MANILA, Philippines — Ferdinand “Bongbong” campaign manager Marcos Jr and Solicitor General Jose Calida released similar statements on Monday, Feb. 28, questioning Rappler’s partnership with the Electoral Commission (Comelec) on voter education. and countering misinformation related to the May 2022 elections.
Rappler recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOA) with Comelec that involves alerting the polling body to fake election news, creating voter education content, and integrating voter service. constituency on the news website.
Marcos’ campaign manager Benhur Abalos told reporters on Monday that Comelec should reconsider the deal, falsely claiming Rappler is a foreign entity.
Calida followed suit on Monday night, saying “Comelec’s memorandum of understanding with Rappler violates the Constitution and relevant laws.”
The Solicitor General, who campaigned for Marcos when the latter failed to run for vice president in 2016, issued an ultimatum to the voting body: “Cancel the memorandum of understanding within 5 days or until March 4, 2022. Otherwise, the OSG, as the people’s advocate, may have to file the necessary case in court to declare the MOU void by March 7, 2022.”
Citing a 2018 Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) shutdown order against Rappler that he himself initiated, Calida said the company “has no legal personality to perform any act of enterprise, and much less conclude a memorandum of understanding with Comelec for the next elections of 2022.”
Calida is wrong. As the SEC said in 2018, Rappler can conduct business as usual until his order becomes final and binding. The case remains pending before the Court of Appeal (CA).
“Solicitor General Jose Calida’s assertions on Monday, February 28 are filled with lies, innuendo and hallucinations,” Rappler said in a statement. The MOA aims to “help the polling body deliver truthful information to voters and ensure transparent elections,” Rappler said, noting that the polling body has similar partnerships with other media groups.
“So Calida is hallucinating when he says it comes down to sharing Comelec’s ‘power’ with Rappler and allowing its civic engagement arm, Move.PH, to ‘decide on all issues regarding the election,'” said Rappler: “This claim reads like the lobbyists’ column and social posts of a presidential bet.”
Marcos’ campaign manager mentioned the Rappler MOA right after he defended the candidate’s evasive response to attend the Comelec debate. Without a question from the press, Abalos said: “This resulted in a decision by the Court of Appeals which is the most serious decision of this decision within the framework of a decision by Rappler.” (I stand by the Court of Appeals ruling that Rappler is a foreign entity.)
Not enough. The case stems from Philippine Certificates of Deposit (PDR) issued to Omidyar Network; media companies are allowed to have PDRs. Rappler’s PDR with Omidyar said that before Rappler could change his constitution and bylaws, he would have to have a prior discussion with Omidyar. For the Board, this clause amounted to “some foreign control”, while media groups are constitutionally bound to have no foreign control.
But in the same decision issued in July 2018, the CA said that Rappler should be granted a correction period, and that in fact, when Omidyar donated his PDRs to Rappler’s Filipino executives, “foreign control negative deemed objectionable by the SEC appears to have been permanently deleted.” The SEC disagreed with the AC, so the case remains pending.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said, “As far as Comelec is concerned, hindi pa tapos ang kaso (The case is not over yet.)”
“If it’s pending before CA, it seems to me that a final decision hasn’t been made yet. Comelec is not the appropriate venue to make that appropriate decision… So if they are able to operating now, why shouldn’t they be considered a legitimate news organization?” Jimenez said.
He added, “Rappler does not receive any special information, he does not receive any special treatment, he does not receive any special information that would not be available to other media networks.”
Fact checking and constituency research
Calida also sounded the alarm over what he believed to be Comelec’s decision to give “access to confidential registered voter data” to Rappler when he allowed the organization to integrate the search function of constituency of the polling organization on its site. Singing the same tune as Calida, Abalos suggested that Rappler could mislead a voter looking for his neighborhood. “Papano kung ‘yung sistema eh mali ang maibigay sayong presinto, syempre sa haba ng pila kung magkamali ka ng presinto di ka na makakaboto, “ Abalos said.
(And if the system is wrong and gives you the wrong constituency, of course, when the line is long and you go to the wrong constituency, you may not be able to vote.)
But the precinct finder, a public service feature, is also a deal with other bands. The partnership also does not allow third party access to personal data.
The fact-checking part of MOA, on the other hand, involves not just Rappler but the entire #FactsFirstPH consortium, a collaboration between 14 news groups and more than 100 civil society organizations.
Marcos and Calida synchronized
This isn’t the first time Marcos and Calida have been in sync on major legal moves.
In 2020, Marcos and Calida filed same-day motions seeking to block Associate Supreme Court Justice Marvic Leonen from participating in the campaign run that the dictator’s son filed against Vice President Leni Robredo.
The Supreme Court would unanimously dismiss Marcos’ 2021 protest, but not before Calida could launch offensives against Leonen, leading but failing in his attempt to unearth statements of assets, liabilities and net worth of Justice.
In Monday’s statement, Calida said she was advising Comelec to unilaterally terminate the deal as “legal counsel.”
In the case of the electoral protest, Calida let go of its client Comelec in order to be able to take a position in favor of Marcos in the case of the shadow threshold. Until the very end of the case, Calida argued on behalf of Marcos.
Calida had used the resources of the Solicitor General’s Office to tackle alleged critics of the Duterte government.
It was Calida who initiated the SEC investigation into Rappler, and during the pandemic it was Calida who lobbied for the shutdown of ABS-CBN via quo warranto and then lobbied the National Commission Telecommunications (NTC) to issue a cease and desist against the network. This order marked the first time since martial law that ABS-CBN has ceased broadcasting. – Rappler.com