OCTA can't stop House probe on members' expertise — Roque

Published August 9, 2021, 3:29 PM

by Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Malacañang said the OCTA Research group should understand that it cannot stop lawmakers from conducting any investigations, including one aimed at the links and qualifications of its members.

OCTA Research logo

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque made the statement after five members of the House of Representatives sought an investigation into OCTA’s capabilities to analyze coronavirus disease (COVID-19) data.

In his press briefing on Monday, August 9, Roque reminded OCTA that Congress has plenary powers to investigate in aid of legislation.

“Hindi niyo po mapipigilan ang Kongreso. So dapat maintindihan po ‘yan ng OCTA (You cannot stop Congress. OCTA should understand that),” he said.

“Kahit sino po hindi po pwedeng pigilin ang Kongreso sa kahit anong imbestigasyon (Nobody can stop Congress from pursuing any investigation),” he added.

Roque acknowledged the aim of lawmakers to find out the qualifications of the people analyzing COVID-19 data.

“As a lawyer, pag meron kang expert evidence, expert witness, hindi niyo dini-dispute ang conclusion ng experts. Ang idi-dispute niyo po talaga yung qualification niya as an expert (As a lawyer, if you have expert evidence or expert witness, you do not dispute the conclusion of experts. You dispute their qualifications as experts),” he said.

OCTA is an independent and interdisciplinary group composed primarily of faculty members and alumni of the University of the Philippines (UP). Some core members are Guido David, professor at the UP Institute of Mathematics; Ranjit Rye, assistant professor at the UP Department of Political Science; and molecular biologist Fr. Nicanor Austriaco.

Roque has previously invited OCTA fellows Rye and Austriaco in his previous press briefings.

Lawmakers said they wanted to validate the ties between OCTA and the UP System, citing a news report quoting UP Diliman associate professor Peter Cayton that there was no office within the campus named OCTA, nor did it “exist in UP’s organizational structure.”

Infectious disease expert and government adviser Dr. Edsel Salvana has likewise said that OCTA had been using “incomplete and erroneous” information and that its projection was supposedly based on two-week-old data.

In October last year, Roque has asked OCTA to refrain from making their quarantine classifications recommendations publicly, saying the group did not have as many epidemiologists as the team of experts being consulted by the government’s pandemic task force.