Calida threatens  Rappler-Comelec partnership

CMFR/PHILIPPINES – Solicitor General Jose Calida threatened legal action to nullify Rappler’s partnership with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) ahead of the 2022 polls. 

In a statement on Monday, Calida urged the Comelec to rescind its memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the news site within five days. “Otherwise, the OSG, as People’s lawyer, may have to file the necessary case in court to declare the nullity of the MOA by March 7,” said Calida. 

The news organization had recently signed  a partnership with the Comelec to fight disinformation ahead of the May general elections. Rappler’s tasks under the MOA include flagging fake election-related news, creating content on voter education, and embedding the precinct voter function on its website.

The Solicitor General claimed the partnership would give Rappler power to determine false information without any “delineated” guidelines. He then smeared the news organization for its alleged history of disseminating “unverified” and “false” claims.

Rappler pushed back on Calida’s comments and clarified that they do not share power with the poll body. They also pointed out that Rappler and the Comelec have been  partners since the 2013 local and national elections.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez on 24 Oras said the commission recognizes Rappler as a legitimate news organization, as the news outfit’s case of supposed foreign ownership is still pending with the Court of Appeals.

Stifling media

In 2018, it was also Calida who  initiated the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation into the news organization. The SEC later revoked Rappler’s registration on the argument that  foreign investments in the company  amounted  foreign ownership, which the Constitution prohibits.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), among many other press groups, condemned the development as an attempt to silence the media.