IT was James Jimenez, Commission on Election spokesman since 2004 — who has only director rank in the agency — who anomalously pushed Acting Chairman Socoro Inting to approve the poll body’s atrocious and illegal agreement with Rappler that was signed last February 4.
Among others, the agreement gives the US-funded website anomalous authority during the elections such as access to data on all the voters and where they could vote, and for the agents it appoints (as MovePH “volunteers”). Sources said the agreement wasn’t even discussed nor approved by the Commission on Elections en banc.
The Comelec’s department, sources claimed, recommended disapproval of the agreement on grounds which were precisely those raised later by the Office of the Solicitor General.
Jimenez, the sources said, was devious in that he took advantage of the fact that the Comelec was in an unsettled period of change in its leadership and composition. Jimenez portrayed the agreement as a routine one to acting chairman Inting who had just been appointed to her post on February 3, after former chairman Sheriff Abas retired. President Duterte is expected to appoint two new commissioners soon to replace Rowena Guanzon and Antonio Kho Jr. who both retired two weeks ago. Jimenez rushed to have the agreement signed by Inting as acting Comelec chairman, rather than wait for Duterte’s appointment of three new commissioners, who would have studied meticulously the Comelec-Rappler deal and agree on a new chairman.
Jimenez portrayed the agreement as a fait accompli, telling Inting that it was just like the agreement with Rappler since 2013, and merely formalized the website’s assistance to Comelec for its information efforts.
That was a lie: the agreement the Comelec signed with Rappler in 2016 was merely to undertake presidential debates with seven other media entities having similar agreements. The one in 2013 was simply a formalization for Rappler to get information from Comelec which are available to any media organization.Ressa claims they were gifts to her and her staff, not foreign funding.
The agreement with Rappler for the 2022 elections is totally different, giving it broad authority to access even its classified data (such as untransmitted returns) and to have its agents on the ground practically deputized as staff of Comelec’s Voter Care Center.
The Comelec-Rappler agreement scandalously allows a foreign-funded organization to participate in our electoral process. Rappler doesn’t even deny that it is mainly financed by funds appropriated by the US Congress, and coursed through the National Endowment for Democracy, totaling $800,000 from 2016 to 2021. Two other US entities have funded it since its organization: Omidyar Network and Media Investment Development Fund. Because of this, the Securities and Exchange Commission revoked its authority to operate as a corporation in January 2018. The Court of Appeals denied Rappler’s appeal of the SEC decision in July 2018.
Rappler falsely claims, by merely filing another appeal, that the SEC decision isn’t final. Rappler is not denying that it is getting US funds. It is resorting to technicalities, that the money can’t be classified as equity in a corporation, but were “gifts” to Ressa and her officials.
The Comelec spokesman puts himself above the law, and showed his bias for Rappler, when he said in a press briefing the other day: “So, as far as the Comelec is concerned, hindi pa tapos ang kaso (the case is still not over).”
The Comelec has been implementing a strict ban on foreign participation in our electoral process, as mandated by the Constitution. This was demonstrated in 2002 when it declared Guillermo Luz, who was a dual citizen, that as a Canadian, he could not participate in our electoral process as Namfrel secretary general. Luz promptly resigned. In the present case, Rappler’s CEO, Maria Ressa has been a US citizen since her youth. She acquired dual Filipino citizenship only when she worked at ABS-CBN which told her she had to have Filipino citizenship, or an alien’s permit to work in the country. She opted for the former, helped to acquire it by the oligarchic power of the Lopez clan.
In a February 8 letter signed by Solicitor General Jose Calida and 23 other officials of the Office of the Solicitor General, the OSG told the Comelec: “The OSG, as the statutory counsel of the Comelec, submits that the MOA is void and must thus be unilaterally rescinded by the Comelec. Aware of the proximity of the May 9, 2022 elections, the OSG requests that the Comelec unilaterally rescind the MOA within five (5) days from today, or until March 4, 2022.”
Rappler responded to charges against it in the ignominious way its CEO Maria Ressa has been responding to the libel charges against her and to the proven claims that her website has violated the Constitution by taking foreign money: that President Duterte and presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. are using Calida to suppress the opposition outfit Rappler. As “proof,” Rappler claimed that “Calida and Duterte have had a four-year friendship as lawyers, gun enthusiasts, friends of Bongbong Marcos.”
Calida very importantly pointed out in his letter:
The Comelec-Rappler agreement “is violative of Section 1(5), Article IX-C of the 1987 Constitution in light of the fact that Rappler is a foreign-owned mass media company. Said provision states: Financial contributions from foreign governments and their agencies to political parties, organizations, coalitions, or candidates related to elections constitute interference in national affairs, and, when accepted, shall be an additional ground for the cancellation of their registration with the Commission, in addition to other penalties that may be prescribed by law.
“While the above provision speaks of prohibition against financial contributions from foreign governments to political parties, organizations, coalitions, or candidates, it is submitted that said Section 1(5) of Article IX-C should also be applied to any election activity which may constitute interference in national affairs. Besides, the word ‘organization’ may be understood in its generic sense.”
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