MANILA, Philippines – Nobel laureate and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa on Friday, March 4, took potshots at Solicitor General Jose Calida and the Marcos camp for their wrong understanding of Rappler’s partnership with the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Calida and the campaign manager of presidential bet Ferdinand Marcos Jr. have asked for the revocation of Rappler’s Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Comelec on voter education and engagement, citing in particular the provision that allows the company to embed a precinct finder code on its site. Calida and the Marcos camp are saying this exposes voters’ data to Rappler.
“The data is all with Comelec. Baka naman hindi nila alam ang ibig sabihin ng embed (Maybe they don’t know what embed means),” the Rappler CEO said on ANC’s Headstart with Karen Davila on Friday.
“Anyone running a campaign should know the difference between access to data and embed. P’wede naman mag-Google para ‘di naman nakakahiya ang sinasabi ‘nyo. That statement either shows, ignorance, incompetence or intent.”
(You can use Google so you won’t be embarrassed with your statements.)
Merriam-Webster defines embed as “to insert (a media file, such as a graphic, video, or audio clip) into a computer document (as on a website or in an email).”
As explained previously by Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez, the precinct finder is a public service to voters, and the poll body will be merely supplying embed codes not just to Rappler but to other media organizations that will enter into separate agreements with it. This means that third party websites will not have access to the actual databases.
On Thursday, March 3, Ressa also addressed Calida’s statement in a forum with the Rotary Club of Makati Bel-Air.
“Medyo natawa po ako kasi eh (I laughed a bit because), did the Solicitor General just forget that Comelec is the most powerful independent body during elections? This is the world I’ve lived in so we came out with our statement,” Ressa said.
“But in the end, we tried to make it simple, short. We debunked the lies and we did things that we rarely do in Rappler, we called it a hallucination,” the Nobel laureate and veteran journalist added.
Ressa was reacting to Calida’s threat to sue the poll body if the Comelec does not rescind its agreement with Rappler. Calida, who instigated legal cases against Rappler and ABS-CBN, alleged that “Comelec’s MOA with Rappler violates the Constitution and relevant laws.”
Rappler, in response, said that Calida’s claims were “fraught with falsehoods, innuendos, and hallucinations.”
The agreement between Comelec and Rappler involves activities that will help the poll body disseminate critical information to voters and alert Comelec about false reports that could affect the conduct of elections.
Ressa cited three reasons for the persistent attacks against her, Rappler, and mainstream media in the run-up to the May elections.
“Number one is that we’ve got to remember that media is a critical pillar of every election we’ve had. Media, journalists, have acted as the watchdogs and we’ve long had violent elections,” the Nobel laureate said.
The Rappler CEO said the attack on Rappler is also an attack on transparency, and that it targets the independence of Comelec itself.
“The second one is that all of these attacks against Rappler are an attack on transparency. Cause you’ve got to figure out why, right? We’re only doing our jobs but is it a way to block transparency during elections?” Ressa asked.
“And then finally, I think the last part is that it’s a way of getting rid of the independence of [the] Comelec. But that is a critical pillar, [the] Commission on Elections must stay independent,” she added.
Under the 1987 Constitution, during the election period, the Comelec “may supervise or regulate the enjoyment or utilization of all franchises or permits for the operation of transportation and other public utilities, media of communication or information, all grants, special privileges, or concessions granted by the Government or any subdivision.” – Rappler.com