The Manila Times : Comelec halts deal with Rappler

9 March 2022

By William Depasupil | The Manila Times

THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) has held in abeyance an agreement it inked with online organization Rappler as partner in voter engagement and fighting disinformation in relation to the May 2022 elections.

"Given the allegations against Rappler and the subsequent filing of the petition with the Supreme Court, it is judicious for the commission to hold in abeyance the implementation of the provisions of the MoA (memorandum of agreement) until the issues are settled and/or a decision of the court is rendered," Comelec acting chairman Socorro Inting said in a memorandum, dated March 8, 2022, Tuesday, and addressed to Comelec spokesman James Jimenez.

"All actions in connection with the MoA shall be deferred, including coordination between the Commission and Rappler on matters of the MoA," Inting stated.

She disclosed the deferment of the controversial Comelec-Rappler agreement in response to a letter complaint sent to the poll body by Solicitor General Jose Calida, who said the MoA violates the Constitution, the Anti-Dummy Law and Presidential Decree 10181, which limits the ownership and management of mass media to Filipino citizens.

Calida also said the MoA's provisions encroached on the Comelec's power to decide on all questions affecting elections as the extent of the poll body's' assistance to Rappler was neither delineated nor specified.

Inting's memorandum cited Calida's allegations that Rappler has a record of reporting false and grossly biased information.

"In response thereto and in recognition of the partnership with the OSG (Office of the Solicitor General) as the government lawyer with shared interest of ensuring the conduct of clean, credible, honest and transparent elections, the commission requests the OSG the submission of credible evidence for the evaluation of the commission," the Inting memorandum read.

The acting Comelec chairman also cited a petition for certiorari and prohibition with prayers for a temporary restraining order filed by the OSG before the high tribunal against the Comelec and Rappler to stop the implementation of the MoA and to declare the same as void.

She said given the allegations against Rappler, it would be prudent to hold the MoA's implementation pending resolution from the court.

As of press time, Jimenez was yet to confirm the issuance of the memorandum from the acting Comelec chairman.

He earlier pointed out that Rappler remains a legitimate media organization pending final resolution of a case claiming that it is a foreign entity.

"The issue of foreign ownership is still pending before the Court of Appeals," Jimenez explained.

The Comelec, he said, is not the proper venue to make the proper determination.

"As far as the Comelec is concerned, the case is yet to be resolved. So it's a status quo," Jimenez added.

"And since they're able to operate now, they should be considered as a legitimate news organization," he said.

Jimenez issued the clarification earlier in response to calls from the camp of presidential candidate Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. and the OSG asking the Comelec to rescind the MoA it signed with Rappler.

On February 24, Comelec and Rappler signed a partnership on voter engagement and fighting disinformation in relation to the coming polls.

Under the partnership agreement, Rappler commits its resources to help Comelec disseminate helpful information and engage the public both online and offline.

Among those that Comelec will share with Rappler are its precinct finder and post finder to provide voters easy access to important information, especially on Election Day.

Jimenez assured that information provided to Rappler can also be accessed by any network.