Comelec OKs Rappler poll server

MANILA, Philippines – For the first time, an online news group will be able to directly access real-time data on Philippine election results, allowing the public to get the quickest updates on May 13 and succeeding days.

Representing the Commission on Elections (Comelec), chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr signed an agreement with Rappler on Wednesday, March 20, to allow the latter to host a 4th server for the mid-term polls. Rappler signed the memorandum of agreement (MOA) through its executive editor and CEO, Maria Ressa.

On the day of the elections and during canvassing, results for national and local races will be immediately available on the Rappler website. 

The Comelec said Rappler should pay for the server, as well as other related expenses. It also said Rappler agrees to host connections from other interested media outlets, with clearance from the Comelec.

In the 2010 elections, a total of 3 servers were allowed access to election data: the Comelec central server, that of the boards of canvassers, and that of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP).

Brillantes said the Comelec unanimously granted its permission to Rappler, which filed a request last year.

Another media organization, GMA Network, which is not a member of the KBP, had filed a request for access to real-time election results. It has filed a motion for reconsideration before the Comelec. Brillantes said the Comelec will tackle this motion on Thursday, March 21. 

“That should not really detract from the fact that we are going to sign, and we will go into the social media aspect of this elections, and with Rappler actually at the head of this endeavor," Brillantes said.

Rappler's 'potential'

In the MOA, the Comelec explained it recognizes the role of online media, like Rappler, in “promoting transparency in the electoral process.”

“Rappler has demonstrated considerable reach and ability to stimulate engagement in social media, as well as capability to process, analyze, map, visualize, and popularize big data through its online and mobile applications,” the MOA said.

It added: “The Comelec acknowledges the potential of Rappler's Mood Meter, Mood Navigator, and mapping tools in capturing the imagination of netizens and the youth, and helping them understand and get more involved in the electoral process.”

Comelec Commissioner Christian Lim, whose office implements the resolution on the Rappler server, said the poll body had other considerations in mind.

He noted ABS-CBN, GMA-7's fiercest rival in the broadcast industry, earlier filed a similar request.

“We don't also want to be dragged into a network war, because ABS-CBN has also been requesting us for that... So we wanted to go to a very neutral network or media outlet,” Lim said in an interview with reporters.

In her brief message, Ressa said the 2013 election coverage will benefit from technology, as well as the partnership of 4 groups – the Comelec, Rappler, telecommunications giant Smart, and the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting. 

"Now with technology, when they come together, now, it's a whole different thing. Technology, social media, the Internet, and the last part, big data, will give us great insight into our Filipinos, into our politics," Ressa said.

Comelec's Lim and Rappler's technology head Gemma Bagayaua-Mendoza witnessed the MOA signing.

Rappler's key partners in the elections – PPCRV, represented by chairperson Henrietta de Villa, and Smart Communications, represented by public affairs head Mon Isberto – also attended the event. – with reports from Paterno Esmaquel II/