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NPC calls for full disclosure of COMELEC-Rappler agreement
BELOW is the press statement released by the National Press Club, where yours truly is the president, as regards the COMELEC-Rappler agreement for the coming May 9, 2022elections. I am using this corner to help disseminate it to the public for everybody’s appreciation.
THE National Press Club of the Philippines (NPC) called on the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to fully make public the terms of its memorandum of agreement (MOA) with online news site, Rappler Philippines.
“While we also take note of the arguments you raised in defense of the MOA, may we also request, in the spirit of transparency and public accountability, for a copy of the same so we can help the Commission in generating public discussion on the merits, or demerits, of your partnership with Rappler,” said NPC President Paul M. Gutierrez, in another letter address to the poll body thru its spokesperson, Dir. James Jimenez.
Two days previously, Jimenez, on behalf of the commission, sent a two-page letter to the Club where he claimed the agreement with Rappler that both parties signed on February 24, 2022, is “fundamentally a boiler plate agreement” or the terms stipulated are similar to the terms of its agreement with other media outfits for the May 9, 2022 elections.
Right after the agreement was signed, Rappler’s chief executive, Maria Ressa, posted on Rappler’s website that not only would they be reporting on news and events related to the elections “but more importantly, they would also act as the COMELEC and therefore, the public’s ‘fact checkers.’”
“To our mind, this is like a ‘free-pass’ on Rappler to mold public opinion,” Gutierrez said.
The day the COMELEC-Rappler MOA was signed, the NPC released a statement opposing the deal mainly on the ground that Rappler is a foreign-funded media outfit, which is banned by the Constitution. The discovery of this fact led to Rappler’s license and registration being cancelled by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as far back as two years ago.
The Club also noted that Rappler’s chief executive, Maria Ressa, remains on bail after being convicted last year by a Manila court for biased reporting.
Gutierrez said the Club is also concerned over the COMELEC’s decision to pursue its MOA with Rappler despite growing public opposition on the ground that the company’s legal woes and that of Ressa are yet to be decided “with finality” by the courts.
“We are concerned because, since when have we allowed ‘legal technicality’ as a justification to pursue an agreement that most Filipinos believe would negate the very goal of the Commission for us to have “clean, credible, honest and transparent” elections on May 9, 2022,” Gutierrez asked.
“By way of analogy, would you be comfortable to allow your daughter to date someone charged in court for abusing women, or, your son to be in the company of someone charged for drug pushing and use of illegal drugs because the cases against them are yet to be solved with finality?
“And on the belief that since there is no final conviction yet, such shady characters are not a threat to your loved ones?
Gutierrez also noted that the Office of the Solicitor General has already made comments as regards the poll body’s MOA with Rappler. In a statement last March 1, 2022, the OSG warned the Comelec to rescind its deal with Rappler or it would be forced to ask the court by March 7, 2022, to compel the poll body to do the same.
Gutierrez also rejected Jimenez offer for the Club to also sign a MOA with the commission.
“We assure you that other than expressing our position that the Club is one with the COMELEC and the Filipino people in our aspiration for credible, fair and transparent elections this May 9, we are not interested in entering into a MOA with the COMELEC,” Gutierrez said.