instead be spent for her proposed DOH-Octa collaboration.

“If there is a mechanism that can be devised, then we will work with the IATF and the DOH, but of course, we want to continue providing the public access to our research, access to our monitoring reports,” said Octa Research president Ranjit Rye. –

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.