Presidential spokesman Harry Roque is willing to invite again OCTA Research team to Malacañang if needed following their recommendations on stricter lockdown for some areas.

roque 2 - Roque denies gagging OCTA Research
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque
(OPS / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Roque said he appreciates the group’s efforts to monitor the country’s coronavirus cases but urged them to relay their recommendations to the government in private.

He explained that President Duterte’s decision-making on quarantine level should be spared from politics, saying the risk classification is a sensitive matter with a corresponding socioeconomic impact.

“Hindi ko po sila sinusupil. Salamat nga po sa kanilang mga ginagawa. Naimbita ko na sila rito (I am not trying to suppress them. I thank them for their efforts. I have invited them here). I will invite them again and if need be, I will invite them again to the Palace,” he said during a Palace press briefing Thursday.

“Pero ang pakiusap ko lang po, dahil nga po sa mga recommendations naman nila ay tungkol sa classification, i-address nila doon sa tamang institusyon na gagawa ng desisyon – sa Presidente o sa mga lokal na pamahalaan.

“But I appeal to them that since the recommendations are about classification, they should address them to the correct institutions that will make the decision, the President or the concerned local government unit),” he added.

Roque said some local government units have complained about OCTA group’s report on high cases in their areas of jurisdiction that supposedly warranted stricter quarantine measures. 

“Ganiyan pong ka-sensitibo iyan, kasi ‘pag sinabi mong mataas ang COVID sa isang lugar, nagiging political issue rin po iyan sa lugar na iyan para bagang lagot si mayor ‘no, lagot si governor ‘no. So – eh hindi naman po ganoon ang pakay natin ‘no kung bakit tayo nagka-classification ‘no; ang pakay naman natin eh para pa nga po mapabagal iyong pagkalat ng sakit (It’s that sensitive. Because if you say COVID cases are high in a place, it becomes a political issue. It is like the mayor or government will be reprimanded. But that’s not our goal why we implement risk classification. our goal is to slowed down the spread of the illness),” he said.

He maintained that the President must be given leeway to make the decision for the sake of public interest.

Roque had earlier urged the OCTA Research team to refrain from making public their recommendations and instead send them in private to enable Duterte to decide on the matter without pressure of public opinion. The group earlier recommended placing three areas under stricter quarantine level due to a supposed spike in coronavirus cases. 

Despite Roque’s appeal, the researchers have reportedly committed to continue to publicize their reports as part of public service.

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