MANILA – A group of journalists on Thursday expressed opposition to the partnership between the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and online news website Rappler on voter engagement and fighting disinformation in relation to the May 9 polls.

In a letter to Comelec acting chairperson Socorro Inting, the National Press Club of the Philippines (NPC), one of the country's oldest and biggest organizations of active press members said the poll body made a wrong decision when it partnered with Rappler.

“While we respect the Comelec's right to partner with anyone in order to ensure that the coming political exercise is 'clean, credible, honest and transparent', we believe that your choice of Rappler as a "valuable partner" in the dissemination of "truthful information" is a contradiction that is unacceptable to most Filipinos. We are registering our protest because just like most Filipinos and just like you, we too, would want to see and experience a clean, credible honest, and transparent election the result of which may well decide the country's future in the coming years. But your choice of Rappler, certainly, is a step in the wrong direction,” said the letter signed by its president Paul Gutierrez.

Gutierrez also cited Rappler's "spotty record" in its reportage which resulted in legal woes it is currently facing.

“Nevertheless, we call your attention to the fact that most of Rappler's current legal woes arise first, from its being a foreign-funded media outfit, contrary to what is provided for in our Constitution. Its chief executive, Maria Ressa, has been convicted of criminal libel by a Manila court for biased reporting, a fact that cannot be obscured by the many 'awards' given to her by foreign-based media organizations. We can go on and on citing reasons why we object to your MOA with Rappler. But our central message is, the credibility of the coming election that we all aspire for is not enhanced by your choice,” Gutierrez added.

On Thursday, Comelec officials headed by Inting and Rappler officials signed a memorandum of agreement as one of their official partners in the public Information campaign for the May 9 Elections.

The Rappler will assist through the following initiatives: MovePH Collaboration, Comelec Online Show, Radyo Comelec podcast, Workshops and Seminars, Fact-checking, PHVote microsite, and Precinct Finder.

“On behalf of the Commission, I would like to say thank you to Rappler for making our load a little lighter. Our signatures in this agreement represent than partnership in the preparatory activities for the forthcoming polls -- it likewise symbolizes our institution's firm commitment to Voter Education so that the electorate will have an informed choice come May 9,” Inting said in her speech.

Under the agreement, Rappler commits its resources to help Comelec disseminate helpful information and engage the public both online and offline.

Rappler's awareness-building efforts would include providing engaging content, shareable infographics, and educational videos to enable a broader response to common complaints.

Once the Precinct Finder and Post Finder are activated, they will also be made available on Rappler's website. It will make these services more mobile-responsive and provide voters easy access to important information, especially on election day.

The poll body first partnered with Rappler in the 2013 elections. (PNA)