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.
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. – Rappler.com