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OCTA: A necessary evil?

Republika

EDITORIAL

Sophocles once said that “no one loves the messenger who brings bad news.”

This was probably the reason why some congressmen called for the investigation of the qualification and research methodologies of OCTA Research Group, an independent research group, whose findings have irked some officials of the Department of Health (DOH).


The lawmakers said that OCTA has gained media mileage for its procedures and warnings about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the latest of which was one pushing for a circuit breaker or hard lockdown this month.


Not surprisingly this was also the sentiment of the Department of Health (DOH) which said that any forecast about the pandemic should be left to health professionals and not to some statisticians who do not have background on medicine.


While it is true that OCTA Research is manned not by medical professionals, most of its findings have been proven correct. In fact, it was the research group that first called for the imposition of stricter quarantine measures that we now have.


The problem with the DOH is that it is slow to react to developing events because of its policy of being cautious in making decisions. For example, the DOH refused to call the increase in Covid cases from some 3,000 in March this year to more than 8,000 in late July as a surge. If the DOH does not call this a surge, then we don’t know what surge is.


OCTA describes itself as a polling, research and consultation firm that provides “a comprehensive, holistic, accurate, rigorous and insightful data analysis” to help its clients. The public face of OCTA, Dr. Guido David, who certainly needs some facial makeover, is not a medical doctor but a mathematics professor at the University of the Philippines.


If indeed there is a need to investigate the methodologies and patterns used by OCTA, we should also investigate Pulse Asia and the Social Weather Stations (SWS) for its supposed surveys particularly during this election period. The two survey firms usually base their results on some 1,500 to 2,000 respondents which definitely are not enough to form a conclusive finding.


With the universal threat of the new Delta variant, it is imperative that we should work together and not engage in wasteful exercises that could only derail our efforts in fighting this deadly enemy.


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