The government's top lawyer on Monday asked the Supreme Court to void the agreement between the Commission on Elections and news website Rappler for fact-checking and voter information in the 2022 elections, saying that it violates the Constitution.
Solicitor General Jose Calida pushed through with filing a petition before the Supreme Court after the Comelec kept its memorandum of agreement with Rappler despite his earlier advice to rescind it for supposedly being "void and illegal."
Rappler on Feb. 24 signed a memorandum of agreement with Comelec to help the poll body disseminate election-related information and engage the voting public both online and offline.
Under the agreement, Rappler will provide engaging content, shareable infographics and educational videos as part of its awareness building efforts, according to Comelec. An online show, podcast, workshops and seminars will also be produced.
A precinct finder and post finder will also be made available on Rappler's website once it becomes available, the Comelec said, making these services more mobile-responsive and accessible to voters.
Calida said Rappler is a "foreign non-registered entity," citing the revocation of the news website's Certificate of Incorporation in 2018. The Securities and Exchange Commission maintained the revocation after the Court of Appeals remanded the case for review.
The case is still pending before the SEC after Rappler filed a motion for reconsideration, according to the news website.
Calida further alleged that the MOA would allow Rappler to interfere with the elections as the Comelec "co-shared" with the news website its power to decide on all questions affecting the elections.
Allowing Rappler to flag the Comelec on election-related posts that it deems "false, misleading, and harmful" also constitutes prior restraint on freedom of speech and of expression, he added.
Calida said the MOA could violate the Filipino's right to privacy as the Comelec allowed Rappler to access key voter information and confidential data without proper and focused safeguards on its retrieval, use, and storage.
"Every Filipino deserves and aspires for a free, orderly, honest, peaceful, and credible elections. However, these constitutional goals cannot be attained if the Comelec is allowed to continue its void and unconstitutional partnership with Rappler. The Rappler-Comelec MOA must be declared null and void," Calida's office said in a statement.
Comelec Acting Chair Soccoro Inting on Monday said that while they are ready to defend their agreement with Rappler, they would abide by whatever the Supreme Court's decision will be.
"We entered an agreement with Rappler freely and voluntarily and it underwent review by the law department. If the court finds the MOA to be infirm, then we cannot do anything. We have to respect the law, the decision of the court," she said.